Our Music

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Inspired by the Musical Innovators of the 1920s and '30s Soloists and Songwriters

Drawing inspiration from the great bands, performers and composers of the "Jazz Age" and "Swing Era," Don Neely and the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra affectionately and authentically recapture the excitement and fascination of that musical heyday. They are guided by their affinity for the superb music of innovators active in the 1920s and '30s, such as Fletcher Henderson,  Paul Whiteman,  Louis Armstrong, Bix Biederbecke,  Ted Lewis, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington. Songwriting inspirations include Harry Warren, Fats Waller, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael,  Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, and Walter Donaldson. The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra and smaller ensembles have enchanted audiences across the country with their entertaining combination of great songs and authentic style in their live performances and CDs.



Don Neely Plays the Musical Saw.


Songs, Singers and the Cinema

The eleven-member RSJO and our smaller ensembles present the colorful songs made famous by such greats as Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, Ruth Etting, Eddie Cantor, Billie Holiday, Helen Ward, Dick Powell, Ethel Waters, Fred Astaire, Maurice Chevalier, the Boswell Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald ,  Al Jolson , and Sofie Tucker.  And what songs! "Avalon, " "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams, " "Three Little Words, " " Truckin'," " The Music Goes 'Round and 'Round, " " Walkin' My Baby Back Home, " "Moten Swing, " "Hello Beautiful," and "Shakin' The Blues Away." Don Neely draws from many sources, including the best of Silver Screen and Broadway classics, including those directed and choreographed by Busby Berkeley :42nd Street and Footlight Parade. Classic films such as Top Hat, Shall We Dance, Swing Time, King Of Jazz, Cotton Club Parade, Anything Goes, and The Blue Angel are among those that serve as artistic inspirations.




Exploring the Musical Nuances of the 1920s and '30s

One of the many things that set this eleven-member ensemble apart is their genuine understanding of the music they perform. By going back and carefully studying the original musical ideas of the period, they are able to achieve their remarkably authentic sound. The band's entertaining and talented soloists are creatively spotlighted in their exciting and varied show, providing many delightful surprises. The RSJO plays with pizzaz   from intricately-faceted, 1920s Syncopated Jazz to ultra-sleek, 1930s Big Band Swing.



Bob Embry            


Original Spirit of the Music

When the reeds and brass sound their first rousing phrases, audiences realize they are in for a rare treat. Capturing the exhilarating spirit and stylistic nuances of the music, they deliver each song in a warmly expressive style. Don Neely's insightful and often humorous comments on the microphone about the songs and their history are as entertaining as they are educational. Vocalist Carla Normand delights with her authentic sound and style. Frederick Hodges electrifies with his piano virtuosity. Each jazz solo is improvised in the style of the era, and is a creation of the musician who plays it.  

Jazz Age Fun
The band plays soaring hot jazz, authentic Dixieland, sweet love ballads, lowdown blues and hilarious novelties in a warmly expressive style. The RSJO's propulsive rhythms and inventive harmonies capture audiences in their spell and deliver them to the Jazz Age, setting their hearts and feet to dancing. A concert journey with the RSJO covers a fascinating panorama of classic 1920s and '30s music. They include songs from red-hot Cotton Club revues, saucy Vaudeville shows, and Broadway and film musicals from that artistically fertile time known as the Art Deco era. This period gave birth to some of the most stylish and intriguing music ever created. The RSJO presents a stirring array of selections drawn from this musical cornucopia -- from the most celebrated and enduring songs to recently rediscovered gems. Experiencing a performance by the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra is a wonderful tonic, alive with fun, and guaranteed to lift the spirits.




Concerts and special events

The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra became a smash sensation in San Francisco, gathering a large following of enthusiastic fans. Their concerts and other performances have taken them all around the country and abroad. Performances include Paramount Theatres in California, Illinois and Texas, The Edinburgh Festival, The San Francisco Symphony Pops Concert, The Toronto Jazz Festival, The Great Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival, The San Francisco Jazz Festival, The Sacramento Music Festival, The St. Louis Jazz Festival, The Monterey Jazz Festival, The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and The San Diego Jazz Festival. The RSJO starred in an hour-long PBS television special, a first-rate production recreating a 1930s Art Deco nightclub. The RSJO is a prolific recording ensemble with over 15 critically-acclaimed compact discs to their credit. Bandleader, Don Neely has written numerous catchy songs in the 1920s and '30s style. In addition to concert appearances, they have enjoyed long-running engagements at several famous hotels. They have played for several San Francisco Black and White Balls, opening night galas for the San Francisco Symphony, Opera, and Ballet, international cruises and scores of high profile San Francisco social events. The orchestra was voted #1 Favorite Big Band in the Jazzology Poll, and was voted most popular Big Band in the American Rag music poll. The RSJO's popularity and authenticity inspire many large-scale Art Deco-era-themed events in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.