By Susan C. Ingram
Times Staff Writer
Glenn Miller found his in the horn section. Benny Goodman's was in his signature clarinet. And Duke Ellington's was in his band's sophisticated, smooth arrangements.
All of these big band leaders developed a unique sound, and when Miller's "In the Mood", Goodman's "Sing! Sing! Sing!" or Ellington's "Satin Doll" rolled over the airwaves, the band's sound was recognizable and familiar to their fans.
Scott Cater, the director of the RJE, didn't consciously set out to find a "certain sound" for his 21-piece big band, but he found it anyway.
The eight-year-old nonprofit musical group was designed by Cater from the start to have a fat sound in the horn section, with five trumpets, five trombones and five saxophones. As the band evolved, Cater added a French horn player in the trombone section and also a flugel horn on some pieces.
This, Cater said, has given his band its own special sound.
"Technically, we have four trombones and a French horn player", said Cater. "And she really does add something. When I started doing some arranging, I really started writing things intentionally for French horn and it's really giving it a unique sound. I've also experimented with flugel horns a lot. It has sort of a round French horn sound, so I'm trying to mix the two together.
Jonell Lindholm, of Reisterstown, who brought her French horn to the group about seven years ago doesn't take full responsibility for a unique sound.
"A lot of it is blending in, but there is a difference between blending in and rounding out", she said.
Since 1992, when Cater invited old friends from his Franklin High School band days to a rehearsal in his parents living room, he has been mixing sounds, writing arrangements and pulling together the elements necessary for a big band.
His first choice was his longtime friend Scott Bowers. The tow had been best friends since seventh grade and played together at Franklin, where Bowers was the school's lead trumpet.
"He had this huge sound", said Cater. "And I knew that was the sound I wanted for the group."
From that first rehearsal with six or seven people Cater built up a core group of about 10 musicians. But he said players would come and go and he struggle for years before nailing down a rhythm section. Finally the group began to jell when an accomplished bas player came on board.
"That was Mike Fossler," said Cater. "And after he came, the group really started to build. You get a steady bass player, the musicians understand this is a band now. This is a real thing."
What Cater discovered was that in order to keep his musicians interested he needed to beef up his music library and offer more challenging arrangements,. "When I started doing that, people started paying attention and were really excited because it wasn't the same thing over and over," he said.
In his apartment in Reisterstown, Cater has shelves crammed with sheet music. the band's current play list runs the gamut form "April in Paris," to "Zoot Suit Riot", for which Cater wrote an arrangement. The list changes as new pieces are rotated in.
Besides big band jazz and standards, the group has moved into performing some music from the bebop era including Charlie Parker's "Ornithology", and Dizzy Gillespie's "That's Earl Brother.".
And Cater, who enjoyed 70's rock band such as Chicago when he was growing up, added some of his own rock arrangements to the group's repertoire. Motown turns are not far behind.
But beyond the group's special sound and eclectic playlist is another element that makes the jazz ensemble unique. It is a non-profit organization.
From its inception, Cater wanted the band to come together for the music, not the money.
"Our real direction is just to get together every Sunday and just have fun with this music", he said. "So, I started the group under that idea, for adults. I figured there were a lot of people like me. They didn't want to go out and make money. They just wanted to do it on the side, a little fun, and do the weekend thing."
To support the purchase and maintenance of instruments and equipment the band does ask for donations. Members pay a nominal membership fee. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to become sponsors.
Cater is convinced that because the group got together for the love of the music, this intention has produced a bond between the musicians.
"It's more fun that way, if you ask me", said Lindholm. "I've played in groups where we got paid... and I think it just gets in the way".
"I guess everybody that's here loves the music, has a good deal of talent and really enjoys playing with each other," said bass trombone player Keith Quintrell. "It's really neat coming in with a nonprofit bad and having everything come together in performance. One of our goals is to really move the audience in some way."
"I've been in a lot of bands," Cater said. "These guys are pretty caring people. I like to have the group think of themselves as family. We have our temperamental times, but for the most part we care about what we're doing and we care about each other and I think that's sort of unique."
Family has played an important role in Cater's own development as a musician. The 33-year-old trumpet, trombone, French horn, electric bass player and sometime singer, has musical blood in his veins. Both of his grandfathers, one a professional jazz guitarist and the other a U.S. Army trumpet player, inspired the young Cater's musical interests.
"It kind of ran through my family,", he said. "And I caught on to Chicago and those kind of groups that I really did enjoy listening to, and tried to played along with them. Later on I fell in love with Dizzy Gillespie and bebop and graduated to something more advanced."
At their Sunday night practices at Trinity Lutheran Church on Main street in Reisterstown, the group works on new pieces and bushes up on the old in preparation for upcoming performances.
Last year the ensemble played at the Strawberry Festival at Reisterstown United Methodist church, The Westminster Festival, the Augsburg Lutheran Home in Lochearn and the opening of the Hilton garden hotel in White Marsh. It performed a holiday program at Owings Mills Mall in December.
Cater, who has been an engineering major and a music education student, is currently financing his training as a LAN computer technician by working at Giant Food. He has always kept his eye on his love of music.
This dedication has led him to continue his work with the jazz ensemble, keeping it together and helping it grow through some uncertain years. "It's just a passion." He said. "You find your passion, you stick with it and that's where you go."
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