TERRE HAUTE —
The formula appears impossibly magical.
A handful of former high school buddies, scattered by life to three different cities, remain the core of a blues-funk-jazz-R&B band. Their sound is tight, yet fluid and spontaneous. They reunite just a few times a year, like an alignment of the stars, but turn in crowd-pleaser performances.
Maybe their band name supplies the magic — The Leonard Washingtons. It’s based on a stoic, trash-talking, World-Series-of-Dice-playing character from the old “Dave Chappelle Show,” who is “very confident and stone-faced,” as drummer Al Doti put it, with a laugh. “Those little snippets, we’ve kind of taken to heart.”
Despite the comedic inspiration, The Leonard Washingtons are serious about their music, as fans of Terre Haute’s annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival know quite well. Their confidence flows from years of practice, performance and improvisation together and individually. For lead singer-keyboardist Will Foraker, tenor saxophonist Alex Sperellis, trombonist Mike Nearpass, and Doti, their history dates back to high school and then their Plastic Heroes band in college. That familiarity makes their rare gigs seem seamless.
The Leonard Washingtons will display their unusual blend as one of a dozen acts performing at the Crossroads — the historic intersection of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue — this weekend. Five acts take the stage Friday night, beginning at 5:15. Seven more play Saturday, starting at 3 p.m., including The Leonard Washingtons from 9:15 to 10:45.
The seven-piece band gathered again in Terre Haute last weekend, playing a fundraiser. Two traveled from Chicago — Nearpass and alto saxophonist Natalie Lande. Sperellis trekked from Indianapolis. Doti, bassist Eric Schatz and guitarist Tim Doyle live and work in Terre Haute. Foraker resides here three months a year and spends October through spring entertaining vacationers as a singer-pianist on the Celebrity cruise ship line. The reassembling of these musicians is special.
“For the seven of us, it’s really pretty rare,” Foraker said.
The time and distance melt away as The Leonards roll through the hectic groove of “Sweet Little Miss Massey,” the ’70s soul feel of “Myself to You,” or the smooth “Hannah.” They recorded those original tunes and six others in the summer of last year for their second album, “Honest Drangle’s Wino Hat,” and unveiled them at the 2012 Blues at the Crossroads Festival. They’ve lived a year with those songs and know them more intimately now, as the 2013 blues fest crowd will hear, along with some choice covers.
“We’ll bring a little bit more of a raw energy,” said Doti.
Their secret? “A lot of it comes from all the years we’ve played together,” Doti said. “That, and we use as much technology as we can.”
Technology bridges the geographic gap. Their originals typically begin with Foraker penning the lyrics and basic chord structure. The rhythm section — Foraker, Doti, Schatz and Doyle — builds a fuller number, as the melody, bridge, verses and chorus take shape. Then, they send a recording to Nearpass, who develops the horn section parts, and he relays those to the others. They practice individually, mulling possible ad libs. It all unfolds on stage.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Foraker said. “It’s very kind of ad hoc, but we found a way to make it work.”
The end result resembles a mix of the Allman Brothers, Tower of Power and John Mayer, at least in Foraker’s opinion. Structure and free-form jamming coexist.
It works through “improvisation and the ability to go with the flow,” Doti said. He saw that skill revive in last weekend’s performance at Jacobpalooza, a benefit show. “It was really impressive to see us all come together as a unit.”
What happens after Saturday remains a bit enigmatic. Foraker leaves for his cruise work next month and returns early in 2014, “but I’ve got an album’s worth of ideas,” he emphasized. With ages ranging from 24 to 30, The Leonard Washingtons’ lives now include marriages for some, jobs and graduate studies. Tricky as reuniting has become, they enjoy the moments, Doti said.
“So that’s just kind of our thing,” he said. “We don’t really get a lot of time to practice, so we just play our hearts out when we do get together.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terre Haute-based band bringing mix of blues, funk, jazz and R&B to the streets
TERRE HAUTE —
The formula appears impossibly magical.
‘Worshipful, reverent’ music goal of organist who plays Friday night at Terre Haute church
To an untrained observer, a concert organ looks as complex as the controls of a jumbo jetliner.
Four tiers of keyboards, dozens of knobs (known as pistons) and two rows of foot pedals fuel the instrument’s lush sound. An organist would seem to need 10 limbs to play it.
White Violet Center to offer day of fun with nature on April 26
Live performances, demonstrations, animal programs, relaxation and other events —all specifically geared toward honoring the planet — are planned April 26, as the longest-running and largest Earth Day celebration in west-central Indiana continues at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
Clarinetist, Wind Symphony play April 10
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, the national winner of the 2013 John Philip Sousa Foundation National Band Solo Competition — clarinetist Eric van Caulil, a senior at Winter Springs High School in Florida — will perform with the Indiana State University Wind Symphony in Tilson Auditorium.
‘Nomadic aural tinkerer’ Saturday Giant scheduled for Verve’s stage on May 3
The Saturday Giant, a one-man art-rock band from Columbus, Ohio, will perform at 9:30 p.m. May 3 at The Verve in downtown Terre Haute.
‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’
The Academy of Dance of Terre Haute, under the direction of Patti Willey, will stage its annual spring concert at 6:30 p.m. May 30 and 31 in Indiana State University’s Tilson Auditorium.
