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Take Five With Jon C. McGahan

Take Five With Jon C. McGahan
AAJ Staff By

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Meet Jon McGahan:

After Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University and Roosevelt University. Mr. McGahan found himself the chief arranger for both the Deja Vu Big Band and the Ron Smolen Orchestra. Since 1986, Jon has been actively composing, arranging and playing Trumpet, Trombone and Euphonium for these groups, as well as the Revolutionary Swing Orchestra and the Sicilian Band of Chicago and other Jazz and Concert bands in the Chicago area, including his own big band, The Stardust Big Band.


Trumpet, Trombone, Euphonium.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Don Owens, Tom Streeter, Tom Crown, Art Lauer.

Influences: Maynard Ferguson's Birdland Dream Band, Neal Hefti, Bill Holman, Giovanni Orsomando, Paul Hindemith.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I discovered I was more interested in the background music than the show I was watching—this happened very early, maybe around 10 or so.

Your sound and approach to music: I guess you might call my sound and approach "happy." I look at writing and playing jazz as a way to both create and disperse great happiness in this world.

Your teaching approach: My teaching approach is simple: Think about how you want it to sound, and then make it happen. My teaching style involves a lot of philosophical discussion, not entirely about music, either. It's all about the dialectic and learning about thinking for yourself—that's how you develop a musical sense of self.

Your dream band:

It's not about getting the best musicians; it's about getting the right ones. Like now, I would put a band together of players who know and work well with each other, both on and off the bandstand, but above all, I would get players who share with me the idea that jazz is fun.

Favorite venue:

The Green Mill, Chicago. I've never had a bad night there—even just sitting in on the jam sessions.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Miles Davis' Workin' and Steamin'.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Besides pure entertainment value (yes it is important), the other thing I'm contributing is promoting an underappreciated genre in jazz—the 1950s' Big Bands

Did you know...

I majored in Tuba for a short while in college.

CDs you are listening to now: Maynard Ferguson, Boy With A Lot Of Brass (Roulette);

Count Basie, The Atomic Mr. Basie;

Carla Bley, Live! (WATT/ECM).

Desert Island picks:

Maynard Ferguson, Boy With A Lot Of Brass (Roulette);

Maynard Ferguson, Message From Newport (Roulette);

Count Basie, The Atomic Mr. Basie;

Franz Schubert, Symphony Nr.5 (DGG);

Aorta, Aorta (Columbia).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Resurgent—if only by fits and starts.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Club owners who understand the actual needs of musicians, record companies that will aggressively promote jazz as a viable genre, and musicians who understand business as well as art.

What is in the near future? Working with my big band, writing new material, trying to keep it all growing.

By Day:

Collections Consultant.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Architect.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of John C. McGahan


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