John Miller and the Romaniacs + CIJS House Band 9.18.16

Concert Review

By John Cheek

The September concert kicked off with the CIJS House Band, under the direction of saxophonist Larry Harms. After opening with Yesterdays by Jerome Kern, Larry welcomed guest trombonist Charlie Vetter to the stage for a great rendition of All Of Me. Drummer Jeremy Clark provided excellent brush work behind sweet trombone and clarinet sounds. Bassist Randy Emert opened up Footprints, a great 3/4 time piece by Wayne Shorter, and played a haunting bass line behind Jeremy’s drum solo. The band’s ballad of the night was Horace Silver’s Peace, which explored both diatonic and modal functions (for our musician readers!) and gave a great backdrop for Billy Cook’s guitar solo and Larry’s finale cadenza. Billy was next featured on Wes Montgomery’s Road Song, with great strumming and picking. The set wrapped up with On Green Dolphin Street, with fantastic solos all around. It was wonderful to see and hear another talented guest brass player with the House Band.

As usual, a large crowd turned out for our featured artists, John Miller & the Romaniacs. John was joined by usual suspects Larry Harms on clarinet and Joe Park (from St. Louis) on guitar, with Randy Emert on bass pulling double-duty that night. The Romaniacs played 14 “gypsy jazz” and Django Reinhardt tunes, so I can only share some of the great moments here.

The Gypsy Fire, by French guitarist Romane, had a nice bounce with Larry taking the melody before John’s solo. Django’s guitar style was partly a result of a fire-related hand injury, so this was a great background for one of John’s great Django stories. (Django’s Hot Club Quintet) with Little Coquette, an old gypsy standard with a Bossa rhythm. John next called Dance Norvegienne, one of Django’s ballads, featuring both Larry and John. Hungaria, first recorded in 1939, took us back to a bouncy and upbeat sound before John’s favorite song, Crépescule. Vocals and crowd participation were next on the menu, with John taking to the microphone for Oo-La-La-La, C’est Magnifique. Everyone had fun with that one!  One of my favorites, The Blue Drag, was next with its nice medium swing beat and great solos and some intricate bass work by Randy. Joe (nicknamed Fluvio) was featured on Swing 42, which was an “extra song” recorded at the end of Django’s 1942 recording session. Joe and Randy (nicknamed Antoin) gave us a second-line groove to kick off Django’s Monkey (a modern take off of Django’s Tiger), which gave us some stop-time soloing by John and Larry before returning to a second-line feel. Nuage (meaning Clouds in French) was another excellent ballad platform for the band, with its airy and uplifting lines. John and the band gave us another great performance of their take on gypsy jazz and the music of Django Reinhardt, and as usual, John’s stories about Django and the music were a great addition to the show.


Preston Jackson & Friends, featuring Judy Page, will perform as the Guest Group for the Jazz Society’s October 16 program. Preston Jackson leads this group of talented musical friends on guitar. Joining Preston are David Parkinson on tenor and alto sax, flute, and backup vocals, rhythm guitarist Steve Degenford, John Miller on bass, and Tevin Keeton on drums. Finally, adding to this group's ability to captivate an audience is longtime song stylist, Ms. Judy Page. Preston Jackson & Friends will begin their set at 7:15 p.m. The Central Illinois Jazz Society House Band, led by Larry Harms, will open the night with the first set at 6:00 p.m.

We thank John Miller and the Romaniacs for being our Jazz Society Guest Group for the September concert. The Romaniacs perform a “gypsy jazz” style of music and are a very popular group with the Jazz Society attendees. John Miller leads the Romaniacs on guitar and provides interesting narratives about the music and about Django Reinhardt, the composer of many of their tunes. Joining John were Randy Emert on bass, Joe Park on guitar, and Larry Harms on clarinet. We welcomed the Romaniacs and hope they are able to return for a Jazz Society concert. We thank Bob and Linda Cannon for being the Program Sponsors for the September Concert. Please contact any board member if you would like to Sponsor a future concert. Program Sponsors help sustain the Jazz Society through their additional financial support of our monthly programs.

  We thank Ellen Monteith for serving as our MC for the September concert. We also thank Andy Bussan, Beth Bussan, Tom Howard, Tom Harkless and Ray Ellington for helping with the concert. Thanks to Cedar Hills Sound for providing outstanding sound for all of our monthly programs.