Jim Swiggart heads all-new 'Original Eureka Jazz Band' at upcoming Jazz Funeral

Friday, December 21, 2012
Jim Swiggart

In their first public appearance, but certainly not their last, the "Original Eureka Jazz Band" will be performing at the upcoming Jazz Funeral and related events on Friday, Dec. 21

Urged on by local musician Archie Ryan and by Dan Ellis, who requested music at his "fauxneral," Jim Swiggart took the challenge. Everyone agreed that the timing near Christmas was not the best season to organize such an innovative uplift for the community.

Not without expected mishaps such as music scores not arriving on time and very busy schedules placed upon this select group of professionals, a new local "Jazz Group" was born. And something good will certainly happen.

The group is organized and led by Jim Swiggart, currently in his 25th year as general director of Opera in the Ozarks. He is the trombonist of the group, holding music degrees from OCU, Wichita State and a teaching career in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

Another member is Daniel Hodge, alto sax, a native of Fort Smith, having received his education in Oklahoma; Hodge was first chair All-State in Oklahoma for three years running. He also played in an incredible jazz program at college and is recognized as one of the best young band directors in Arkansas, and is the head director at Berryville High School.

Playing trumpet is Julius Stevens, who attended University of Central Oklahoma with Daniel Hodge and then earned his master's degree from Indiana University and attended college in Oklahoma.

Also at trumpet is Andrew Morris, a native Arkansan, who like his father, is also a great band director.

At tuba is Randal Cavanah, a resident of Holiday Island. Cavanah received his degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia and plays all over Northwest Arkansas with several groups. He is an outstanding talent with tuba in hand.

As an added delight for the audience, some of the All-State high school musicians from Berryville will join the ensemble.

With such a brief period for rehearsals, Swiggart acknowledges that the newly created Jazz Band will be sporting a different sound from that of the old-timey, traditional jazz bands of New Orleans.

"The guys I have are trained musicians who will not be playing by ear but from their own experiences and will be adding some embellishments that should delight our Eurekan universe," Swiggart says.

Jazz is a very old genre and it is often assumed that only old musicians play jazz music; however, this is not the case, as proven by younger musicians who have some of the most versatile skills in music, including the ability to sight-read, improvise, and have practical knowledge in music theory, he notes.

The Original Eureka Jazz Band will appear at the Pied Piper Pub on board a raised float before joining the Funeral Procession at 6 p.m. when they will play a few somber chords as they slowly walk to the New Delhi Café. On their return at 7 p.m., they will lead the Procession striking up with "When the Saints go Marching In" -- with energetic pallbearers, mourners and umbrella waving second-liners following behind.

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