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Dixie Kicks

The Trad Jazz Festival takes you back to when jazz was hot



Montana Traditional Jazz Festival? Says who, traditional? Is that to imply that everything after Dixieland is too miserably newfangled to count as “real” jazz? Huh? Gotta problem with tablas and sleigh bells and solos played a half-step up or down?

Relax, Calendar Kid. It’s just a name, a word to designate the old-school stuff; as the organizers of the 18th annual traditional jazz fest put it, it’s “the jazz of the times as well as the pop standards that everyone knows and loves … the music of the hottest and wildest period in American history … the Roaring Twenties … roadsters, flappers and rumble seats … bathtub gin, speakeasies, hotsey-totsey bands and all that razz-ma-tazz.”

The Montana Traditional Jazz Festival is in full effect this weekend, spread out over seven different venues, with a bunch of bands from across the country and down from the Great White North. Cock your ears at a couple of these groups:

Janet Carroll and Her Hollywood Band. Remember Tom Cruise’s mom in Risky Business (the one with the glass egg)? Or the very scary Marian Shaw on “Melrose Place?” That’s Janet Carroll, star of film, television, stage and recording. In addition to more than 200 roles on TV and the movies, Janet has been touring North America for decades as a classically trained jazz singer. With her Hollywood Band, she will perform “electrifying and nostalgic” tunes popularized by greats such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughn, and Patsy Cline.

CanUS. No dog, this one: Irish immigrant Jim Armstrong has got more fans than a Georgia heat wave and he’s not shy about wooing them with French and Russian versions of songs like “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” and “Midnight in Moscow,” the latter of which could reportedly melt the heart of the iciest babushka. Armstrong and his Canadian/American bandmates in CanUS promise a blend of early jazz styles with some dynamite vocal arrangements. Canadians, it seems, are lurking around every corner: The Wild Rose All-Stars hail from Calgary, and their repertoire of great standards from the ’30s and ’40s with precise vocal imitations of the era’s most popular singers has endeared them to MTJF audiences in past years in Great Falls and Helena.

Speaking of the Electric and Queen Cities: Fret ye not, Montanaphiles, for our great state is straight up in the mother this year with performances by Last Chance Dixie Band, Kalispell swingmeisters Critical Martini (whose singer, Kimberly West, has a dad in the Last Chance DB), the Big Sky Syncopators Jazz Orchestra and the dueling banjo buccaneers of the Bob McKinnon Show.

Other featured national acts: Fresno’s Blue Street Jazz Band, Seattle’s Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band, Sidewalk Stompers from Washington’s Tri-Cities (talking Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick), the Hume Street Jazz Band (from Aberdeen, Wash.—home of Kurt Cobain), the Rex Rieke Trio from Sarasota; San Jose’s 10th Avenue Jazz Band, Pennsylvania’s Tex Wyndham, and, all the way from Reno, the guy with the best name ever: Big Tiny Little and his show band. See you there, coopie!

The Montana Traditional Jazz Festival will take place this weekend at the Elks Club, the Top Hat, the Wilma Theatre, Caras Park Pavilion, and at three locations in the Missoula Children’s Theatre. Daily and all-event passes available. For complete information, check out the MTJF site at or call the Chamber of Commerce at 543-6623.

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