Saturday may mark the final performance of the Original Wildcat Jass Band.
Fans of the six-member group need not worry. The band is staying together, but leader Rob Wright said he’s so sick of people misspelling “Jass” — which is a tribute to early 20th-century spellings of the musical genre — that he’s probably going to change it to “Jazz.”
“I’m tired of having to explain the spelling,” Wright said. “We’re quite possibly gonna can those s’s. We’ve had a lot of turnover in the group, and it’s time for a change.”
With s’s in hand, the band will perform a free concert at Dove of Peace Lutheran Church’s Jazz Under the Stars event, which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at the church, 665 W. Roller Coaster Road.
Wright is taking the first step in the name change by naming the group’s next album, set to record next week, “WildcatJazz.”
The 10-year-old group pays tribute to jazz’s Vaudeville era by covering the greats and inserting comedic interludes into performances. The Wildcat part of the name comes from the group’s origins, when it was made up largely of University of Arizona professors. Although the profs have all left the band, it currently consists mostly of UA alumni.
“We do some comedy and like to talk about the history of jazz music,” Wright said. “We have some humorous numbers, and a lot of the humor involves my introductions to songs.”
Wright plays banjo, guitar and ukelele, Rick Peron is on trumpet, Marco Rosano is on reeds and accordion, Rob Boone plays trombone and piano, Evan Dain is on bass and banjo, and Ray Templin handles drums and piano. All members sing.
Dove of Peace music minister Eric Holtan, who helps organize the show, said the band is an excellent fit for what he calls a “special” event.
“We think it’s pretty unique in that it’s a free event, open to the entire public, in which we provide professional jazz music,” he said.
“We’ll be outdoors on the east patio, weather permitting, and the church provides free wine and cheese and other goodies. All we ask is for the public to throw a few dollars in a hat we’ll pass at intermission to support one of our charitable causes, the University of Arizona Lutheran Campus Ministry.”
Holtan said the event, which is in its 10th year, typically draws crowds of 300 or more.
“Some bring lawn chairs and sit around the perimeter of the patio,” he said. “It’s a really fun, relaxed atmosphere, with people just sitting around, drinking wine, and listening to jazz under the stars.”
Wright, who has performed at Jazz Under the Stars before, appreciates the easygoing, intimate venue.
“It’s fun because it’s at night and outdoors,” he said. “The audience is pretty close. It’s a church thing, so it’s a very family-oriented audience with people of all ages. As long as it’s not 110 degrees, it’s pretty fun.”