Here's some background information on the band: Who we are, how we got together, and why we do what we do...
Several years ago a recently retired armaments 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 6 or 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 band members 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 of Connecticut.
And, as they say, the rest is history: In twelve active years the "Survivors Swing Band" has now performed on over 750 occasions at such establishments and at other venues all over Connecticut and also beyond its borders. These include malls, libraries, schools, restaurants, municipal auditoriums and pavilions, 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 that our audiences have as much fun as we do. We are pleased to have been asked back numerous times at many 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 has taught music and 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 he has re-honed his musical skills and played with the Survivors since its "house band" days. Upon celebrating his 100th (yes, ONE HUNDREDTH) birthday in December 2021, our dear Jules has decided to give his saxophone a rest again, but he actively continues to market his favorite jazz band with as much energy as ever! (Now and again, at the ripe young age of 101, he will join us on saxophone for an occasional gig!).
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 New England. 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 in Essex. Lauren also is a member of the aforementioned 20th Century Jazz Limited group.
Dave Mechler (Cornet, Trumpet, Flugelhorn) - 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.
A special announcement to visitors to our website: Bill Steinhauser, our beloved guitarist and an original member of our "family", passed away on August 12, 2018, after a courageous battle with cancer. We are all devastated by our loss, and we will miss Bill dearly; but the Survivors Swing Band will play on, our cherished memories of making music together with Bill never fading. Other fine guitarists will join us in Bill's stead, but for us there will always be but one Bill Steinhauser.
Sandra Wittman (Piano) - is a classically trained pianist who spent many years as a music educator in both New York and Connecticut. She currently embraces her enjoyment of the piano by providing worship music at her local church in Massachusetts--and skillfully performing in the jazz idiom with the Survivors Swing Band.
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; the Meriden Record-Journal newspaper for February 16, 2013; and the New Haven Register newspaper for April 30, 2018