Boston swing bird
Big band bird

The Swing Legacy

Cast of Characters
in this Boston swing band

Henry thins Francis — Piano, Arranger, Leader

Henry performs in the styles of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Fats Waller (hence the name “thins”) — all of which are lamentably seldom heard today. In addition, he has written all the arrangements for The Swing Legacy. He has led and participated in various jazz groups around Boston, and played and recorded in England with the Anglo-American Alliance (these records have achieved cult status among collectors). As a soloist, he has performed at many jazz venues in the Boston vicinity, at the legendary Hanratty’s piano bar in New York, and at various jazz festivals around the country. Two CDs have been well-received: a CD of duets with John Clark (clarinet and various saxes), Two for Tea, and a solo-piano CD, Some Stride Piano Playing.

Debby Larkin — Vocalist

Debby is one of Boston’s premier jazz vocalists. Her principal influences are Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Anita O’Day, and Julie London, and her singing consistently echoes the jazz tradition. She has a huge repertoire drawn from the classic era of American popular song, and although she reinterprets the melody as all good jazz singers do, she always respects the original beauty of the songs. All these attributes are on display in her CD “Slow Hot Wind”. Debby has performed extensively around the Boston area, including appearances at the Regattabar, Scullers, and Ryles.

Todd Baker — Bass

Todd is one of the few bass players today who has the desire and skill to produce a big sound without electronic assistance — a dying art, unfortunately. He is also one of the precious few who can provide the percussive attack and staccato notes required to propel idiomatically a swing rhythm section. Todd played for two years with The Artie Shaw Orchestra and led bands on the Carnival Cruise Lines. He has played with Rosemary Clooney, Cab Calloway, The Four Freshman, and The Woody Herman Band.

Gary Johnson — Drums

Gary is one of Boston’s most swinging (and therefore busiest) drummers and has an instinctive understanding of the nuances of swing and traditional jazz. He toured for four years with the Artie Shaw Orchestra, has played with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, and has accompanied many visiting jazz giants, such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ruby Braff.

Mark Holovnia — Drums

Mark excels in the musical role of “groover” — one who establishes, maintains, and nourishes the rhythmic “groove” which gives a good swing rhythm section its relentless bouncing momentum. His rock-solid beat unobtrusively buoys the entire band. An experienced and skillful big-band drummer, he currently plays with the Artie Shaw Orchestra, has also played with the Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey bands, and has toured with Kay Starr, Frankie Laine, and the Four Freshmen. He has for many years taught and performed at the Jazz-in-July music program at U Mass Amherst.

Mike Peipman — Trumpet

Mike, from Australia, is a rare species — a trumpet player who is both an excellent big band lead trumpet and a fine jazz soloist in all the idioms from New Orleans to bebop. Thus, he is ideal for The Swing Legacy. He currently performs with the White Heat Swing Orchestra, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, and Made In The Shade. He’s also played and recorded with the orchestras of George Russell and Bob Moses, and the Kubota Power Jazz Unit.

Trent Austin — Trumpet

Trent’s hot, lyrical jazz voice is well served by his phenomenal technique and range, and he is at home in several different jazz styles, including of course swing music. He has lead a varied career performing jazz, classical, and contemporary music. He has performed with such jazz artists as Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Jack Jones, and Joe Williams. He has played lead trumpet with the Artie Shaw Orchestra, and performs frequently in the Boston area as a jazz soloist. He has two CDs featuring himself in various different jazz settings. Trent is on the faculty at the University of Southern Maine, teaches trumpet in the Boston area, and gives numerous clinics and seminars to students throughout the US and Europe.

Ted Casher — Tenor sax, Clarinet, Flute

Ted’s tenor sax has the full, rich, deep sound and rhythmic swagger of the great “Texas Tenors” Herschel Evans and Illinois Jacquet — a valued and unique attribute. This contrasts perfectly with his authoritative, limpid clarinet voice. He has played with the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Ray McKinley, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, John Denver, and The Rhode Island Philharmonic. Ted is very active as a free-lance musician and also directs several high school ensembles.

John Clark — Alto sax, Clarinet, Baritone sax

John’s playing is fueled by his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history. His strongest musical influences in the swing idiom are Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Earl Bostic, and Benny Goodman. John leads his own 7-piece Wolverine Jazz Band, which is dedicated to performing, preserving, and expanding traditional (pre-swing) jazz. They perform regularly at major national traditional jazz festivals and have recorded many CDs (14 and counting). A CD of duets with pianist Henry Francis, Two for Tea, has been well-received. He has played with numerous other traditional jazz bands (such as the New Black Eagle Jazz Band), and several big swing bands. John has a PhD in musicology from Brandeis University, and, to support his career as a jazz musician, he teaches instrumental music and is on the faculty at Connecticut College.

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The Swing Legacy The Swing Legacy