Juniper Hill Jumpers jazz band plays benefit for Joshua’s Trust

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Wed., Feb. 6, 2013
The Juniper Hill Jumpers Dixieland band and the guest musicians, Dave Mechler on trumpet and Peggy Church on bassoon. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
The Juniper Hill Jumpers Dixieland band and the guest musicians, Dave Mechler on trumpet and Peggy Church on bassoon. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

Knowlton Hall was the setting for a rousing Dixieland concert performed by band members who have played with some of the greatest jazz performers. The Feb. 3 Joshua’s Trust benefit concert was enjoyed by many Trust members and other guests. Hill Bullard, the band leader, had been a Trust president for four years.

“The band was started in 2008. We are a mix of professional and high-end amateurs who get together for our own pleasure. We are always looking for new gigs, but because of the ages of our band members, we only do daytime concerts,” Bullard said.

Collectively, band members have had more than 200 years experience. Jack Kelly, on trombone, played with Bobby Hackett, Eddie Congdon and Billie Holiday at Town Hall in New York City. Other members’ experience ranged from playing with Fred Waring and Glenn Miller bands and Connecticut’s Galvanized Jazz Band.

“Dixieland is easy to slide in and out of. For experienced musicians, practice is not necessary, but a band member needs to know 400 to 500 tunes,” Bullard said. “Arrangements are made by hand signals from the bandstand. If someone makes a mistake, the others cover for them.”

Jeff Burnham, on guitar, is the youngster in the band. “When I play with them, I feel like I am absorbing their musical knowledge. They are light years ahead of me,” he said.

The band performed many familiar tunes, such as “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” “Wrap Your Troubles,” and “Over the Waves,” which Bullard introduced as their oldest tune (from 1888) - “a tune written even before any of the band member were born,” he joked. The band played in a relaxed style, bantering with each other and moving seamlessly from tune to tune.

Peggy Church, a guest performer, played her bassoon. which is rarely seen in a jazz band. “I don’t usually play in the free form the way they do. It’s an adventure into a new way of playing music. It’s fun for me to be included and welcomed,” she said.

Joshua’s Trust is the largest volunteer land trust in Connecticut, managing more than 4,000 acres in easements or outright ownership. New members are welcome, and those joining receive a free Joshua’s Tract walk book. The book features miles of trails on some of the most beautiful land in eastern Connecticut and an opportunity to become an active participant in land preservation. Loving jazz is not a requirement.

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