4th Street Elevator swings into the jazz scene
Eckert says the band started out as a "workshop," people with similar musical interests coming together to jam. Soon they realized it was mostly the same people coming together all the time so they decided to form a band.
"Phil introduced me to a lot of good music, but my parents were the ones who first got me into gypsy jazz," says Eckert, whose day job is installing and repairing outdoor sprinkler systems.
DeNomie's parents also introduced him to the European music genre with American jazz roots.
"My dad used to play Hot Club records around the house when I was a kid. He is a big fan of Stephane Grappelli and worked as a promoter for Grappelli when he played at the Blue River Cafe in Milwaukee in the early '80s," says DeNomie.
4th Street Elevator used to have a weekly engagement at the Bremen Cafe but now performs regularly at Circle-A Cafe, 932 E. Chambers St., Walker's Point's Transfer Pizza, 101 W. Mitchell St. and O'Keefe's House of Hamburg, 5937 S. Howell Ave., as well as The Hamilton and Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall, 1920 S. 37th St.
"My new favorite venue is the Great Lakes Distillery," says Schwinn.
OnMilwaukee.com recently saw 4th Street Elevator perform at the Walker's Point distillery. Older members of the multi-generational crowd were enjoying GLD's craft cocktails, made with mostly in-house ingredients, and everyone present was vibing on the good sounds emanating from five stringed instruments accompanied by Cuevas' vocal stylings.
In true jazz fashion, each instrumentalist took a moment during at least one song to solo, highlighting their improvisational chops.
The band's members each say they are always adding new songs to their repertoire and coming up with different arrangements.
The decision-making process for 4th Street Elevator is egalitarian, like for most large bands whose members have other jobs, families and so on. The group picks songs based on individual's preferences, but anyone interested in introducing a song to the band usually has to at least provide sheet music.
"One person in the band has to know it well enough that they can carry the theme and be able to teach the nuances of the tune to the rest of the band," says Schwinn.
Eckert says the group is currently working on original material and plans to eventually host a festival featuring local acts as well as others in the gypsy swing milieu.
"There is no album that we've packaged to sell, but we have many recordings," says Lippe.
Schwinn adds that 4th Street records nearly all of its shows and that they hope to get a new demo out this August. People can watch video of the band and catch up on all its goings-on at the 4th Street Elevator website.
But Schwinn says that 4th Street is mostly just enjoying playing music this summer.
"We have played music festivals, one-year-old's birthday parties, dive bars, art galleries, weddings, night clubs, restaurants, private parties, clothing stores, art festivals, shopping malls, you name it. My favorite show is whatever one I'm playing. Our band fits well into a variety of venues," says Schwinn.
Upcoming shows include performing on the Glorioso's Stage at the Brady Street Festival on Saturday, July 28, the Riverwest Farmers Market the next day, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Ave., on Sunday August 19, and a return to the Great Lakes Distillery on Thursday, August 23.
"My favorite show was probably a private wedding gig, a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple who had been together for 20 years. People were dancing, laughing and smiling, and it was such a great time! It made me feel great to help them celebrate, and it gave me hope for the future of our society. Also, the food was delicious," says Cuevas.
DeNomie enjoys 4th Street's daytime shows, such as at farmer's markets and Eckert enjoys playing pop-up, speakeasy-style shows where vintage music and dress are celebrated.
"And it would be great to play Summerfest one day," says Cuevas.
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