The ten-piece band, led by pianist/composer/arranger James Dapogny and sousaphonist/cornetist Chris Smith, is patterned after the 1920s and early ’30s dance bands, with a four-piece rhythm section, three saxophonists doubling on clarinet, two trumpets, and one trombone. Their constantly growing repertoire consists of published “stock” arrangements from Dapogny’s vast personal collection, charts transcribed from recordings, and the pianist’s own compositions. Each set is well organized, and you never know what treasures will surface on any Sunday from the books of Bennie Moten, Duke Ellington, Goldkette, or Fud Livingstone, or lovely forgotten tunes from the territory band stock arrangements. Dapogny and Smith provide introductions in a highly idiosyncratic fashion, often weaving in anecdotes and historical information with droll humor that hardly conceals the affection they have for this music.
The leaders are perfectionists and have brought together some of the finest jazz musicians in the area, but since they are often in demand elsewhere, you never know who will turn up each Sunday. The rhythm section is the hardest to replace; Dapogny is naturally essential, but few players anywhere can play as idiomatically on sousaphone as Chris Smith, on acoustic rhythm guitar as Rod McDonald, or preside over the old-fashioned drum and percussion set as Van Hunsberger does.