Now in its 25th year of existence, The Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band was born in Orlando, Florida in 1990 by a group of former musicians of Walt Disney World and Rosie O’Gradys. They started essentially as a “kicks” band, collecting and playing the arrangements of Matty Matlock and Billy Maxted. After performing at a few jazz festivals, they realized that there was a real market for their “little big band” type of sound. That was more than 20 years and 14 recordings ago.
Going to a Classic Jazz Band set is much like attending a symposium on the history of jazz. You are apt to hear anything from Jelly Roll Morton to Count Basie and all the stops in between. The Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band uses the five-horn front line typical of such bands as those of Matty Matlock, Billy Maxted, and Red Nichols, as well as The World’s Greatest Jazz Band.
Early in the Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band’s career Bill was able to acquire a major portion of Matty Matlock’s Paducah Patrol library, thanks to Matty’s son, Buddy. All of Matty’s charts were essentially written for 10 musicians, but some were more easily adaptable to the Classic band’s eight. Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band has performed and recorded some of the arrangements with all 10 parts by adding a baritone saxophone and a guitar. In 2007, the 100th anniversary of Matty Matlock’s birth, the band performed tribute concerts with a full 10-member ensemble.
Over the years, the Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band has added an eclectic collection of written and improvised jazz to its library. After learning of the band’s desire to tour with a classic library, noted pianist and arranger Billy Maxted contributed quite a few of his great charts. Other contributors include Bob Haggart, legendary writer and performer Joe DeWeese, Dave Wolpe, Scott Whitfield, John Bambridge, Terry Waddell, Dave MacKenzie and Dan Barrett, as well as the band’s own John Allred and Bob Pickwood.
The Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band has appeared at jazz festivals and/or presented concerts in Sacramento, Palm Springs and Mammoth Lakes, California; Davenport, Iowa; Madison, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; Elkhart and Indianapolis, Indiana; Sun Valley, Idaho; Seaside, Oregon; the Jazz Café at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.; Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; and at festivals and a wide variety of venues throughout Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. Overseas trips have taken them to Hong Kong, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Italy and South America. In Rome, they performed a benefit for the World Food Program at the Jazz Club Alpheus. They have also been the featured band on several Jazzdagen cruises and on the Mississippi Queen riverboat.
An active recording program has yielded 14 albums. All of them were originally recorded on or have been re-released on CD. Although a few of the titles have sold out, those that are no longer in stock can be custom produced so all of the recordings can still be purchased.