About

Born in Chicago and raised near Philadelphia, I began playing professionally at the age of 16 in a Dixieland band and in a big band composed of Drexel Tech students. I toured Europe in the summers of 1961 and 1962 with a jazz band from Williams College, and played in the mid-sixties with various Philadelphia and New Jersey groups.

In the early 70's, I was a member of the S.U.N.Y. Binghamton Jazz Workshop band, playing baritone saxophone, clarinet, and flute.  In the 70's and 80's, I worked in the Baltimore-Washington area with various bands including the Bay City Seven, the Fallstaff Five Plus Two, and the Bourbon Street Ramblers. During this period, I played in Europe and the U.S. with the New Reunion Jazz Band (a reunion of some of the veterans of the '61 and '62 bands, the core being Albert Oehrle, Jeff Haskell, and John McGhee). I also did trio work in Baltimore with banjo virtuoso Buddy Wachter and tuba player extraordinaire Ed Goldstein.

After moving to the Chicago area in 1989, I played with a variety of bands and appeared with Max Hook, Danny Williams, Warren Kime, Eddie De Haas, Bobby Lewis, John Bany, Charlie Braugham, Bill Hanck, Don Stiernberg, and Russ Phillips. At the Milwaukee Jazz Jubilee in 1992, I had the great pleasure of playing with the Barrett Deems Band (Barrett had been a hero of mine since I bought the “Ambassador Satch” album in 1959). In 1993, I formed a quartet, The Swing Thing, composed of vibist Henry Buckwalter, guitarist Frank Portolese, and bassist Wilson McKindra, performing in the Chicago area. I also played with Ted Butterman's Neo Passé Quintet and, for a lengthy stay at the Cypress Inn (later called the Landmark Inn) in Northbrook, Jim Clark's Jazz People (usually composed of Jim, Joel Schilling, Dave Phelps, Wilson McKindra, and Wayne Jones).

For five seasons, from 2003 through 2007, I was the regular clarinetist in Ted Butterman's Chicago Cubs Dixieland Band, playing at over sixty home games each season. (I had subbed in that band from 1992 and did that again after 2007 until 2012.) In the fall of 2007 I performed for the Clinton [MO] Area Arts Council with a quintet including Dave Ivaz, Tom Hope, Eddie de Haas, and Jerry Coleman.

In 2008 I became a regular member of Pete Wood's Mississippi Mud Cats, performing regularly at Milwaukee's private Wisconsin Club with Pete, Gary Meisner, and Mike Britz. For several years, beginning in 2005, I occasionally substituted for clarinetist Chuck Hedges with Chuck's Milwaukee Connection Band. After Chuck's retirement in February of 2010, the Milwaukee Connection band (Steve Lewandowski, Bob Maynard, George Welland, and Jack Carr) invited me to join them, beginning a series of engagements at The Grove Restaurant and culminating in a performance at the Capital City Jazz Fest in Madison, WI, in April of 2012. Chuck had been a great influence, a mentor, and a friend.  I wrote the tune “Mr. C.H.” in his honor after he passed.

I moved to the Kansas City area in September, 2012, and, thanks to a generous assist from Chicago drummer Rusty Jones who contacted KC drummer Tommy Ruskin, have been playing regularly with the extraordinary stride pianist Bram Wijnands at The Majestic Jazz Club in downtown KCMO.    I've also appeared with pianist Mike Pagán, with Vine Street Rumble (a big band that plays the 1930’s and ’40’s swing that was born in KC),  with the Tom’s Town Quintet (a smaller version of Vine Street Rumble), with the The New Red Onion Jazz Babies, with vocalist Havilah Bruders, with A La Mode (Jesica and Clayton DeLong) and with the Dave Stephens Band. I’ve also appeared in duos with guitarist/composer Rod Fleeman and with guitarist/singer/songwriter Dan Bliss.

In December of 2014, I released my first CD, “This ‘n’ That.”

 

 

© John C Blegen 2019