Flapper dresses, trailing boas, Panama hats, black ties and starched shirts crowded the dance floor, and bodies hugged the stage's edge three-deep as blues-belting Stevi Banks with the local Sultans of Swing and, then, the Widespread Jazz Orchestra turned up the thermostat at the Wax Museum nightclub Saturday night.
The WJO's three brass and three reeds roared in ensemble and riffed foot-tapping background for the bravura solos over the relentless pulse of its three-piece rhythm section dominated by drummer John Ellis. Trumpeter Billy Gray's lively vocals included plink-plank-plunk, eight-to-the-bar vocalese, world-weary resignation on "Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear From Me" and mumbled scat a la Clark Terry. Alto saxophonist Mike Hashim's tiger growl vibrato on "Blues in the Night," Tad Shull's wild man tenor, Jordan Sandke's hot-house muted trumpet and trombonist Jim Masters' droll employment of the plumber's helper were all rewarded with whistles and shouts of joy from the young audience of approximately 800.
Opener Stevi Banks punched out Bessie Smith's double-entendre erotica with a barn-sized voice, invested "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues" with a don't-mess-with-me, hard-bitten savvy and handled swing-era standards like a veteran of the '30s Savoy bandstand.