Tri-state group to play jazz

By The Mercury

TOPEKA—The next-to-last concert in the Topeka Jazz Workshop Inc.’s 43rd season will feature a combination of musicians from New York, Iowa and Kansas. 

The New Yorkers are saxophonist Dick Oatts and his brother-in-law John Mosca, who is director and lead trombonist for the famous Vanguard Orchestra. 

The Iowans are Dick’s brother, trumpeter Jim Oatts, and drummer Jim Eklof,  both from the Des Moines area. 

The Kansans are Kansas Citians Roger Wilder on piano and Bob Bowman on bass.

The concert will be Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Topeka Ramada Inn’s Regency Ballroom.  Admission is by season membership, which will be available at the door for $50 per adult, which covers two concerts:  this Sunday’s and also May 20, featuring the Kenny Barron Trio.

The grouping this Sunday originated with a suggestion by TJW Inc. Vice-President Steve Waugh that TJW feature his good friend Dick Oatts, whom Waugh grew up with in Earlham, Iowa, and who made it to the big time with the Vanguard Orchestra.  Dick and Jim Oatts’ dad, Jack Oatts, was a well- known name and highly respected jazz educator/saxophonist.  An annual jazz festival is still held in his name.

Dick Oatts’ list of associates includes the late Bob Brookmeyer, who was his mentor with the Vanguard Orchestra.  He has also played with Red Rodney, Eddie Gomez, Terell Stafford, Jon Faddis, Lalo Schifrin, Tito Puente, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme and many other jazz luminaries.

Mosca is a graduate of Julliard and has been on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory and University of Connecticut.  He is considered to be one of the best jazz trombonists.

Jim Oatts has played with the Des Moines Big Band since 1969 and assumed leadership in 1979. He has played stints with the group Chase and with the bands of Woody Herman. Stan Kenton and Thad Jones-Mel Lewis. 

Eklof is the long-time drummer for Marilyn Maye. The Topeka jazz audience heard him in October 2010 with Maye and will hear him again next September when Maye returns.

Bowman was a colleague of the New Yorkers when he played with the forerunner of the Vanguard Band, known as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Bowman suggested pianist Wilder to fill out the group.

For more information about TJW Inc. and its next season, starting in August, contact Executive Director Marcene Grimes at or 785-379-5169.

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