There aren’t many local jazz acts in the area. The members of Six O’Clock Swing are happy to be one of the few.
“We want someone to come and experience the energy we bring to music,” said Henry Scamurra, alto sax player and tenor for the band.
People will have two opportunities this weekend to watch the band explore the many sounds and genres associated with jazz as they perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 23 at the Mokaska Coffee, 705 Edmond Street, and at the show the night before. Magoon Christmas at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 24, at 632 S. Eighth St.
Together since 2018, the band started out as friends Henry Kress and Scamurra playing in the band at Central High School. Pursuing their passion outside of school with like-minded musicians, they loved the feeling of performing live in front of jazz fans and novices alike.
“It’s the most uplifting feeling,” Scamurra said. “I think jazz is best listened to live because it can be more of a conversation between the audience and the band members … You can see the interactions that take place between the band members and, for us, when we let’s try to make sure that we let everyone know that we are having as much fun as possible.
While the group enjoys exploring the many sounds of jazz, they avoid getting too mellow, Kress said. The sound is much more lively and lively.
“We usually play… the standard jazz repertoire, a lot of old stuff like ‘American Dream Songbook’,” Kress said. “Sometimes we go out and play our favorite music. We love to play the song (by Roy Hargrove) ‘Strasbourg / St. Denis’ and also ‘Sing A Song’ by Kenny Garrett. We really like to do it all.
Studying music in college, along with Kress at Webster University in St. Louis and Scamurra at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, both love to hang out with bandmates like bassists Calvin Kress and Jackson Weddle and drummers Isaac Riveria and Joseph Cooper.
When the lockdown hit in 2020, Kress said the group started scrambling and live-streaming on their Facebook page in order to continue performing and getting their name out there. In 2021, it had a successful comeback, with concerts at the East Hills Mall, Cafe Acoustic Concert Hall, and Hazel’s.
“Our Hazel’s concert was very (fun). It was just, like, this woman’s birthday party, and she brought some friends over and we played. And it was a really cool joyful time and like bringing people together over the holidays, ”Kress said.
With their next shows, they hope to bring together this fun jazz spirit, close musicality and friendship for everyone’s enjoyment.
Kress said that at first he hated the idea of bringing Christmas into their set, he changed his mind on the way from St. Louis to St. Joseph, listening to a Christmas jazz album by Benny Benack. III with the Steven Feifke Big Band.
“There’s that Christmas cheer, and pairing it with jazz on the train really got me thinking, ‘Oh, I’m really ready to go do it. I want to bring a little joy to some people, but also to express myself in a way that I always like to do, ”he said.
For the group, it doesn’t matter if people are listening intently or providing background music for some big conversations or celebrations. They are happy to do what they love and to share it together.
“We may not have caught up in our lives. Like, I might not know exactly everything that’s been going on in (Kress’s) life over the past couple of months. But as soon as we play together, it’s straight away ‘Oh, here we are again. Yeah, let’s go, ”Scamurra said.
The concerts are free and open to all ages.