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Orvel Ray Wilson

Drummer and Bandleader with The Flatirons Jazz Orchestra

About Me

You might call me an Accidental Bandleader.

A musical test in the 6th grade revealed an aptitude for piano, but we didn't own a piano, and my mother liked to watch the drummers, so I got a snare drum for Christmas. I played marching band and swing band in high school, went to college, got married, wrote a successful book, and spent 30 years touring the world as a business speaker. The drumset was relegated to a walk-in closet.

In 2008 a friend asked me to sub for him with a community big band, and I was hooked. I fell in love with the music but was frustrated by their lack of give-a-shit. Decades as a professional speaker had set a high bar for discipline and stagecraft. After 7 years of rehearsals and the occasional county fair gig, I left to form a new group with higher standards and higher aspirations. The singer, bassist, and guitar player from that group joined me to create the core of The Flatirons Jazz Orchestra. This would not be a “kicks” band, or a “pay-to-play” band, but incorporated as an LLC and run as a business.

If I wanted to play, I had to build my own sandbox, so I arranged rehearsal space, bought charts, planned rehearsals, recruited musicians, and funded the project out of pocket. Being a drummer, I didn't know anything about music, but after going through multiple directors, I kept at it. I lead the band from behind the drumset, like Buddy or Gene.

Now in our 10th year, we play in regular rotation at all of the big dance venues in the Front Range. The press has called FJO, “The Best Big Band in Denver,” and “One of the 10 Best Jazz Bands in Colorado.” As the band improved, so did the gigs, and the pay. That attracted better and better musicians, until today, I have to work my butt off just to keep up with regular lessons and daily practice. It's taught me a lot about music, and leadership.

At 70, I'm playing better than ever, and so is FJO. Still handling the money and the bookings, but we're in the black as a business, perhaps the only commercially successful big band in Colorado.

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My Jazz Story

Drummer and Bandleader with the Flatirons Jazz Orchestra - featuring Deborah Stafford FJO captures the romance and excitement of the 1940's.  We specialize in the great Swing Era dance music by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton, Gene Krupa, Ella Fitzgerald, and more.  This is the real deal: 5 saxes, 4 trombones, 4 trumpets, piano, guitar, upright bass, drums, and one of the best jazz singers in Colorado, Deborah Stafford.  We play the original arrangements by the original artists.  The press has called The Flatirons Jazz Orchestra the "Best Big Band in Denver," and "One of the 10 Best Jazz Bands in Colorado.” FJO isn't a "community" band, or a "pay to play" band, or a "kicks" band. We are a working, professional dance band composed of working musicians and music educators, who deliver the highest levels of musicianship and stagecraft.  We play in regular rotation at all of the major dance venues in the Front Range. It's the most fun you can have with clothes on.

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