By Lorraine Glowczak
It all started in 1979 playing rag/tag tunes by a group of moderately undisciplined musicians jamming for fun. Fast forward to this Sunday, September 22 and you will find the slightly older, more refined - but still wild – band members of the current Bellamy Jazz Band perform their favorite Dixie Land Jazz songs at Lenny’s, 1274 Bridgton Rd, Westbrook from 2 to 5 p.m.
One of the original members who plays tenor sax and is a lead singer, Dave DeBree, shared the band’s history and story, beginning with his own experience. DeBree came to the band in a roundabout way. “I was at the store one day when I ran into a friend of mine, Roy Dunphy. He asked me if I still played the saxophone,” DeBree began. “I told him that I did. But the truth was, I hadn’t touched the instrument for a while. Roy asked me to fill in for their sax player, Peter Lord, while he was away for six weeks. I dusted off my sax and played with the band until Peter came back. Roy asked me to stay, joking that musicians are kind of like cats – you take them in and begin to collect them all.”
Dunphy who passed away in the fall of 2001 was considered the leader of the band. “Roy was the bass player and a wonderful entertainer. He was very charismatic and did a great job corralling 10 rotating musicians – all of which were either in early stages of parenthood or in late adolescence,” joked deBree. “Roy was just an over great guy and talented musician.”
Although the group has gone by a variety of band names, DeBree has been playing with the same group of musicians since the beginning early years. The group has performed all over southern Maine including venues such as the Old Port Festival, Sebago Lake Region Chamber events as well as at popular bars and nightclubs. The band has also performed for former Governor John McKernan on both of his Election Eve celebrations as well as at McKernan and Olympia Snowe’s wedding reception.
As described on their website, the band performs with six to eight pieces, depending on the occasion. They play a mixture of music from the 1900's to the 1940's including many standards by the likes of James P. Johnson, Duke Wellington, Fats Waller, George Gershwin, Bessie Smith, Sweet Emma Beret, Lewis Armstrong and many others.
“There’s hardly a tune that we cannot play,” DeBree stated. “We’ve gotten to the point that we rarely rehearse – we simply know each other too well now.”
But perhaps what is more important and contributes to the band’s longstanding success is that everyone gets their moment to shine. “We all share the spotlight – everyone gets their moment to stand out,” DeBree said.
Beside DeBree, the current members of Bellamy Jazz Band include the following: Peter Lord on soprano, alto, tenor sax, Bill Thurston on drums, Tom Whitehead on piano, Peter Dunphy on banjo, tenor guitar and vocals, Al Doane on string bass, Scott Thurston on trombone, Ray Sapierstein on lead cornet.
Although these musicians are the current members of the band, you will find past musicians who once played alongside them - jamming with the Bellamy Jazz Band as they celebrate 40 years of entertaining crowds this Sunday at Lenny’s.
“I remember at one point when we were running low on musicians due to the busy lives we sometimes lead,” DeBree recalled. “Roy said, ‘We may only have a few musicians from time to time – but there will always be a band.’”
It seems Dunphy was correct. And The Bellamy Jazz band is here to prove it.