Session drummer and host of the popular Hot Jazz Swing Night at Santa Cruz Food Lounge shares why every New Year is so special.
By Tom Leitzke
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening disease (cholangiocarcenoma, or bile duct cancer) and told there was an 80% chance I had only 1-7 months left to live and that very best case, if everything goes as well as possible, I have less than two years to live. At the time 10 years ago it was an 8-hour surgery that had a 25% mortality rate. 2008 was a year of treatments that included radiation and chemo. I had a recurring tumor in 2012 but there has been no evidence of cancer since.
Last New Year’s Eve was the 10th anniversary of my surgery. From this experience I have learned more than ever to appreciate every day. Three years ago, I rewired (normally referred to as retired) and moved from Campbell to Santa Cruz. My “rewirement” is filled with my wife, Roxanne, and me doing everything we like to do – and for me, the opportunity to play music with whoever wants to play.
One of my favorite gigs is called HOT Jazz Swing. We have been at it for almost a year now. I am honored to be playing with guys like Adam G Swanson (four-time Old Time World Champion piano player), Kylan DeGhetaldi (multiple tours with the internationally acclaimed band Postmodern Jukebox), and when he’s available, Nigel Armstrong (Concertmaster for the Santa Cruz Symphony). Performing with such talent is beyond my wildest dream.
How did HOT Jazz Swing start? I saw a video of a piano player and a drummer doing a Ragtime duet and it just felt like me. I discovered Kylan DeGhetalti lived in Santa Cruz – he founded the Santa Cruz Ragtime Festival – and I sent him a message. About a month later we connected and played several gigs together. We added Adam G Swanson about five months ago. It’s Adam and Kylan doing Dueling Pianos with me sandwiched in the middle on the drums. Ironically, that video I originally saw featured Adam Swanson on Piano and Danny Coots on drums, and now I get to be doing exactly what I had envisioned from watching that video.
Backed by the HOT Jazz Swing Band, we compile Classic Jazz standards with covers of new songs played in a vintage era way – just the opposite of doing old covers to keep them new – we do new to make them old, Postmodern Jukebox Style. HOT Jazz Swing has developed an all-ages following and what really lifts my spirits is seeing smiles on people’s faces and the swing dancers helping me keep the beat!
If a Speakeasy club atmosphere and a nostalgic trip back to the sultry, swinging era jazz bands sounds appealing, put on your dancing shoes, your feather boas, handsome fedoras, and join our spirit of fun. We promise you an evening of good friends, great music, and perfect memories. The next two HOT Jazz Swing Shows are on Saturday January 13th and February 24th at the Food Lounge in Santa Cruz.
For further information of upcoming shows, join HOT Jazz Swing on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/150358638927166/