DRIVE-BY JAZZ BAND CHASES PANDEMIC BLUES AWAY
BY KYLE SPURR
A six-piece jazz band found a way to bring live music to every corner of Bend this weekend without the risk of crowds gathering during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Summit Express Jazz Band, an upbeat group of musicians who wear colorful suits, rolled out Friday evening on a vintage flatbed Ford truck and played music through downtown Bend, making stops along the way. The band planned to take another route through the east side of Bend on Saturday and the west side Sunday.
The event, called the Great Drive-Out, was organized by the Tower Theatre.
Matt Burton, 33, wore an orange and black suit with Halloween pumpkins Friday evening as he played the trombone in the band. Burton said Friday was the band’s first live performance since the pandemic began. He’s missed performing for crowds but also going to shows as a spectator.
“I’ve missed live performances of any type since March,” Burton said. “It’s always fun to perform for people and have all the hard work you put in be enjoyed.”
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Burton plays in the band with tuba player Aaron Moore, trumpeter Rick Homer, clarinetist Micah Desmarais, drummer Dennis Semff and banjo player Rich Havern, who formed the band in 2009.
“We’re finally hitting the road,” said Havern, 66, who was wearing a red suit and hat Friday night.
The band’s first stop Friday was to the Touchmark Retirement Center off Reed Market Road. Staff at the retirement center brought chairs outside for residents to sit and watch the performance. Other residents watched from their balconies.
Letty Hicks, a 93-year-old who has lived at the center since 2015, took a seat outside and waited for the band to drive by. Hicks was thrilled at the thought of hearing live music.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
“We’re just like kids.”
The band then made its way to Spoken Moto coffee shop, Tower Theatre, Drake Park and The Lot, where people were enjoying meals from food carts.
People at each location were surprised to see and hear the band as it passed.
Shoppers and diners in downtown Bend stopped and listened to the band as it played in front of the Tower Theatre. For just a few minutes, everyone on Wall Street enjoyed the live music, something they had missed during the pandemic.
Ray Solley, executive director of the Tower Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit organization that owns and manages the historic downtown theatre, soaked in the scene Friday outside the theatre.
The theatre is limited by how many people can enjoy events inside due to the coronavirus, so it was a welcome sight to see people enjoying the music outdoors, Solley said.
“We don’t own an outdoor facility. We own a historic building,” Solley said. “The idea is we want to be able to take music into the neighborhoods and get it out of the building as much as we can.”
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