Jazz orchestra throws Thought Lot back to ’30s


Rebecca Schrom and Lee Howard from the Keating Jazz Orchestra sing legendary jazz songs from famous singers. (Right) Duo Jessica Jellen and Mark Burke opened the evening with a laid back atmosphere on Saturday. 

The Thought Lot displayed a throwback show of jazz and Dixie music Saturday with the Keating Jazz Orchestra, which showcased its skills to a packed house.

Jessica Jellen and Mark Burke opened the event as an acoustic and piano duo, giving a basic spin on jazz tunes. The relaxing tone was established by the two, as members of the audience kept pouring in the room. Every note screamed emotion and passion that set the stage for the Keating Jazz Orchestra.

After a few songs, the orchestra squeezed onto the small stage, with percussion, an upright bass, a brass section, singers, stringed instruments and a tap dancer. It was refreshing to see a group of young professionals embrace the authentic style that is Dixieland. The twang of the banjo and the bravado of the horns were expertly blended to give a rich, old-styled experience.

The band’s songs were inspired by the legendary jazz musicians of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, like Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman. The pieces revolved around good times, love and an appreciation of the city nightlife, specifically Chicago. Members of the audience danced along with the orchestra as they were thrown back to a simpler time.

Vocalists Rebecca Schrom and Lee Howard were the frontrunners of the group, who sang into old-fashioned microphones that properly fit the aesthetic. Their involvement varied — some songs they would sing while other times they would let the rest of the group show off.

In those instrumental moments, the Keating Jazz Orchestra shined. Each player was smooth and on point. The best part of it all, though, was that the group was having fun. The percussion section was able to bounce off of the string and brass sections, going back and forth between moments of improvisation.

In the middle of it all was Kara Checote, who tap-danced her way to whatever sounds the rest of the group was creating. Pure joy emoted from every member of the Keating Jazz Orchestra, and the audience ate it up.

Additionally, a group of flapper dancers named the Ladybirds danced for the audience during one of the intermissions. The ladies also danced to some of the songs the orchestra was playing, making the experience all the more authentic.

The small venue of The Thought Lot could not contain the grandiose nature of the group. Despite that, the orchestra has had a history of playing for weddings, community theaters and corporate events throughout southern Pennsylvania. After three years of getting an ensemble together, the Keating Jazz Orchestra is more than prepared to play for an enormous crowd, with a large stage that can complement the massive sound.

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