It's mega-jazz at the micro-brewery this Sunday, as the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra plays at Bell's Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo. 

Back in the late 70’s, a big high-powered jazz group evolved out of some collaborations with the Battle Creek Symphony, and the Battle Creek Jazz Ensemble was born.   The band formed a non-profit organization, and performed for many years from the late 70’s into the 90’s.  They often would play in the Branson Ballroom at the Stouffer Battle Creek Hotel.   Under the direction of Gary Tallenger and, later,  Ed Zentera, the group played some of the absolute best arrangements by bands like Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton.    Well….they’re still doing it!

I was lucky to have played a few gigs with the Jazz Ensemble in the early and later years.  There were some really great players in there, like Battle Creek saxophonists Willie Brown, Darris Deal, and Dick Day (to name a few).  Pianists John Shea and Terry Lower played with the group at times.  The group went on hiatus in the 90’s and the music and equipment went into storage.  But in 2005, Harry Boesch put the band back together under the name of the “Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra”, and it’s been going strong ever since.  That’s no small accomplishment for an 18-piece jazz band!

Boesch, a long-time financial advisor in Battle Creek, played in the trombone section of the Battle Creek Jazz Ensemble, and still plays in the section today.  Under Boesch’s leadership, the band has gone from solid to top-shelf.  Much like the “Brass Band of Battle Creek”, some of the top players in the country are regular and part-time members of the group.   The band plays one Wednesday a month at “The Union Cabaret & Grill” in Kalamazoo, in the spring and fall seasons.  They’ll be starting up again on April 26th.

This Sunday, March 26th,  the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra will be playing at Bell’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo at 2pm.

  • The Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra
  • Bells Brewery, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo.
  • Sunday March 26th 2:00-4:00 pm
  • 269-382-2332
  • $12 cover charge.

The band features Grand Rapids vocalist Edye Evans-Hyde, as well as Terry Lower on piano.  Those two are featured during the summer at Clara's on the River in Battle Creek.

Driving the band is one of the best drummers anywhere,  Tim Froncek.     In the sax section, are two veterans of America’s top military jazz groups.  Jim Hayward and Gary McCourrie both made a career playing with the Navy and Army groups.   The lead trumpet chair is filled by either Maynard Ferguson alums Patrick Hession, or Danny Barber, or long time Count Basie Band trumpeter Mike Williams.  The band draws members from Battle Creek, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Saxes, Flute, Clarinet

  • Mark Greer, Kalamazoo
  • Greg Marsden, Grand Rapids
  • Jim Hayward, Grand Rapids
  • Sandy Shaw, Kalamazoo
  • Gary McCourrie, Dorr

Trombone

  • Paul Brewer, Grand Rapids
  • Tylar Bullion, Kalamazoo
  • Harry Boesch, Augusta
  • Scott Grupke, Marshall

 Trumpet

  • Patrick Hession or Mike Williams, Detroit/Lapeer
  • Dave Wells, Kalamazoo
  • Scott Cowan, Kalamazoo
  • Tim Collins (Culver) , Battle Creek

Drums

  • Tim Froncek, Muskegon

Bass

  • Denis Shebukov, Kalamazoo

Piano

  • Terry Lower, Battle Creek

You can learn more at the band's website. 

Or check out some clips in this video: