On July 19, the Iron Post will host some special musicians from Columbus, Ohio. The Dan White Sextet, an award winning jazz/funk group will be playing a three-hour-long set from 7:00–10:00 p.m., bringing to the audience a mix of soul, traditional jazz, unique mash-ups, wandering solos, and even some beat boxing.
The sextet’s saxophonist, Dan White, 23, is already making a name for himself on the national jazz scene. After winning the Rochester Jazz Star Competition, White was able to finance his debut album, Between the Lines, in 2010, which was recorded with two current Sextet members. Shortly after, Down Beat magazine recognized White with their “Outstanding Soloist Award,” while the Jazz Education Network chose a composition on the album for one of its honors. Now busy with shows all over the east coast, the Dan White Sextet will make it west to perform for the first time in Champaign. How did this come to be? Only the magic inspired by a visit to Disneyland of course. Well, it wasn’t so much of a visit as it was a job.
In 2011, White and Sextet trombonist Chris Ott were among just 21 college students selected to participate in the Disneyland All American College Band. Playing five days a week and living with other band members, Ott and White quickly became friends with at-that-time University of Illinois student Drew Ninmer, 22. Ninmer, a trumpet player and former front man of the Drew Ninmer Quartet has kept in touch with White and Ott ever since, and has been urging them to come play in Champaign.
Ninmer playing in Disneyland
“People are going to be really entertained by this type of music,” Ninmer said of the upcoming performance. “It’s not your standard jazz. They play some covers of Radiohead, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews. They’ve even mashed up some of the Disney tunes.” It's also worked out that Ninmer will actually be playing with White and his group. The Sextet’s regular trumpet player, Jon Lampley, is touring with O.A.R. for the summer.
“It’s been a year since I got to play with those two guys,” Ninmer said of Ott and White. “It’s going to be a great night.”
White shares his friend’s excitement. “He’ll be a great addition to the band,” White said. “We haven’t been able to play in this kind of setting together ever. The set pieces we played out at Disneyland were fun, but kind of limiting. It’ll be fun to solo and stretch it out.”
Though “limiting,” White promises the audience will be able to pick out some Disney tunes during the performance, but with an added twist. “We do a song from Mulan and we do the ‘Kill the Beast’ song from Beauty and the Beast. When we rearrange it all, they’re recognizable, but also very unique.”
Thursday’s performance will signify the last time Ninmer will be part of a gig in the Champaign area for the foreseeable future. The musician is continuing his schooling in Long Beach, California, this fall.
“I’ll be pursuing a master’s in Jazz Studies,” Ninmer said, “and I’ll try and make it onto the L.A. jazz scene out there.”
Ninmer wants to be a studio musician, playing pieces for film. He also has a passion for teaching, a trait partly inspired by the University of Illinois’ director of Jazz Studies, Chip McNeill.
“The jazz program at Illinois has only been around about ten years,” Ninmer said reflecting back. “It just keeps growing. Chip McNeill wanted to start big and made a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate program for Jazz Studies.”
After four years of attending school here in Champaign, Ninmer believes the jazz scene has grown tremendously. “I just wish I could be around to see the tradition and legacy carried on,” he said.
Things seem to have culminated to bring to the community a jazz group that is arguably one of the most talented to ever play in the area.
“We bring something new to the table,” White said of the Sextet. “It’s a high energy performance, and we just have a ton of original material. It’s hard to describe what it’ll be like, but that’s our goal, to keep the audience guessing and to utilize our strengths, which is the variety we have in the band.”
It’s likely no piece will capture that “variety” better than a mash up of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and Dave Matthews' “Two Step.”
“I grew up listening to both of those musicians,” White explained. “Each time we play that mash up it’s always different. Seeing the reaction from the crowd and talking to people afterwards about it is one of my favorite parts about our set.”
“I’ve wanted these guys to come play in Champaign for a while,” Ninmer said. “It’s so cool to see them already so successful. Hopefully, we get a great turnout. It’ll be worth it.”
Where: The Iron Post
When: 7:00–10:00 p.m.