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J.R.E. Madness
 
Let's talk a bit about the JRE sound!

But, recognizing that talking about music is something like dancing about architecture, let's have some background music to enjoy as you look over this page. For now, we have two choices: First up is "Johnny's Theme" from The Tonight Show (Doc Severinsen's "orchestra" always being a big favorite with the JRE). Click here to enjoy this chart. Second up is "Midnight at the Oasis." Click here to enjoy this chart. These files were provided by J.R.E. trombonist and music teacher extraordinaire Phil Benson (pictured on the left). As you will hear, and may remember, neither chart was particularly jaw-dropping. But they were both solid warm-up numbers / first selection tunes for performances by the 1977-8 incarnation of JRE (Hank Swindull, Director). So, many thanks to Phil. And enjoy the sounds as you read about what is going on with JRE members today.

 
Where to begin? Well, why not with the sure bet? If you were around Woodham High from 1973 to 1977 and got within a mile of JRE, you knew there was a wealth of talent on board, but really only one truly shining jazz star, a dynamo. His solos made you gasp in disbelief or laugh in sheer amazement. He was serious about what he was doing and came to play. He was the real deal. Many of us felt like imposters for merely holding musical instruments in the same room with the guy! He is, of course, Steve Williams.
 
Steve (pictured to the right) went off to North Texas State (remember how we all wanted to go there?!) and was the lead alto saxophonist for the famous One O'Clock Lab Band. Is anyone who heard him in high school really surprised? Not a bit! Steve also formed and led a group that won the 1988 National Collegiate Jazz Competition. He has sat in with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, The Temptations, Jim Neighbors, Boots Randolph, Wayne Newton and Al Hirt ... to name a few. Today, Steve is the music director and lead saxophonist of the United States Navy Band Commodores and has written over 40 charts for the group! Want to hear him blow down some tunes? Visit the Commodores web page for a schedule of live performances or hear him on these albums: Caribbean Jazz Project (Grammy nominated), Words Cannot Express. If someone could produce some of his work from the JRE days it would be greatly appreciated. Bottom line is, you have to hear him to believe it. And even then, you're just not sure it is possible!
 
Some may remember Mark Williamson sneaking into the trombone section one day and then, before anyone really knew what happened, rising straight to the top. In the interest of full disclosure: it was me that he "challenged" right out of first chair. As I recall, Mark selected the trombone cadenza from the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis chart "Tip Toe." I countered with an infamous selection from Arban's - a page probably more suitable for baritone. I figured I had it locked. Instead, the guy schooled me right on down the trombone line. When the word got out that I could be beat, everyone came after me, or threatened to. Fortunately, they were not all as talented as Mark! 

After graduating from Woodham, Mark  graduated from  Louisiana State University in 1981 and earned a Master's in Music from North Texas State in 1983. From 1984 to 1988, Mark played the euphonium with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C., where the legendary Dr. Brian Bowman was his standmate, mentor and immediate supervisor.  After the Air Force Band, he attended law school at Florida State University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1991 and was Executive Editor of the Law Review. So, today, in his spare time, Mark is a partner in his law firm (Alston and Bird, Atlanta) and an acclaimed author.

But he still plays the trombone as much as he can, plays the piano when he is not playing the trombone (or other things made out of metal) and he is fairly busy as a freelance player in Atlanta.  Mark is the founder, music director, and principal Eb alto horn of Il Brasso Magnifico, for which he is also a contributing composer and arranger, and for which our classmate Steve Williams has also been a contributing composer.  See www.ilbrassomagnfico.org! Want to hear and see Mark do his thing? He is not very far away from your computer at all. Consider visiting the YouTube video for Il Brasso Magnifico. Steve Williams (discussed above) wrote a chart in honor of the memory of JRE member Penny Day (pictured on the left with Chris Tredway). You can listen to Il Brasso Magnifico perform that chart here. You can also see an extensive interview with Mark and a clip of him performing an original composition along with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra all right here! Finally, you can sample tracks from the album Molto Groovissimo here.

 
Oh, we all knew Amy Johansen (pictured on the right) was a good keyboardist. But how good were her Monty Python routines? I mean, there is more to life than music, even in the JRE! To her credit, Amy, on occasion, did know how to "ace" an unsuspecting mailbox :-) Amy graduated from the University of Florida in 1982 and the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1984. After a period of study in London and in Paris, she released her first CD, The Embrace of Fire. This release is routinely described as having brought her "international acclaim." Amy has since performed recitals in England, France, Norway, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and today she is the appointed organist of Sydney University. Want to hear Amy tickle the keys? Pick up any of these albums: Great Hall Grandeur, Carillon and Organ, Organ at the Opera.
 
Chris Tredway (saxaphonist extraorinarie turned band director) has taken time from his dastardly summer deep tanning session to provide us with a few sound recording clips (below) that are sure to prompt a smile (or two)! Enjoy and spread the news!
Jazz Rock Ensemble
WHS Marching Band
JRE 10 - Feelings (Albert / Gaste)
 

 

Coming Attractions: Rick Richbourg (axe man)

 

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