There are not many local jazz acts in the area. The members of Six O’Clock Swing are happy to be one of the few.
“We want someone to come and experience the energy that we’re bringing to the music,” said Henry Scamurra, alto and tenor saxophone player for the band.
People will get two chances this weekend to watch the group explore the many sounds and genres associated with jazz as they perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 23, at Mokaska Coffee, 705 Edmond St., and at Magoon’s Christmas Eve show at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24, at the venue at 632 S. Eighth St.
Together since 2018, the band started as friends Henry Kress and Scamurra playing in Central High School’s band. Pursuing their passion outside of school with like-minded musicians, they loved the feeling of playing live in front of both jazz enthusiasts and novices.
“It’s the most exhilarating feeling,” Scamurra said. “I think jazz is best listened to live because it can be more of a conversation between the audience and the band members ... You can see the interactions going on between the bandmates and, for us, when we’re trying to make sure that we’re letting everyone know that we’re just having as much fun as possible.”
While the band likes to explore the many sounds of jazz, it avoids getting too smooth, Kress said. The sound is much more upbeat and lively.
“We’ll usually play ... the standard jazz repertoire, a lot of old like, ‘American Dream Songbook’ stuff,” Kress said. “Sometimes we’ll go out and play our favorite music. We like playing the song (Roy Hargrove’s) ‘Strasbourg/St. Denis’ and also ‘Sing A Song’ by Kenny Garrett. We like doing all the things, really.”
Studying music at college, with Kress at Webster University in St. Louis and Scamurra at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, both love getting back together with fellow bandmates like bassists Calvin Kress and Jackson Weddle and drummers Isaac Riveria and Joseph Cooper.
When lockdown hit in 2020, Kress said the band took to jamming and doing livestreams on its Facebook page as a way to keep performing and get its name out there. In 2021, it saw a fruitful return, with gigs at East Hills Shopping Center, Cafe Acoustic Concert Hall and Hazel’s.
“Our Hazel’s gig was a lot (of fun). It was just, like, this woman’s birthday party, and she had some friends come down and we played. And it was a very cool moment of joy and like bringing people together over the holidays,” Kress said.
With their upcoming shows, they hope to bring that fun spirit of jazz, tight musicianship and friendship together for all to enjoy.
Kress said while he at first loathed the idea of bringing Christmas into their set, he changed his mind on the way from St. Louis to St. Joseph, while listening to a Christmas jazz album by Benny Benack III with the Steven Feifke Big Band.
“There’s this joy of Christmas, and pairing it with jazz on the train really made me think, ‘Oh, I’m very ready to go do this. I want to go bring some holiday cheer to some people, but also express myself in ways that I always love to do,’” he said.
To the band, it doesn’t matter if people are listening intently or they’re providing background music for some great conversations or celebrations. They’re happy doing what they love and sharing it together.
“We might not have caught up with each other in our lives. Like, I might not know exactly everything that’s going on (Kress’) life in the last couple months. But as soon as we’re playing together, it’s right back to ‘Oh, here we are again. Yeah, let’s get this going,’” Scamurra said.
The concerts are free and open to all ages.