For Savannah’s Southern Holiday Jazz Band’s Jan. 18 show at Tybee Post Theater, singer Jane Ogle and company will be covering hits from the ’80s, which may seem like a big departure for them, but is actually not unprecedented in jazz tradition.
“It’s not exactly new to us to do arrangements of more contemporary work,” Ogle explained. “It’s what jazz is, or at least, it’s part of the history of jazz. If you think of ‘jazz standards’ going all the way back to the 1930s, when jazz was very new and innovative as a style of music, musicians would take songs that were popular in sheet music form that everybody had on player pianos or were popular thanks to Broadway shows and put jazz arrangements on them. So, that’s what we’re doing with contemporary music.”
Some of the big ’80s hits they’ll be re-arranging include Van Halen’s “Jump,” The Pretender’s “Brass in Pocket,” Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do” and anthems by Heart, Squeeze, Fleetwood Mac and other icons.
“There are compositions that are more interesting than others,” Ogle said. “One of the things about music that comes out of a blues or rock paradigm is that the composition structure is, really, very simple, very straight forward. It’s catchy, so it’s commercially popular, but the composition sometimes gets boring, if you will. So, in addition to lyrics or the melody, that are interesting or meaningful to people, we’re also looking for songs that were interesting compositions that had interesting chord structures, so that was part of our challenge.”
Ogle may be a jazz singer, but she wouldn’t be able to approach these songs if they hadn’t inspired her when she was younger. Ogle’s first youthful foray into music was in a punk band with her brothers, called Control (named after the organization from the show “Get Smart”), performing covers of Blondie, the B-52s and Joe Jackson. “We all start off somewhere, right?” Ogle said. “I was listening to punk and hip-hop and speed metal when all that stuff was new and fresh and happening.”
Don’t expect any drum machines, Fender guitars, or synthesizers from Ogle’s band, though. These jazzed up versions will be performed by Jeff Powell on gypsy acoustic guitar, Marc Chesanow on upright bass, Billy Hoffman on drums, and Jared Hall on piano and accordion. There may be, however, some ’80s flare to their wardrobe.
“I still have my black leather jacket that I wore every single day to school from 1979 until about 1984,” Ogle said. “A nice motorcycle jacket never goes out of style.
“I hope everyone who comes to the show comes with open ears,” Ogle added. “You’re going to hear songs you’re familiar with and your going to hear them in a different way. Hopefully, you’ll think different is good.”