Led by clarinetist and professor of music Gene Anderson, ASBOL is a nine- (sometimes eight-) piece group that specializes in New Orleans-style Dixieland as they imagine it to have sounded on the streets of the Big Easy before World War I. Aside from playing in funerals, weddings, athletic events, bars and nursing homes around Central Virginia, ASBOL is a mover in the worldwide "trad" jazz scene and spends summer breaks away from the ivy-covered walls of UR and in the jazz caves of Europe.
This globetrotting group has played four European tours through Ireland (Dublin and Galway), Germany and Austria (Berlin and Vienna), the Czech Republic (Prague), Hungary (Budapest) and Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg). In Europe ASBOL has played a gamut of concert venues: playing for beer in Ireland, at a reserved folk music festival in Budapest, and for a "Doctors of Jazz Battle of the Bands" at the Jazz Land Club in Vienna as part of the Vienna Jazz Festival.
Founded in 1983, ASBOL began its life "as a standard Dixieland band playing 'When the Saints Go Marching In' and 'Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home,'" Anderson says. Now, the group focuses its efforts almost exclusively on the music of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and its successor, Lu Watter's Yerba Buena Jazz Band.
King Oliver's band was notable not only for its parenthood of Louis Armstrong's career as a trumpeter, but also for making the first significant recordings (1923) of an African-American jazz band.
"We're a bunch of academics who are interested in history and interested in being unique," says Anderson of ASBOL's choice of repertoire. The band's 1998 album "Doctors of Jazz: Twenty-Nine Degrees of Hot" (referring, of course, to their academic credentials) sounds neither stuffy nor academic, but raucous and fun.
"Our favorite type of gig is one in which the audience can react by dancing or singing along," Anderson says, "although whenever there are spirits involved it adds to the reception of the music and its performance." S
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