OJE Invites Dancers to Thursday (Oct 25) Rehearsal at 7pm

Otsego Elks-Google Street View

Attention Dancers:
If you’re looking for a place to kick up your heels this week, Otsego Jazz Ensemble, (OJE), would like to invite you to our regular rehearsal this Thursday at the Elks Club, 113 S Farmer Street in Otsego.  It’s only $5.00 a person to dance from 7pm to 9:30pm.   We take a break around 8:15 or so.
Bring some friends!   It’s a good chance for the band to work up some new dance tunes and get feedback from dancers and it’s a lot of fun.  It also helps us pay our rent at the Elks Club!
Hope to see you this Thursday.  Tim Culver, Creative Director, OJE

It‘s Big Band Jazz at First Pres October 5th

First Presbyterian Church-Google Street View

The Otsego Jazz Ensemble brings a great variety of American music to Kalamazoo’s First Presbyterian Church on Friday, October 5th at 6:30pm. It’s on the same day as the October Kalamazoo Art Hop.  Come after and during Art Hop and enjoy an evening of big band music with the Otsego Jazz Ensemble.

  • Who: The Otsego Jazz Ensemble
  • What: FREE Concert of Big Band Jazz at First Pres
  • When: Friday, October 5, 2018 from 6:30-8:15 PM    
  • Where: First Presbyterian Church, 321 South Street, Kalamazoo
  • Donations to benefit the First Presbyterian Church Performing Arts Fund

The 17-piece jazz band, based in Otsego, has been together for more than 30 years.  The OJE, as it’s affectionately known by fans, plays music from the big band era including Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Count Basie as well as more modern big band jazz arrangements that cover many styles of music like rock, pop and jazz.  Being a traditional big band of five saxes, four trombones, four trumpets and a rhythm section, the band also has two vocalists who perform the music of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Diane Schurr and Michael Buble’.

The Band led by Creative Director Tim Culver, trumpeter and saxophonist who has co-led the Kalamazoo Big Band for more than 30 years, and plays in the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra and Lew Boyd Band.  Culver joined the OJE trumpet section about 12 years ago.  He says its a hard working group.

“Everybody in OJE takes the music seriously and we all really give it a lot of time and effort.  As audiences change, it’s a challenge for the band to change and adapt.   We play all dance styles for the ballroom dancers.   We’re also adding rock and pop arrangements.   The music of groups like Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Pat Metheny and Tower of Power are all a great fit for a band like ours.  We love to put a lot of variety in our concerts.”

Wayne Powers-If Love Were All

Guest artist for this concert is actor, radio host, comedian and jazz vocalist Wayne Powers.  The veteran of the New York and Los Angeles scene, Powers landed in Kalamazoo three years ago.  He just released his second album, “If Love Were All”.   Powers recently got married and is in the process of moving to Chicago with his new bride.  Powers will sing “Birth of the Blues”, “A Foggy Day”, “All of Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”



Gary McCourry-Photo by Paul Jendrasiak

Also featured as a guest artist is saxophonist Gary McCourry.  Gary retired after 23 years with the Premier Military Band at West Point, including the Jazz Knights.  Gary relocated back to West Michigan where he plays with the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra, Truth-In-Jazz Orchestra, Beltline Big Band, Kalamazoo Big Band and Rhythm Section Jazz Band.  Gary also leads the Beer City Saxes.   McCourry will be featured on several numbers, including Pat Metheny’s “James”, a Maynard Ferguson version of “Gellar’s Cellar”, and “Birdland” by Joe Zawinul.


Among selections for this concert will be a beautiful Wally Menard arrangement of “When October Goes”, sung by OJE vocalist and trombone soloist Martha Reid.  Menard recently retired from OJE’s sax section, and has written many great arrangements for the band.  The song lyrics to “When October Goes” were written by Johnny Mercer.  After he died, his widow passed the lyrics to her husband’s friend, Barry Manilow, who finished the song in 1984.

Culver will play the haunting Billy Strayhorn ballad, “Chelsea Bridge”.  Tenor Sax soloist Scott Robbins will play on Carlos Santana’s “Europa”, and a swinging Count Basie version of Cole Porter’s “At Long Last Love.”

The concert coincides with the October 5th Kalamazoo Art Hop.   Art Hop is an evening of exhibits and events held in downtown Kalamazoo and the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s a FREE event and one of the best things you can do on the First Friday of the month….every month!


