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Big band to play tribute to 'Count' Basie July 1

The FM kicks big band will present a tribute to legendary jazz/swing musician and bandleader William "Count" Basie on Thursday, July 1, in the Historic Holmes Theatre. (Submitted photo)

In the immortal words of Duke Ellington, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."

This Thursday, July 1, the FM Kicks Big Band will present a tribute to legendary jazz/swing musician and bandleader William "Count" Basie with an 8 p.m. concert at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes.

Made up of some of the area's finest jazz musicians, the 17-member FM Kicks Band has a mission to "preserve America's big band jazz."

So when Historic Holmes Theatre administrator Amy Stoller Steans broached the idea of the group doing a concert there, they opted to make it a themed event.

Trumpet player John Pederson, a member of the FM Kicks Band for 25 years, said the choice of Basie as their muse was a group decision.

"He's our collective favorite," Pederson said. "Basie's band has been the pinnacle of swing bands throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and in fact, they are still touring."

Though Basie himself passed away about 12 years ago, his music lives on, and his surviving band members have also kept their sound current by adding contemporary pieces to their repertoire through the years.

Some of the arrangements used by Basie's band are no longer in public circulation, but Pederson was able to obtain them directly from the band for Thursday's concert.

In other words, some of the arrangements the audience will be hearing Thursday night are ones you won't hear anywhere else, unless you go to a concert by the Count Basie Orchestra.

Once called "the swingingest band in all the land," the Basie Orchestra has remained one of the most thriving, popular big bands in history. In his 80-year life span, William "Count" Basie so expanded and elevated the art form of jazz that his legacy is regarded as an American institution by modern music connoisseurs around the world.

Basie and his band have played with many legendary vocalists including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughn. During the 1940s and 50s, they were one of the most popular big bands in the U.S., with hits including "One O'Clock Jump," "L'il Darlin'" and "Swingin' the Blues."

The FM Kicks Band will be performing all three of these, as well as more contemporary selections such as "Whirly Bird," "Freckle Face" and "Look for the Silver Lining."

"We're also doing a version of 'Can't Stop Loving You,' made popular by Ray Charles," Pederson noted.

Those attending Thursday's concert may recognize a few of the faces in the lineup: Many of them are current or former band directors for F-M and lakes area schools.

Besides Pederson, who was band director for schools in both Fargo and Grafton, N.D., during his 30-year teaching tenure, the lineup also includes retired band directors Ed Christianson (Fargo Public Schools) and Dewey Possehl (Moorhead), who were the founders of the Kicks Band more than 30 years ago.

Former Moorhead band director Harley Sommerfeld and current band directors Paul Liversage (Lake Park-Audubon), rector Aaron Romaine (Barnesville), Tim Johnson (Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Middle School) and Amy Johnson (West Fargo Middle School) are also in the lineup.

The full lineup includes:

Trumpet: Pederson, Possehl, Myron Dybing (of Detroit Lakes) and Dr. Greg Post.

Trombone: Christianson, Steve Wallevand and Tim and Amy Johnson (husband and wife).

Saxophone: Liversage, Sommerfeld, Romaine, Ed Schwind and Amy Thorpe.

Rhythm: Dave Hansen, piano, Jeremy Cahill (of the Deb Jenkins Blues Band), bass; Jim Knudson, drums; and Don Vangsness, guitar.

History of FM Kicks Band

About 30 years ago, a couple of Fargo-Moorhead area band directors, Ed Christianson and Dewey Possehl, formed a new group known as the FM Kicks Big Band.

Over the next 20 years, the group became a popular fixture at public events and dances in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

But about a decade ago, Christianson decided it was time to disband. Pederson later reorganized the group, with a new lineup (though Christianson and Possehl remain as members).

Ticket information

Tickets for Thursday's show are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students and can be purchased by visiting the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., online at, or by calling 218-844-SHOW (7469).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454