AMERICAN FORK — For years, people have asked John Miller when he’ll put together a jazz band similar to the popular Finnish band known as the Boston Promenade.
The time has come.
He, along with fellow musician and jazz enthusiast Roger Liston, is starting up a band that he ultimately hopes will have 24 pieces, including drums, horns, a piano, a Hammond B3-style organ, a guitar and four vocalists.
They’ll play pop, rock and jazz in a lively, unique style that they expect will have fans dancing in the aisles.
“We’re going to play it all,” said Miller, the recently retired director of the award-winning American Fork High School Marching Band and director of Wasatch Winds. “We want to fill the niche between jazz and rock 'n' roll. Nobody else here does show music.”
The new band, dubbed the "Wasatch Show Band,” plans to debut in concert Jan. 15, 2018, at American Fork High School. Members of the band also plan to book corporate and community gigs.
Getting much of his inspiration from big band group Boston Promenade, an ensemble that came out of Helsinki in 1964, Miller hopes his new band will hit on the Finnish group's successful formula: lots of brass, plenty of variety and music the average person can enjoy.
“(The band is) designed to connect with the audience,” said Miller, who also works with the Nauvoo Brass Band as part of his missionary service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We want to reach the kids not reached by the typical symphonies. We want to connect with older folks who remember 'Tower of Power.'”
As part of this effort, Miller and Liston are currently selecting musicians and arrangements of iconic numbers such as Jackie Wilson's 1967 hit “Higher and Higher," Wilson Pickett's much-covered 1965 hit "Midnight Hour" and the Jackson 5's “I Want You Back" from 1969.
Liston, who formed his first band at 16, ended up leaving music to pursue an engineering degree and work in Silicon Valley — but he still got the opportunity to play with local rock bands. Since moving to American Fork, where he met Miller on the arts council, he's played with the local symphony and kept in touch with the music world.
"(Miller and I) hit it off and discovered we had both toured with rock bands and missed playing popular music," he said. "That conversation was the genesis of this effort."
Walt Lovell, a longtime musician and former band director at Elko High School in Nevada, is aiding the musicians' effort by putting together arrangements for the show band that allow for creativity and a high-energy approach.Comment on this story
One of the band's trumpet players, Randy Lish, said he expects playing in the new group will be “just plain fun." Vocalists in the group include Alexa Nibley, Emma Schofield, Mark Henderson, Todd Farris and Melanie Mumme.
When the Wasatch Show Band has its debut next month, Miller hopes the concert will capture the energetic spirit of Boston Promenade.
"Boston Promenade really has nothing to do with Boston," Miller said, "but everything to do with providing entertainment."
Note: Musicians and singers interested in auditioning are invited to contact Liston at [email protected] to arrange an audition. Band members need to be experienced, reliable and good at sightreading.