  • Who: The Otsego Jazz Ensemble
  • What: FREE Concert of Big Band Jazz at First Pres
  • When: Friday, October 5, 2018 from 6:30-8:15 PM    
  • Where: First Presbyterian Church, 321 South Street, Kalamazoo
  • Donations to benefit the First Presbyterian Church Performing Arts Fund

Next for OJE: Thornapple Jazz Festival in Hastings April 28 2pm

The Otsego Jazz Ensemble is proud to be a performer at the Thornapple Arts Council Jazz Festival again this year.   The festival has been going strong now for 15 years in downtown Hastings, Michigan.

OJE will be featuring several new additions to the book, including Wayne Shorter’s “One By One” and Bob Curnow’s “September Swing”, both featuring soloists Mark Greer (alto sax) and Tim Culver (trumpet).   Greer will also play the Quincy Jones classic, “Quintessence.”  Tenor soloist Scott Robbins will play Bob Mintzer’s “Hanky Panky.”

Guest artist Robin Connell will play piano on Mintzer’s “Acha” and will join Robbins on the Basie classic “Splanky.’

Vocalist Ian Brown will cover the Sinatra favorite “Come Fly With Me” and also Culver’s arrangement of “I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.”

Martha Reid will sing a couple of great arrangements by Mike Crotty of the Airmen of Note:  “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Mood Indigo.”

And….there’ll be some surprises in store too, no doubt!

Come out to the Festival for some great music Thursday thru Saturday at venues all around downtown Hastings and come out Saturday at 2pm to hear the OJE at Thornapple Plaza. 






WMU Senior Prom March 29

WMU Senior Prom 2018

It’s coming up soon.  All you need to do is put it on your calendar, get dressed and show up with your dancing shoes on.  It’s free!   Once again, the Otsego Jazz Ensemble will provide the music, from 7pm to 10pm.   The band will play your favorite swing numbers from the Big Band Era, like Glenn Miller and Count Basie.  Ian Brown will sing Sinatra favorites, and the band will feature special guest artist Lana Hoffman on vocals too.  The theme this year is “Thirty, Flirty & Thriving!”

And here are the particulars:

  • Who: WMU Students and Senior Citizens of the Community
  • What:  Dancing, Hors d’Oeuvres, Bingo and Casino Games
  • When: 3/29 at 5pm
  • Where: Bernhard Center, East Ballroom, WMU Campus
  • Parking: Suggested parking is the ramp east of the Student Center.  Click here for map.

WMU Senior Promo Flyer 2018

OJE’s Bob Simonds Turns 90

Bob Simonds 90th Birthday at the OJE Elks Club Rehearsal, 2018.

Bob Simonds has been playing trumpet for a long time, and at the age of 90, he’s still going strong.  Bob played many a gig in Kalamazoo as a member of the premier band in the area, The Bobby Davidson Orchestra.   Bobby’s band played a lot of proms and every other kind of gig in the 50’s, 60’s 70’s and 80’s.  Davidson, a drummer, also started the first Jazz Band at WMU back in the 60’s.   Bob, still a fine soloist, has been a member of OJE for several years now, and recently celebrated his 90th birthday at an OJE Thursday night rehearsal at the Otsego Elks Club.   Many area musicians owe a great deal to our old mentor and friend, Bobby Davidson, who is no longer with us.  We’re very fortunate to have his old friend Bob Simonds in the band to fill that void.

OJE To Play WMU Senior Prom March 29


WMU Senior Prom 2015

The WMU Senior Prom celebrates its 30th year on March 29th at the WMU Bernhard Student Center Ballroom.

The Senior Prom began in 1988 as a way for older WMU alumni and area residents to share an evening of fun and reminisce with current students. The Senior Prom is organized by staff members in the Ernest Burnham-Smith Burnham and Henry residence halls with the help of volunteers. Financial assistance is provided by several WMU organizations, including the Residence Housing Association, various residence hall councils and the Residence Life office.

The Otsego Jazz Ensemble is thrilled to be playing at the prom again this year.

The theme this year is  “30th Anniversary: Thirty, flirty, and thriving” with decorations mostly being pearls and lilies with black and gold as the colors.

Check back for more details soon.

Otsego Jazz Ensemble at the WMU Senior Prom, 2016

Calendar, Video & More
Thornapple Jazz Festival Site
Video: Dancing to OJE
OJE Calendar, Events