Rehearsal bands like the Monday Night Big Band have
been performing on Monday nights in Lincoln, Nebraska, under a variety of
names and at numerous venues since the 1970’s. An earlier version of the
Monday Night Big Band (MNBB), called Mothers Big Band, was named after a
local music store. One version of the band was called the Nebraska Diamond
Big Band and was named after another corporate sponsor. Early leaders and
supporters of the groups included Jon Hischke, Craig Lenz, John Tavlin,
and Dave Sharp, among others. Previous Monday night “homes” have included
the Zoo Bar, Chesterfield’s, the Ramada Hotel, First Avenue, a former
grocery store on North 27th Street, the basement of the Hilton Hotel, the
Top of the Rock facility above the Rock & Roll Runza, and most recently at
P. O. Pears.
The Monday Night Big Band is supported by the
Capital Jazz Society. Regular Monday night sessions have provided an
opportunity for thousands of musicians to sight-read and perform a variety
of big band jazz literature over the years. Musicians are encouraged to
sit in and are provided an opportunity to play or solo with the MNBB. The
line-up has included musicians from middle school to seasoned
professionals and is usually a good mix of musicians aged 17-50+. A number
of well-known jazz musicians have sat in with the band when they were in
Lincoln over the years. The MNBB also provides an opportunity for local
composers and arrangers to have their works performed, most notably Dr.
Randall Snyder of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The MNBB was conceived in the finest of Monday night big band traditions
started years ago by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis at the Village Vanguard in
New York City. This tradition is now being carried out every Monday night
in many cities throughout the US. The current instrumentation is 5 saxes,
4-5 trumpets, 4-5 trombones, piano, guitar, bass and drums. It has also
included vibes, harmonica, percussionists, other winds, French horns,
tuba, vocalists and electric cello in the past.
The current organization was formed in 1996, after a break of several
years, by a group of musicians that realized running a weekly big band
required more time, organization, and financial support than one person
could provide. It was formed to provide a weekly sight-reading and
performing opportunity for area jazz musicians both young and old and too
create a regular venue presenting live jazz music.
The MNBB is supported by various donors, weekly sponsors (individuals and
businesses), as well as admission fees charged at the door. The 17 or more
musicians are given a split of the door each evening and are certainly not
in it for the money. This arrangement is made possible in part with the
cooperation and endorsement of
Local 463 of the
American Federation of Musicians. Music performed comes from the
library of the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra
and music to sight-read on occasion comes from the area’s College,
University, High School and other band directors.
Directors of the band rotate on a weekly basis and there are usually 10 –
12 different directors throughout the course of a year. Many composers and
arrangers have donated music to the library and the MNBB also adds to the
library on a regular basis with purchases of new music made possible by
one of the local sponsors,
Dietze Music House.
The Monday Night Big Band is not available for hire and performs only on
Monday nights. Management services, including hiring of musicians each
week is provided by Arts Incorporated.
Area high school jazz band directors are encouraged to bring their band
down to listen and sit in at a group discount ($1 each), and the MNBB is
delighted to read charts provided by the band director that their band
might be performing. This provides a sight-reading opportunity for the
band and also is a way for younger musicians to hear what their school big
band music sounds like and how a group of more “seasoned” musicians might
play it. Students and others are encouraged to bring their instruments and
sit-in with the MNBB during the 2nd and 3rd sets.