Need a music mindset escape? The New Reformation Jazz Band (NRB) of Saginaw, Michigan plays music that lifts spirits. Its repertoire encompasses Dixieland, ragtime, blues, big band, gospel, spirituals, swing, and of course jazz. NRB beautiful harmonics are reinforced by a beat that sets toes tapping. It’s been unscientifically proven. Band members watch fans at live gigs. Toes tap like crazy.
The Current Michigan All-Star Cast of Characters:
Trumpet: Dave Tatrow, Otisville
Trombone: Terry Kimura, Howell
Clarinet & Saxophone: Stephen Grady, East Lansing
Tuba: Paul Carlson, Grand Rapids
Banjo & Guitar: Dave Kadwell, Grand Rapids
Drums: John Hill IV, Swartz Creek
Piano & Leader: Dave Oppermann, Saginaw
50 Years of More Fun Than Can Reasonably Be Expected
NRB www.newref.com was formed in 1970 during a frigid Michigan winter. Seven musicians gathered at 1st Congregational Church in Saginaw to bring jazz into the service, an idea of the late Reverend Gary Miller. Everyone played jazz, but never in church, and never together. Except for the Brothers Oppermann — Dave on piano and Nick on banjo — most were shaking hands for the first time. But the tunes were from the hymnal and so recognizable even strangers to religious services would know them.
On the chosen Sunday at 9:00 am, the musicians arrived and checked the song list. By 10, the sanctuary was filled. A promising start. The finale was the “Saints Go Marching In.” The congregation enjoyed it all. Standing ovations in church? Who knew?
START AT THE TOP — WORK YOUR WAY FROM THERE
The musicians were stunned. They sounded like they actually knew what they were doing. Satisfaction washed over them. A one-time appearance became a marvelous inspirational experience. The players wanted more. Band leader Dave said he would make some inquiries.
There was a big gig available — headlining at the Deer Acres Amusement Park and Petting Zoo north of Saginaw. Seriously. Despite sharing top billing with a rather fragrant rabbit and an over-rated talking chicken, the boys sensed a future for their kind of musical entertainment.
JAZZ MANTRA — DON’T LEAVE YOUR DAY JOB
Over the years, NRB’s evolving ‘Cast of Almost All-Stars.’ held day jobs. The trumpet player was the City Manager of the town of Otisville. He also was the supposed owner of the Otisville Pizza and Funeral Parlor but that cannot be independently verified. The trombone player was a police officer. The drummer is a high school music teacher. The clarinet and tenor sax player is in grad school at Michigan State University while the piano player blew things up as a global fireworks expert. Seriously. For seasoned readers, if you recall the fireworks spectacular after Hank Aaron’s 714th home run, as well as the one celebrating the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, you watched Dave Opperman’s skills in pyrotechnics.
Dave Bennett, the NRB clarinetist, is a full-time musician traveling the country with his own sidemen (including a concert in Carnegie Hall). He’s devoted to the NRB for “discovering” him at the age of 14 so he still plays often with the NRB whenever he is available.
Against the advice of critics, over these 50 years, the NRB produced 16 albums. 3 were LPs (vinyl for the younger folks). 6 were cassettes. Dave’s goal — he’s still the leader, ‘cuz no one else wants the job — is to have all 16 available as CDs and for downloading. He’s halfway there. 8 are digitally remastered, but the corny jokes, banter, and talented musicians still shine.
The band loves playing. And it enjoys comparing itself to other old masters. Go here www.newref.com/legacy Listen to an NRB track and compare it a track recorded decades before. Great music apparently has no time stamp.
NRB HAS ITS OWN STREAMING AND DOWNLOAD SITES
Find NRB on Pandora and virtually every music and downloading site in the world. Begin here with “Rainbow.” https://youtu.be/UL3COJXHPLc
APPEARING AT A MICHIGAN TOWN NEAR YOU
The NRB is still having as much fun as its fans. A number of appearances are on the web site. Here are a few of their upcoming gigs.
50th Anniversary Worship Service
Sunday, March 22; 10:30am – 12:00noon
First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson Avenue, Saginaw, MI RECEPTION FOLLOWING SERVICE
Refreshments • Silver Tea and Coffee Service – Meet and Greet the Band
Saginaw on Stage – 17th Annual Musical Festival
Friday, April 17; 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
SVRC Marketplace, 203 S. Washington Avenue, Saginaw
Saturday, September 5; 3:00pm – 4:30pm
Music Moves Me Building, 17135 Northwood Highway, Arcadia
Do you have an interesting band, business or non-profit that is making a mark in Michigan? Contact email@example.com with your story.