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About the All-Star SUPERband

I was chatting with Kaye Berigan one night. I had just finished performing with Claude Dorsey and Kaye was about to start his gig with Jackson Dordel.  Kaye reminded me that Milwaukee lacked a high-level rehearsal big band.  Siggy Millonzi had run this type of big band years ago, and no one provided a challenging format for the better jazz musicians in the Milwaukee area.  A few more conversations with Kaye and several months of weighing the commitment and I decided to do it.     

We started on the first Thursday of this Century and have performed almost every Thursday since, with the exception of the Thanksgiving Thursday holiday.  Jimmy D provided his dining room for our use.  Warren Weigratz, alto sax, Kaye Berigan, trumpet, Herb Draeger, trombone and Mike Pauers, baritone sax, were there from the beginning.  There were 17 chairs in the band to fill every Thursday.  At first, it was difficult to find substitutes, however, later on, I was able to build a list of backup musicians for each instrument.     

The band's favorite arrangements come from the Basie, Kenton, Herman, Rich bands among others.  Other key influences are Toshiko Akiyoshi, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, Bill Holman, Don Ellis, Gordon Goodwin and Sammy Nestico.     

The main difference that distinguishes the All-Star SUPERband from Milwaukee’s other big bands is that we play music featuring improvisation; and the music that we play, as a rule, is difficult.  This is in contrast to the primary elements of the other bands that are based on 1. familiarity (songs audiences have heard before ala In The Mood), 2. vocal features, 3. danceable, and 4. easy (able to sound good with minimal rehearsal).  That is not to say that the other bands don’t play a difficult arrangement now and then.  Additionally, most big bands have somewhere between 1 to 4 soloists, while the SUPERband band usually has a minimum of 12 soloists each Thursday.  After all, that’s what jazz is: Improvisation and the creation of new ideas.

The band has performed at the O'Donoghue's Irish PubMidway Atrium Hotel & Suites, Historic Third Ward Jazz Festival, "The Suburban Bourbon, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, and Jazz in the Park.

Gary Christensen


The Band with a Heart....

All-Star SUPERband

During intermission on performance Thursdays, the SUPERband has asked the audience to give a donation to Easter Seal’s of Southeast Wisconsin. These donations have amounted to thousands of dollars every year and benefited the lives of countless children and their families in the Milwaukee area.