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MP3 Ted Unseth and the Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra - 20th Anniversary Concert with Benny Waters

Special Guests for this album: 91 year-old Benny Waters--he blew everyone away. Also the best Stride Piano specialist ever, Butch Thompson; and Duke Ellington Orchestra alumna, Shirley Witherspoon. Unique repertoire, found nowhere else in the world.

11 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Big Band, JAZZ: Stride

I''d been thinking about a 20th Anniversary of the CJO project for a couple of years and when I read in the paper that Benny Waters was alive and back in the US after 40 years in Europe, I got excited about possibilities.

This is the same Benny Waters who performed on several historic recordings with the Clarence Williams Orchestra in the late 1920''s--material the original WCJO transcribed and performed. One thing leads to another and I find myself booking 91year-old Benny Waters for the 20th Anniversary gig--amazing!

Add local TC legends Butch Thompson and Shirley Witherspoon
and some of the finest local TC jobbing musicians (unsung heroes)--everyone went the extra mile to make these concerts one-of-a-kind. We had one full band rehearsal and I swear it was the best rehearsal I''d ever had.

The concerts were wonderfully attended and there was real
Magic created that weekend. My thanks to all who helped make it such a Special Occasion--most especially the amazing Benny Waters.


The history of the Wolverines CJO/Americana CJO from its inception to present-day is in 3 Parts:

1. 1973-1980: Original Early: --Ted Unseth, sole owner/director; 1973-1980. For a fascinating account of the Early Years go to https://www.tradebit.com Written by stalwart original member Dave Sletten (who is sorely missed-he fell victim to melanoma cancer and died Sept. 18, 2000), it chronicles the growth and transition from a Basic Idea to an Authentic Note-For-Note Re-Creation Project.

At its height, the band was employed in high-profile local venues (Scotties'' On Seventh; Mpls. and The Commodore Hotel; St. Paul), special event venues (Guthrie Theatre, Orchestra Hall; Mpls. and O''Shaughnessey Auditorium; St. Paul), Live! media broadcasts (KQRS-FM, KSJN-FM and KTCA-TV) and numerous OTR (on the road) gigs-clubs and colleges across the country. The band also ''fronted'' for such musical luminaries as Sarah Vaughan, Les McCann and Manhattan Transfer. With the exception of a few changes, the Personnel was a core unit with 100% commitment to authentic rendering of unique, one-of-a-kind repertoire (focusing on Jazz Orchestras of the Hot Period in Jazz, the Jazz Age-peacetime America twixt the two World Wars).

Much of the success was due to the diligent efforts of Manager David Louis Rodgers. A good manager is hard to find (especially when a band specializes in unusual repertoire), but we were extremely lucky to have David be a ''true believer'' and work tirelessly on our behalf. Tragically, in 1979, David was the victim of a drunk driver who crashed into David''s car head-on--he was hospitalized with severe head injuries and in a coma for several days. In jeopardy of seizures for the rest of his life, David could no longer continue as our manager. An equal or adequate manager has never been found since.

2. 1980-1984: Partnership:-Ted enters into a Partnership Agreement with drummer Brett Forberg and his parents, Jim & Mary Forberg. The basic idea was for Ted to concentrate on the Repertoire, Brett coordinate Personnel and the Parents handle Business Affairs. The first couple of years were encouraging-Brett organized a group of experienced professional players and the repertoire was expanded to include Swing-era and Contemporary arrangements, as well. But conflicts on repertoire choice began to be a sticking-point--Ted wanted to keep the reputation of Completely Unique intact; the Forbergs felt it was necessary to include Standards (popular, recognizable). Before it came to a final head, there was experimentation with two Wolverines units: Ted & the Classic Jazz Orchestra; Brett and the Big Band. The Big Band was getting a majority of the gigs and Ted''s purist approach was losing ground.

The Partnership Agreement was the Biggest Business Blunder of Ted''s life--the partnership was 3-way: Ted, Brett and his Parents. Each entity had 1 vote. After initial signing of the Agreement, Ted proposed an Addendum stating that if there ever were a separation, neither party would get the unfair advantage of the Name and Logo-we''d each have to start anew with a new name. The Forbergs agreed to it verbally and said they would sign the Addendum. But when Ted broached the subject in 1984 they said it was never signed, thus null and void. They then voted 2-1 to force Ted out (the options were to either collect a nominal buyout fee or leave with nothing-Ted accepted the fee).

3. 1984-Present-Ted continued with the Original Philosophy, but had to operate under a new name, the American CJO.

Gigs were few and far-between--bandname recognition was ultimately important and Ted now had none. In order to make the project more affordable, Ted re-transcribed many of the arrangements to accommodate a Septet version (initially titled De Stijlistics; later named the American Classic Jazz Ensemble). After 6 years of minimal success (highlights would be the ACJO at the Prom Ballroom, St. Paul with Cab Calloway as Special Guest; and the ACJE at Walker Art Center and Hennepin Center for the Arts with Special Guest Butch Thompson), Ted decided he simply couldn''t compete with the Wolverines name and moved to Washington, DC in 1990.

The idea was that the city of National Archives would welcome Ted''s unique repertoire and approach. A nice idea, but there''s a Washington phenomenon called Inside The Beltway; and if you don''t Know Someone in that select circle, you''re out of the Loop. With the exception of
doing some Transcribing work for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Gerry Mulligan (for his "Rebirth Of The Cool" album), the Loop never opened up for Ted.

However, in 1993, Ted engineered a 20th Anniversary Concerts Gala Weekend at Bandana Square, St. Paul. Special Guests included Butch Thompson, Shirley Witherspoon and 91-year-old Benny Waters (legendary Alto Saxophonist who lived in Europe for 40-some years, but returned to the US in ''91)--it was hugely successful and memorable.

Over the years, Ted has been focusing on Archiving CJO recorded performances and has recently discovered rare, all-but-forgotten reel-to-reel tapes from the Early Band phase. After much editing (and struggling with a near-defunct tapedeck) Ted has created a 5-CD Series highlighting some wonderful performances from that era. What''s striking about this material is that it employs
completely authentic instrumentation, including Banjo and Tuba (instruments that were later displaced by Guitar and Bass)-you''ll find nothing else like it anywhere in the world.

Ted Unseth, 2007

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