About 300 students will tell the story of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” through ballet, tap, jazz, creative movement and modern dance.
Surveys under way on outdoor artwork
Art Spaces Inc. announces that college students will be conducting surveys throughout April at several outdoor sculpture locations in Terre Haute.
Park’s friends plan run/walk events April 19
The Friends of Shakamak are planning several upcoming fun activities at Shakamak State Park.
The third annual Long Fish Dash on April 19 includes both the original 5K run and the newer 10K run, which was added last year. Competitors will be entered by age category in both races; awards will recognize winners in those same categories.
Optimists dishing out Italian dinner April 12
Clark County Optimist Club will sponsor an Italian Night on Saturday in St. Mary’s Parish Hall at Marshall, Ill.
Historical Society plans May 1 Indy outing
The Vigo County Historical Society is planning a day filled with new sights and experiences in Indianapolis on May 1.
The main focus of the trip is a visit to the 2014 Decorators’ Show House and Garden, a Tudor-style house at 5235 N. Meridian St. that once belonged to Vern Vanderbilt, who once was chief baker at L.S. Ayres.
Folk group Speedbumps to perform free show at The Woods April 14
The Speedbumps, an indie folk group and Independent Music Awards winner, is scheduled to play at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College on Monday.
Zorah poker run set April 12 at Shrine Hill
A poker run sponsored by Zorah Shriners’ Drum and Bugle Corps will take off on Saturday at Shrine Hill Country Place, 4500 Temple Ave.
ISU, South singers on stage at NYC’s Lincoln Center on April 12
A group of Indiana State students embarked on a trip of a lifetime as they boarded a bus on Tuesday on their way to perform at Lincoln Center in New York City.
The Sycamores, along with 21 students from Terre Haute South Vigo High School, are to perform Saturday.
Bricker’s art is April’s feature at VCPL
A collection of artworks of Wabash Valley Art Wabash Valley Art Guild member Julie Bricker is on display at the Vigo County Public Library.
ISU Symphony giving free concert on April 17
The Indiana State University Symphony Orchestra will present a free concert at 7:30 p.m. April 17 in Tilson Auditorium at ISU.
Kid Kare staging bingo fundraiser April 16
Kid Kare Project is having a spring bingo fundraiser and pork barbecue dinner on April 16 in the Blanford Sportsman Club.
TH Parks offer ‘Go FishIN the City’ April 19
Want to try your hand at trout fishing but have never fished before? Then you can join the Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department and Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Go FishIN in the City program.
Boot City act to perform Ray Price tribute April 12
Fiddle player and vocalist Dennis Stroughmatt will perform a tribute to country legend Ray Price at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Boot City Opry.
Campus magazines plan April 11 launch party
A launch party for the art and literary magazines from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Indiana State University is scheduled 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday in Art Spaces Inc. at 669 Ohio St.
Chicken ’n’ noodles on Badoura’s menu April 13
Badoura Patrol of the Daughters of the Nile will serve a chicken noodle dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday in the Zorah Shrine Temple, 420 N. Seventh St.
- Live events listing: April 10, 2014
Ehrmann Poetry Competition Awards to be bestowed at April 16 ceremony
Art Spaces Inc. and the Indiana State University Community School of the Arts is celebrating April as National Poetry Month in conjunction with the 2014 Max Ehrmann Poetry Competition Awards.
An awards ceremony will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Rooney Library at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
- Concert listings: April 10, 2014
- MUSEUMS/EXHIBITIONS: April 10, 2014
Lions Club plans April 12 Easter Egg Hunt
Prairie Creek Lions Club will conduct its ninth annual Easter Egg Hunt April 12 at the Prairie Creek-Wilson Ball Field, two miles north of Prairie Creek, off U.S. 63 on Bowen Drive.
April 12 breakfast, April 25 dinner at Fontanet
The Fontanet Action Community Team will be putting on a breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon April 12 and a chicken noodle dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. April 25. Both events are by donation at the door.
Swope to present work by young artists in spring exhibit
Spring brings one of the most popular yearly exhibitions at the Swope Art Museum, its annual showcase of work by student artists.
Sign up to Bowl for Kids’ Sake
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vigo County is appealing to the community to support Bowl for Kids’ Sake, the mentoring organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, which raises money needed to carefully pair volunteer mentors with children who face adversity in staff-supported, long-term mentoring friendships.
Allen Chapel’s annual BBQ event slated for next weekend
Allen Chapel AME Church in Terre Haute has scheduled its annual barbecue fundraising event for April 12.
Ceremony to honor Ehrmann poetry contest winners
Art Spaces, Inc. — Wabash Valley Outdoor Sculpture Collection and the ISU Community School of the Arts will be hosting a public award ceremony to honor the winners of the 2014 Max Ehrmann Poetry Competition, sponsored by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, along with other universities and businesses.
‘90 Minutes in Heaven’ author to speak
Don Piper, author of “90 Minutes in Heaven — a True Story of Death and Life,” will speak at 7 p.m. CDT April 10 in First Baptist Church of Casey, Ill.
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- ‘Worshipful, reverent’ music goal of organist who plays Friday night at Terre Haute church