If you listen to musicians talk, they will often be making fun of the banjo player. “What do you call a guy who hangs around a bunch of musicians?” Reply, “A banjo player.” OR “Why does everyone pick on banjo players?” Answer, “Because it’s so easy.” Rob Wright is the leader of Wildcat Jazz Band, and no one makes a joke about his playing because he is a fabulous musician. I did hear Rob say his father encouraged him to take up the banjo at a young age because it would attract the girls. He now jokingly laments, “What in the world was he thinking?”
Rob started playing banjo at age 10 and then progressed to ukulele and guitar. As a member of The New Christy Minstrels from 1979 to 1981, he played in all 50 of the United States. Rob headlines many banjo festivals (yes, there is such a thing) and makes guest appearances with symphony orchestras.
The Wildcat Jazz Band has been playing since 2004. The band is made up of six world-class musicians from Tucson: Rob Wright, leader/banjo/guitar/vocals; Rob Boone, trombone/piano; Evan Dain, bass/vocals; Rick Perone, trumpet; Duane Reilley, reeds; and Ray Templin, drums/piano/vocals. You can’t help but smile at their antics as they showcase their free-wheeling slapstick humor and mix of well-known jazz favorites, tongue-in-cheek originals and Dixieland staples. Their music is very danceable.
The Wildcats will be playing at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, One San Marcos Place, in Chandler on March 24 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., for the Arizona Classic Jazz Society. The event is open to the public. Cost is $15 for ACJS members; $20 non-members (become a new member on the 24th and get in free; yearly membership $35 couple, single $25). For more information, go to www.azclassicjazz.org or call 480-620-3941.