"Sick around," said Frank Gordon, resting his feet upon his makeshift concession stand, "You'll see of lot of people dancing here today; real dancing, I mean -- where people acutally touch each other."
Before he sold another one of his "Bix Lives" buttons, Gordon's prediction had panned out. While not everyone came to Saturday's Potomac River Jazz Club Picnic to dance, just about everybody turned out to hear at least one, if not all , of the 18 traditional jazz bands.
By mid-afternoon, the size of the gathering was estimated at about 1,500 people by Max Eggerl. Eggerl helps run Blob's Park, a 250-acre stretch of rolling fields in Jessup, Md.For Eggerl, 1,500 translates into about 35 half-kegs of beer.
Of all the Dixieland musicians in the Washington area, trumpeter Wild Bill Whelan is perhaps the best known. Still, at 53, Wild Bill Whelan may be a bit young to play the role of sentimental favorite. But his performance at the picnic Saturday afternoon was clearly that. It came in the midst of several strong showings.
Southern Comfort was the first to ignite the crowd's interest with their unfettered arrangements of the swing tune "After You've Gone" and "Undecided." The Federal Jazz Commission followed suit with some older, but equally afmiliar, material, convincingly delivered by the Front Line members, Al Webber, Marty Frankel and Bob Thulman.
The group that elicited the biggest response from the crowd was the Buck Creek Jazz Band. The co-leaders of the group, cornetist Jim Ritter and trombonist Frank Mesich, have developed a disciplined, energetic and highly innovative approach to songs like Sidney Bechet's "Dans les Rules D'Antibes." That tune alone not only won them a standing ovation, it also significantly spurred sales of their new album out on the lawn.
Earlier in the day, Fred Wahler, who helped get the band going three years ago, was beaming with pride. "They've got pizazz," he said holding onto the last syllable for dear life. By the end of the day, a good many more people shared his enthusiasm.