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Peabody Ragtime Ensemble
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Don Rouse, editor, Tailgate Ramblings

The Peabody Ragtime Ensemble is one of the bands featured at the Jazz Jubilee this month. Going strong for 26 years, the Ensemble is sought after, and you are likely to run across them in many different venues. As they describe themselves, they are:

   “An acoustic Baltimore-based septet characterized as a 'little big band' formed in 1974 while members were students at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Since that time, the Ensemble has been dedicated to preserving the roots of American jazz through research, arrangement and performance of the vintage repertoire.”

   They were voted “Baltimore's Best” jazz band in 1999 in Baltimore Magazine and have performed in concert with Eubie Blake and Alberta Hunter, among other legends. They play a broad range of numbers, including Rag compositions (those of Joplin , Eubie Blake, and others), dixieland and hot jazz, big band, and novelty numbers.

   Peabody did a tour of the Soviet Union in conjunction with the Smithsonian in 1987, and were featured at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in 1985. The Ensemble has performed over 3,900 engagements (including more than 1550 school concerts under the auspices of Young Audiences of Maryland, Inc.).

   Who's in the Band?

   Ed Goldstein, tuba is also the musical director.

   Joe Rinaldi, clarinet and alto, bass and soprano sax, is well known around the DC/Baltimore area. He graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, played with Harry James and Gene Krupa, and a number of folks may remember when he led the band at the Bayou. He was the music director for the Gaslight Club chain in the US and France for 25 years, and you will also recall that he led his own band at the DC based Gaslight club.

   Chris Royal, trumpet, teaches at Howard U. in DC. He also performs with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks, and has performed with a string of stars, including Lena Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, the Temptations, Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, the Duke Ellington Orchestra under Mercer Ellington, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. Wow!

   Matt Belzer, flute and tenor sax, is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and is a member of the Peabody Institute Preparatory Faculty. He is a 1996 winner of Downbeat awards for best jazz arrangement and best jazz group (Saxology).

   Bill Taylor, trombone, was principal trombone of the US Naval Academy Band and taught music in the Anne Arundel County school system. He has performed accompanying such as Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland , among others.

   Bob LaForce, drums, graduated from Towson State, teaches at the Ellicott City Music and Arts Center, and is a member of the Gettysburg Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera Orchestra, among many other musical activities.

   Gregory Pascuzzi takes over for Larry Cione on piano, and also plays trumpet. (His father was principal percussionist with the Pittsburgh Symphony). Stef Scaggiari was one of his piano teachers. He was with the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, and later the U.S. Army Field Band in DC. He has played piano with the Jazz Ambassadors as well as arranging and composing for them. His music (original and arrangements) have been played by orchestras throughout the U.S., as well as England.

   It's a group with credentials aplenty, and if past performance is any indication, they will blow the roof off the house.

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