Based on their first photo shoot — in a swimming pool, looking chill — one might think the Salt Lake City jazz band Flamingo doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“We’re all kind of flamboyant,” said frontman and vocalist Jake Chamberlain.
But on their debut album, “The Flamboyance,” the six-member band aims to show it’s serious about performing jazz, New Orleans-style.
Chamberlain said he thought of the idea of the band on a trip to New Orleans. “I was thinking to myself, ‘If I started a group that was young and fresh, and brought that to young people, it would be cool,’” he said. “Jazz has an incredible history, but sometimes people think of it as being for oldheads.”
The name, Flamingo, came to Chamberlain while watching a show about Frank Sinatra, which showed footage of the Chairman of the Board performing in Las Vegas. That got Chamberlain thinking about the legendary Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.
“I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and all those famous crooners,” Chamberlain said. “I thought their voices were incredible, super full and rich. It was all organic and sounded so warm. The music was really romantic and I’ve always wanted to do that.”
The band formed in February 2021, with Chamberlain on vocals, Kenny Fong on saxophone, Parker Andreezi on trumpet, Aidan Woodward on upright bass, Matt Morrison on drums and Christian Lucy on keyboards and organ.
The band’s aim, Chamberlain said, was to reach a younger audience that may not have an appreciation for jazz.
They started playing a weekly Wednesday gig at Lake Effect, the Salt Lake City restaurant and bar — with blues dancers helping create a jazz club experience — and the response was enough to make them consider taking a chance on recording.
On their album, which was released Sept. 29, the band recorded 12 cover tracks from such greats as Ray Charles, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong and B.B. King. The name of the album, “The Flamboyance,” has a double meaning — it’s the noun for a group of flamingos, and it describes their big musical sound.
That flamboyance sets Flamingo apart from other bands, said Fong, the sax player, who helped arrange the instrumentals.
Those instrumentals are rambunctious, yet meticulous — a sonic parade fit for New Orleans streets. A track might be saturated with sultry saxophone in one moment, and deep drums and percussion in the next. And it’s all anchored by Chamberlain’s dynamic vocals, to keep the other players from meandering.
On the album’s second track — the classic “I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City,” first recorded by Johnny Mercer and covered by such greats as Billy Eckstine and Judy Garland — the slow start crescendos into a breathtaking bridge. Each band member gets a spotlight moment.
“When we started, we wanted to make [the music] as approachable as possible, because a lot of modern jazz gets petty,” Fong said. “We wanted to make jazz music for everyone, so if anyone came and saw us, they’d have a good time.”
Fong and Chamberlain point out that the band members’ histories contribute to their unique sound. Fong played on cruise ships. Lucy has played metal and classical music. Andreezi has studied jazz classics. Morrison has played drums since he was a young child.
“Music is this giant collaboration for everybody,” Chamberlain said. “When it comes to jazz, these songs just last forever because everybody colors them so differently.”
The band aims to record original songs someday, even if it means competing with the likes of Martin and Sinatra.
“We like to party, dance and have a nice time, for people to be happy,” Chamberlain said. “That’s what we want people to feel, and I think Flamingo does that.”