The Kennedy Center

Firecracker Jazz Band


With jubilant vigor that spills from the stage to the streets, Firecracker Jazz Band revitalizes the energy of the roots of Jazz. In paying homage to the pioneers of early 20th Century Jazz, including that of Dixieland and New Orleans, the Firecracker Jazz Band carries the torch that was once lit by such greats as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong & Bix Beiderbecke.

Trumpet and cornet-player Je Widenhouse has been traveling the world and playing professionally for 15 years. Previous projects include Squirrel Nut Zippers, Sex Police, and Hobex. This ensemble is especially rewarding and challenging, and Je has endeavored to accept Jazz as his personal savior.

Trombonist Earl Sachais is a former music instructor and New York City hired gun for the performing ensembles such as Warren Covington and the Tommy Dorsey Band. He has backed Barbara Streisand, Sammy Davis Jr, and many others. Earl has a Bachelors and Master of Music Degree from the Manhattan School of Music.

New to the music scene, Andrew Fletcher “Valentino” is getting his professional start playing in the style of his musical heroes - Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and James P. Johnson. After years of classical piano, Andrew began learning jazz tunes and playing them whenever he could, sitting in on countless late-night jam sessions in the high-octane music world of Asheville, North Carolina, cutting his teeth next to some of the best roots musicians in the South. Mentored for over five years by former Firecracker pianist Reese Gray, Andrew has stepped in to keep the trademark energy and authenticity of Firecracker Jazz Band at full steam. He can be caught moonlighting with Asheville's mostly-female 20s jazz band, The Red Hot Sugar Babies.

Guitarist Hank Bones is a multi-instrumentalist that has played guitar and bass for The Platters and Bill Haley's Comets, as well as his own tropical flavored vocal group The Haloes, winners of a Best Album 2000 award from Acoustic Guitar magazine. His voice and music can be heard on film scores for academy award nominated animator Bill Plympton as well as numerous TV shows. Hawaiian steel guitar and vintage jazz are two of his specialties.

Russ Wilson has been working as a professional musician for 25 years playing many different styles of music. He has shared the stage with Lightnin' Wells, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Thackery, Candye Kane, Maria Muldaur, Charles Dungee, Melva Houston, Kim Wilson, Levon Helm, David Johansen, and (yes, even!) Crystal Gayle. Russ has worked on 30 albums (seven of them his own solo projects), has appeared performing on numerous TV shows, and one Martin Scorsese film (The Road To Memphis); however, vintage jazz remains his first love. Russ' favorite drummers are Gene Krupa, Chick Webb, Zutty Singleton, and Baby Dodds. Russ also moonlights from time to time playing drums with the Red Hot Sugar Babies or waiving a stick in front of a 14 piece band called the Nouveau Passe Orchestra.

Tuba-player Rick Neiman comes from a musical family and made his debut on his parents radio show at the age of 7. Rick attended Temple University (Philadelphia), majoring in Music Education and Performance. Although his training is mainly in the Classical vein, Rick has performed with a number of touring companies, The Guy Lombardo Band, and The Henry Mancini Orchestra, as well as National companies, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and Long Horn Rodeo bands, and has backed Bob Hope, George Burns, and Wayne Newton to name a few.

Watch Past Performances

Video 11/15/2011: Firecracker Jazz Band

The band performs an evening of Dixieland and early New Orleans jazz. A dance floor will be installed. Part of Swing, Swing, Swing.

Firecracker Jazz Band