The musicians of the Phoenix Jazz and Swing Band of Salt Lake City range in age from 62 to 86.
All members are locals, said the band’s event coordinator Ken Zenger, with three exceptions.
After a pause, he said the exceptions come from Grantsville, Lindon and Sandy, and added a laugh.
The 25 musicians gather every Wednesday night to either rehearse or perform around the Wasatch Front, usually for retirees at rest homes, care centers, rehab facilities and assisted-living centers.
They do so without pay, simply for the love of music and to transmit that love to others who too often miss the sounds of better times.
Zenger a retired teacher, answered questions in longhand posed by The Tribune about the Phoenix Jazz and Swing Band.
Where did the idea for the band come from?
The band came out of a luncheon meeting of several former players who had been playing locally in the past. The players wanted to maintain the music had been such an important part of their lives. Plus, they loved the fellowship of musicians and their attitude.
Why did you join?
The love of the music of the 30s, the 40s, and 50s prompted me to join the movement and give it my emotional energy. I loved this music growing up, and bringing its flavor to old and young is a service I relish. Likewise, members of the band still have the love and memories of their years with bands of the past, and they too love reliving memories of the good years past.
Whom do you perform for, and what is their response?
Most members of the audiences we play for are retirees and this is also the music of their generations and thus they smile a lot, tap their feet, mouth the words, snap their fingers, and some gyrate with their bodily movements. One manager said she couldn’t get her people to stop swinging and discussing their evening so they could go to their units for bedtime and lights out.
What are some of your most memorable moments with the band?
At one program the people clapped so long and loud all of us were very pleased. At some gigs several listeners will come up and ask questions about the band. Several times listeners will get a partner and dance with an energy you wouldn’t expect from their age group.
What is it about the music of the band that connects with you?
The 30s, 40s and 50s were days of various memories and changes in America’s history — mostly good times. Even during the 30s, great and memorable songs kept Americans in a happy and hopeful mood. As the band and I perform, we can’t help but recall that special song or instrumental that became a favorite back then, and each time that special number comes up, its memory transits to the other numbers. The music of the 30s, 40s and 50s was and is the fabric that made America and continues to provide moments of nostalgia and enhances our energy for a time or two, and some renews the spirit.
What do you love about the band?
The members of the band play without pay, which attests to the fact that they love their music and are willing to donate their time (sometimes every Wednesday for a month or two in a row) and their love of service for the enjoyment of those who love this special kind of music. We also want to bring that era of music to younger listeners whom may have attended our program. We truly love our job.
Call Ken Zenger at 801-244-6583 to find out more about the band and to request future engagements.