Here's some background information on the band: Who we are, how we got together, and why we do what we do...
A few years ago a recently retired armament repairman looked for new ways to couple his substantial musical talents with his now-plentiful spare time. Via the Wallingford (CT) Senior Center he sought other "seasoned" jazz musicians interested in gathering there for an occasional jam session. Four sufficiently aged senior citizens showed up at the first meeting; together they "didn't sound bad" and they sure had fun! Other musicians joined in, and in time a 7-piece group was setting up every Friday afternoon to "rehearse" and entertain whoever else showed up at the senior center just to listen. They became the WSC "house band", eventually calling themselves the "Survivors" in acknowledgement of some of the original bandmembers who had passed away in the meantime, as well as in recognition of those beloved old melodies that remained favorites despite the passage of the decades.
In the Fall of 2011 one member of this musical gang suggested "taking the band on the road". Encouraged by the others to go out and book some gigs, he did just that, lining up in short order several performance opportunities at other senior centers and assisted living facilities around the state.
And, as they say, the rest is history: The "Survivors Swing Band" has now performed countless times (more accurately, on nearly 350 occasions in five years) at such facilities, and other venues as well, all over Connecticut and also beyond its borders, like malls, libraries, schools, restaurants, municipal auditoriums and gazebos, backyard parties, wedding celebrations, and even a hot dog stand (yes, really, a hot dog stand!). We have brought back some great musical memories for innumerable seniors and other fans (both young and old!) of Swing-era music.
All of us in the band have played this type of music for many years, in various contexts as indicated in the biographies below. We know these tunes and love them, and we have immense fun performing them. When we perform, we "play it straight" as a group, but we also improvise as the spirit moves each of us individually, giving variety to our musical renderings while ensuring that the melodies remain recognizable and wonderfully reminiscent for our audiences. We believe that our spunk is infectious and our audiences have as much fun as we do. We are pleased to have been asked back many times at several of our venues.
The following musicians make up our merry crew:
Jeremy Alston (Drums) - has played drums and solo piano in Connecticut for many years. A long-time member of the local jazz group Music From The Heart, he also teaches music and has performed all over the country in bands of various genres.
Jules Bashkin (Alto Sax) - our "most seasoned" member and our chief marketeer, played saxophone as kid during the Swing era. He put the horn away upon settling into family life in his early 20's, and then unpacked it for first time again upon retiring from a sales career at the age of 84. For over 10 years now he has re-honed his musical skills and has played with the Survivors since its "house band" days.
Greg Butko (Reeds) - is a founding member of the Survivors Swing Band. Long active on the Connecticut music scene, he plays every week in the Charlie Kaman Band at the Duncaster in Bloomfield. Often he can be found performing with various other groups around the state. Greg has also performed internationally. Greg's newest jazz outlet is the 20th Century Jazz Limited band that plays Dixie/Swing jazz from the early to mid-1900's.
Lauren Humpage (Bass, Vocals) - an original member of the Survivors, has been musically active in Connecticut since the early 1960's and has made a half-dozen professional recordings. For fifteen years he was a member of the house band at the Griswold Inn. Lauren also is a member of the aforementioned 20th Century Jazz Limited group.
Dave Mechler (Cornet, Trumpet) - was a founding and long-time member of Earl Capron's Bourbon Street Seven jazz band, performing all over Connecticut and New York. He also is a member of the aforementioned 20th Century Jazz Limited group. Over the years he played regularly with John Banker's Riverboat Ramblers and several other fine jazz groups from Connecticut to Vermont, as well as internationally and in Hawaii.
Bill Steinhauser (Banjo, Guitar) - also known as Bill Lee, is an original member of the Survivors. He was a long-time NYC studio musician and recording engineer. He has worked and recorded with the likes of Mel Torme, Jack Teagarden, Stan Kenton, Frank Sinatra and other famous artists. Bill has played with several different Connecticut jazz groups over the years. He also is a member of the aforementioned 20th Century Jazz Limited group.
Sandra Wittman (Piano) - the youngest and newest member of the band, is a music educator and performing artist with many years experience in Connecticut and New York. Besides teaching classical piano and violin she is the pianist and children's music director at White Oak Baptist Church in Wallingford. Sandra's jazz-playing outlets include the Survivors Swing Band and the Starlighters Jazz Band in New Haven.
So, as a group we know our melodies and harmonies well and how it all fits together stylistically. We believe in the timelessness of much of the music of the Swing Era. Our reward for playing this music is our recognizing the audience's pleasure at re-hearing these classics. We strive to keep the great tunes alive, listenable, danceable, and enjoyable today, as much so as they were when they were first written.
Lastly, to get a taste of what others have said about the Survivors Swing Band, take a look at the Arts/Life section of the New Haven Register newspaper for August 26, 2012, the Entertainment/Music section of the Hartford Courant newspaper for January 17, 2013, and the Meriden Record-Journal newspaper for February 16, 2013.