Red, white, and swing

Equinox Jazz Orchestra plans a Big Easy-style bash

Y'all watch now - this is how they do the Fourth of July in N'awlins.

A quarter of the musicians in Savannah's Equinox Jazz Orchestra are Louisiana natives, including bandleader, sax player and overall head honcho Jeremy Davis, who came here from The Big Easy just one day before Katrina came a-knockin', in 2005.

The 22-piece big band's Independence Day concerts are quickly becoming the stuff of local legend. The 2009 edition happens Saturday.

Here's the deal: After the concert, the musicians form a "Second Line" down the aisles of the Lucas Theatre, the brass section leading the way (this is a New Orleans parade tradition, usually providing an upbeat coda for a funeral procession). The audience follows the band around Reynolds Square, across Bay Street ... and directly to the only set-aside reserved seating for the evening's pyrotechnical display over River Street.

In other words, par-tay.

"Your other option is to go down there and stand elbow to elbow for hours in the hot July sun, holding your spot for the fireworks," Davis says. "Or you could pay a little bit of bread, come see a fantastic show and then get to enjoy the reserved seats there."

Davis is determined to let folks know that Equinox is "not your grandfather's big band." All the group's arrangements - from old-time standards to swing classics to the most vibrant pieces from the Great American Songbook - are original, by the band's piano player Hoppy Hallman, a veteran of A-list recordings and more than a couple of prestige Disney musicals.

"Most of my guys are in their 20s or 30s," Davis says. "The band looks different from what you'd think a big band looks like. And it sounds different."

Equinox uses the Harry Connick Jr./Michael Feinstein/Michael Buble template: It's finger-snapping fun, fast and frenetic (well, except when one the group's three vocalists are crooning a big Sinatra or Martin ballad).

"I modeled this whole thing around a modern picture of the Rat Pack performing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, back in the day," explains Davis. "Those guys were the best at what they did. They were at the top of their game. It was just a huge party onstage. They all laughed, and they drank, and they had a great time, and the crowd laughed as much as they did, while they were enjoying the great songs."

Equinox will continue to play until everyone from the Lucas audience is seated at the fireworks viewing stand.

At that moment - and that moment only - the crowd's attention will be focused elsewhere.

 Equinox Jazz Orchestra: Savannah Swings!

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 4

Where: Lucas Theatre, 23 Abercorn St.

Tickets: $25 adults, $10 children 12 and under. $5 off for seniors, military, police and fire department

Phone: (912) 525-5050


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About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.
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