The Old School Swing Band

also known as: The Hot Club of Houston

About the Old School Swing Band:

The Old School Swing Band is a group of musicians dedicated to performing traditional and swing jazz in the style of the early masters. Inspired by the recordings of jazz history, the group tries to reinterpret the traditional music of the genre, bringing a fresh perspective to its performance with novel arrangements and creative combinations of musicians and musical expressions.

"Old School Swing," the namesake of the ensemble, is the early style of swing music, before the big band sound popularized during WW II, back when "swing" meant only how the music was performed, rhythmically and stylistically. The ideas expressed in the early recordings of artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Sindey Bechet, Hoagy Carmichael, Chick Webb, Django Reinhardt, Gene Krupa, Eddie Lang, Joe "King" Oliver, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, James P. Johnson, Stephane Grapelli and Fats Waller, among others, have become the guiding inspiration of the Old School Swing Band. These masters all created music that celebrates the ensemble sound, the rhythmic groove and highlights the individual talents of composer, lyricist and music maker.

Following in their footsteps, the Old School Swing Band combines the ideas, sounds and repertoire of these early innovators with the broad spectrum of jazz music as it is presented today. Whether in the confines of a single jazz jam session or in the over-arching motif of maintaining and passing on the musical tradition, the Old School Swing Band has committed itself to the basic process of jazz: fully listening to what other musicians say, developing existing ideas into new ones and, ultimately, adding to the tradition of sound by creatively commenting back on foundational musical elements.

About the Hot Club of Houston:

The Hot Club of Houston is a group of musicians dedicated to performing authentic, traditional jazz in the style of the early masters. Founded by guitarists, this local Hot Club took its name from the famous "Hot Club of France" in 20th century Paris, where the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grapelli presented American jazz music in their own unique style, now referred to as "Gypsy Swing." Though named after a specific place and time in the history of jazz, the Hot Club of Houston incorporates aspects from the broad spectrum of the music. The group expresses musical ideas from Dixieland to Be-bop, Western Swing to Bossa Nova.

Taking the classic jazz standards and popular melodies of the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s as inspiration, the Hot Club of Houston breathes new life and energy into these timeless tunes and, through development and improvisation, continues in the great tradition of American musical artistry that is jazz. The group performs regularly (in public and at private events) throughout the Houston, Texas area.

How is the Hot Club of Houston different than the Old School Swing Band?

It's the same musicians, only the Hot Club of Houston tends not to have a drummer, but rather an acoustic percussive sound provided by the rhythm section of a bassist and two or more guitarists.

About the Musicians on “Swing On By”:

April Wheat

A graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana with a Bachelor's in Vocal Performance, Ms. Wheat is currently pursuing her Master's degree at the University of Houston. April considers it a privilege that she has been taught by such notables as Mrs. Earlin Vincent, Dr. John Ware, Dr. Malcolm Breda, Dr. Sarah Mantel, Dr. Mary Logan Hastings, Katherine Ciesinski and Dr. Timothy Jones. April has sung soprano solos in such works as Messiah, Elijah, Faure Requiem, Bach Magnificat, Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb, Poulenc's Gloria, and Rutter Magnificat. In addition to maintaining a private teaching studio she regularly gives vocal health clinics to singing groups and church choirs.

Edward Grigassy

Mr. Grigassy studied with Adam Holzman at the University of Texas, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in classical guitar. Mr. Grigassy then received his Master's Degree in Classical Guitar from the New England Conservatory in Boston, under the tutelage of world-renown guitar virtuoso Eliot Fisk. While attending the Conservatory he studied and fell in love with jazz guitar as taught by Gene Bertoncini, the leading North American expert on Bossa Nova. Mr. Grigassy has since shared his musical journey with audiences throughout the United States and Central America. He performs regularly as a soloist and in ensembles in Texas. He is a founder and current director of the Hot Club of Houston, an acoustic jazz group, and Latin Carnaval, a Latin American music ensemble.

Benny Theiler

Benny Theiler was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and first performed on clarinet at age 10.

He continued to perform professionally in his teenage years and later when he was drafted (1943) into the Air Force. During that time, he played with several AF bands and in Anchorage, Alaska he was promoted to First Sergeant and Leader of the Jazz Band. He landed in Ilo-ilo Panay in the Phillipines in 1947. He retired from the Air Force in 1953. Upon moving to Houston, he graduated with a B.S. and M.Ed. Degrees in Music Education from the University of Houston. He then taught Instrumental Music at the Houston Conservatory of Music and in public schools for 34 years. He retired from public school music education in 1988. In recent years he has performed with the Everest Kenne Combo, Buddy Brock, Dick Krueger, Ed Gerlach, and Joe Scalise Orchestras, Vibraphonist Harry Sheppard, and many local musical groups. Currently he performs with his own group, "Benny Theiler Jazz Combo" at wedding receptions as well as many other venues. He is a Deacon and regularly performs with the Sagemont Baptist Church Orchestra.

Sasha Loukachine

In the summer of 1992, Russian drummer Sasha Loukachine and saxophonist Eddie Akhmetchine decided to play on the streets of Riga, Latvia which was crowded by tourists from all over the world. On the second day they were approached by a young lady from Houston, Texas, Michelle Moore, who was there on a business trip. She had quickly fallen in love with the musicians' soulful playing. Michelle asked if the guys would like to visit Houston and play concerts there. They agreed, and came to Houston, Texas from Russia on a music contract in 1993. Since that time, Sasha is a first-call player in the Houston jazz music scene. He also regularly performs in New York and has recorded with great musicians including: Clark Terry, Grant Stewart, Andrew Lienhard, Erin Wright, Julia Olivarez and others. He has a highly-praised CD available: Sasha Loukachine Quartet With Clark Terry: Stars Fell On Alabama.

Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler was born in Charleston, W. Va in the year 1932. At eight years old, because other children in the neighborhood were taking music lessons, little Joe Jr. started taking clarinet lessons. At age 14, the teacher converted him to play saxophone too. Immediately he came into demand by established bands in the area. With special permission from his parents to work, he joined the Musicians' Union. After high school he went to University and studied Social and Human Behavior. The Korean War put an end to those studies and he spent the next five years playing in the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. At the time, married with children, he sent family back to W. Va and he went on the road with the Dorsey Band. It seemed at that time that nobody could bond with Tommy Dorsey. However, Jimmy Dorsey and Joe became close friends.

Home sickness became common so Joe returned to W. Va. to play and formed his own band. Native West Virginian bandleader Billy May arranged a complete music library and the group was very much in demand. Active and getting first call, Joe also played traveling shows that came through town such as circuses, ice shows, and Broadway shows. Still it was not a good or rewarding life. In 1960 Shep Fields called Joe to come to Houston and play in his band at the Shamrock Hotel. Joe came to town and stayed. Thirteen years later he was still there playing with all the bands that were on rotation with the hotel: Paul Neighbors, Billy Williams, E.C. Holland, Joe Reichman, and others. Life was better. Joe went to work during the day at Parker Music Co. during the day and at night played music. When the Shamrock Hotel closed, Joe went to the Warwick Hotel. The band was smaller and they had no floor shows to play.

Tiny Skaggs was the leader of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Band, a 34 piece large show band. Joe played first saxophone and jazz clarinet with Tiny for 13 years. He played Brennan's Restaurant Sunday Jazz Brunch for seven years, and Pappadeaux Restaurant Sunday Brunch for four years. At age 75 Joe is still in demand, just not quite as much. And that's fine as he can now follow his passion for fishing. His current philosophy is "as long as people want me to play music, and I have the strength, that's what I will do. 'Stick with me and I'll teach you the ropes.' God Bless All."

Thomas Helton

For 15 years Thomas Helton has laid down basslines for jazz ensembles in Houston and around the US. He has deep-seated love and respect for jazz traditions, ingrained by instructors like Shelly Berg and Larry Slezak. In a tribute to Houston musicians, he compiled and published the first Houston Musician's Realbook. He has appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and has recorded with Joe LoCascio, Carol Morgan, Chris Connolly, Smitty, Kevin Patton, & Cindy Scott.

Thomas brings all of his passion and experience for jazz to the table when it comes to his other half, avant-garde music. Early in his jazz career, Thomas was inspired by the sounds of John Zorn and Peter Kowald to venture outside mainstream musical bounds. This journey began with the Rosta Jazz Avengers, a Houston-based quartet all about free improvisation and sonic exploration. Thomas quickly jumped into composition, beginning to develop a style that combines thematic composition with free improvisation, a sort of loosely controlled writing style showcasing his hand-selected performers.

Thomas has released three albums to date. "Good Robot" (2007) and "Experimentations in Minimalism" (2006) feature compositions for small ensemble. "Doublebass" (2003) is a collection of live, freely-improvised solo performances. Thomas also appears on the 2003 Norcal Noise Fest compilation CD, as well as the KUHF "The Front Row" 2006 compilation CD. His website is:

Max Grosch

Max Grosch was born in 1974 and received his first violin training at the age of 4. He did undergraduate studies at the Leopold Mozart Conservatory, Augsburg under Professor Lydia Dubrovskaya. Subsequently, he acquired his Masters of Music performance with full scholarship at the University of Houston with Professor Emanuel Borok. While in the U.S. he received a scholarship to study at the renowned New School University in New York with teachers such as Hal Galper, Vincent Herring, Gerard D'Angelo, John Blake, Johannes Weidenmüller and Jane Ira Bloom. At festivals in Lake Placid and Banff he had the opportunity to study with teachers such as Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano, Bob Brookmeyer, Rufus Reid, Billy Hart, Bob Mintzer and Rick Pekham.

Max Grosch has performed in concerts in the USA, Canada, England, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. In April 2004 his debut album‚ "we will see..." received rave reviews from critics and has since been broadcast on the radio. Since November 2004 he has been teaching as professor of jazz violin at the Kärtner Kärtner Landes Conservatory Klagenfurt, Austria. His website is:

Kelly Lancaster

Kelly Lancaster grew up surrounded by music, in Nacogdoches, Texas. His earliest musical influence was his grandmother, Alice Joyce Lancaster Frye. Kelly's father plays banjo and guitar, and his mother played the flute. Not long after he first picked up a guitar at age 12, Kelly became a regular at bluegrass jam sessions at the Oldtime String Shop with Steve Hartz and others from Nacogdoches’ rich stock of talented musicians. Kelly went on to compete nationally in guitar and mandolin flatpicking contests, and begin a lifelong career as a professional musician. Along the way, Kelly developed virtuosity in both bluegrass and in jazz, particularly gypsy jazz and swing.

In fact, each of these musical communities can claim him as one of their brightest lights. Kelly’s playing is characterized by dazzling technical wizardry, light-speed invention, and sheer exuberance. He generates ideas -- and plays them -- faster than most of us can think. At the same time, Kelly enjoys musical jokes -- you can tell that he is having fun. But the breadth (and depth) of his ability are revealed just as much when the fireworks are set aside and he develops meditative, sensitive arrangements in which each note is rich in meaning and deeply felt. He has recently been crowned the Texas State Mandolin Champion. His website is:

For a full list of the songs we know, click here.

For some audio samples of the band, click here.

For some video samples of the band, click here.

For booking, comments and further information contact:

Edward Grigassy, Guitar