It takes a lot of courage and passion to launch a jazz big band today, considering the economics of such an undertaking. Those forces, though, didn’t deter retired Broad Ripple High School music teacher and bass player Rudy Finnell from his life long dream: The Finnell Factor Band. According to Finnell, his project goal was to have a small combo play his arrangements and compositions. As word got out, the group has steadily grown in size until it reached its current roster of 12 members. Almost half of the sidemen in the band are Finnell’s former music students. Tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon leads his quartet at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on Sunday. Two weeks ago, I caught The Finnell Factor playing at the Artsgarden with a lineup of Anthony Avant on alto sax, George Smith on alto sax and flute, Bill Penick on tenor sax and Bill Cash playing baritone sax. The trumpet section had Darlis Jones, Curtis Mickel and Clifford Ratliff. The trombone duo was Jim Pratt and Lawrence Jones. Propelling the band were Carl Hines, piano, Vincent Finnell, drums, and leader and bassist Rudy Finnell.
The Finnell Factor big band plays in the classic swinging styles of Basie, McShann and Luncford. They showed good, crisp arrangements and played with fervor — especially on the blues charts. The Basie tune “Splanky” showcased Avant on a fleet solo followed by Ratliff’s trumpet on a burning romp and Jones’ trombone making some bluesy wails.
The band plays more than blues. Finnell led his men through Broadway show tunes, including “Isn’t She Lovely” that featured Avant’s alto sax on top of a hard-punching arrangement shout from the band. The jazz standard “Ceora” was executed by the band with a great degree of aplomb.
This is a fairly new band as a working unit but in it are some well-seasoned musicians who play in other jazz settings on a regular basis. It’s like watching a class reunion for their enthusiasm in playing under the watchful eye, ear and direction of Rudy Finnell. This band is worth hearing; watch it grow.
Jazz happenings Downtown
Chatterbox, 435 Massachusetts Ave. Friday: swinging vocals and blues with Mary Moss & Friends. Saturday, saxophonist Keni Washington & Omniverse. Music 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; cover charge.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, 45 S. Illinois St. “Sizzling Steaks & Jazz Sunday” fluid tenor sax stylings by The Rob Dixon Quartet, 7 to 10 p.m. Ken Fary solo piano Monday to Thursday, 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Jazz Kitchen, 54th Street and College Avenue. Friday: Indy Guitar Summit with Bill Lancton, Frank Steans, Charlie Smith and Paul Holderman. Saturday: Jamey Aebersold Quartet featuring Steve Allee, Tyrone Wheeler and Jonathan Higgins. Performances 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; cover charge.
D’Vine A Wine Bar, 86th and Keystone Avenue, Woodfield Shopping Center. Thursday: Jeff DeHerdt vocals and keyboards, 8 p.m. to midnight, Friday: vocalist Goldie Johnson with keyboardist. Saturday: Dave Ellman, vocals and keyboards, 9 p.m. to midnight. Sunday: Bill Lancton, solo guitar, 7 p.m. to midnight.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse, 3316 E. 86th St., Keystone at the Crossing. Friday: Steve Corn, piano, Joe Deal, bass. Saturday: Claude Sifferlen, piano, Joe Deal, bass. Sunday: Bill Kennaugh, piano, Steve Woerner, bass; music 5 to 11 p.m.
Smokehouse Cafe, County Line Road and Meridian Street. “Sunday Jazz Brunch” with The Impulse Jazz Trio, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday: Dine and dance with saxophonist Tommy Wills Twosome, 7 to 10 p.m.
Pauly’s Italian Restaurant, Southport Road Highway 37. Sophie Faught & Maiden Voyage jazz for dining, Wednesday, 6:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.