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 email@example.com.
Terre Haute-based band bringing mix of blues, funk, jazz and R&B to the streets
TERRE HAUTE —
The formula appears impossibly magical.
Effingham Center bringing ‘Home for Holidays’ show
“Home for the Holidays-American Big Band” is bringing all-time Christmas favorites from Bing to Buble to the Effingham Performance Center at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 19.
Chorus, Quartets offer their holiday concert Dec. 15
The Terre Haute Banks of the Wabash Chorus and Quartets will be presenting their annual Christmas show concert on Sunday at Harmony Hall.
The concert, titled “Home for Christmas,” is to start at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Harmony Hall is at 1257 Lafayette Ave., in Twelve Points on the near north side of Terre Haute.
Rock ‘piano pumper’ Terry Lee bringing his show to Boot City Opry Dec. 14
Rockin’ Terry Lee, “the Rock ’n’ Roll international piano pumper,” returns to the Boot City Opry stage on Saturday.
Terry Lee & The Rockaboogie Band is a show band built around the lightning fast rockaboogie piano playing.
Lee is backed by his long-time Rockaboogie Band with seasoned guitarist Jack E. Harden, who has played professionally for more than 20 years.
Lilly Trio concert now set for Dec. 13
After last week’s winter storm, the Angela Lilly Trio has rescheduled its performance to 7 p.m. Friday in Highland Church of Christ at 500 W. Highland Ave., Robinson, Ill.
Columnist signing book Saturday at Boot City, Opry
During the past 23 years, Bob Arnett has chronicled golfers, tournaments and courses in his column “Rub of the Green” for the Tribune-Star. For 60 years he has been involved in golf as a player, coach and writer.
‘Lessons and Carols’ Dec. 15 at St. Stephen’s Church
The eighth annual Community Service of Lessons and Carols will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 215 N. Seventh St.
TH Children’s Museum lists December, January open hours for days ahead
The Terre Haute Children’s Museum has set its holiday hours for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
The museum will operate on the following schedule:
Psychologist Hilton to sign her ‘Partners’ book Dec. 14
Dr. Kathleen Hilton is scheduled to sign copies of her new book from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at Baesler's Market, 2900 Poplar St.
- Concert listings: Dec. 12, 2013
Puppeteers to celebrate Christmas Dec. 15 at Paris church
The Sonshine Puppeteers will present their 12th annual Christmas musical at 5:30 p.m. CST on Sunday in the Presbyterian Church, 241 W. Court St., Paris, Ill.
This year’s musical is titled “The Christmas Puzzle: How We’re All Part of God’s Picture.”
LTC’s ‘Sing Noel’ to present shows on Dec. 14, 15
Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill., will present its annual Holiday Festival of Music at 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Newton and again at 3 p.m. Sunday in LTC’s Zwermann Arts Center Theater.
Country Christmas time at Clabber Girl Dec. 14
Clabber Girl will be celebrating the holidays with its annual Clabber Girl Country Christmas from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The event kicks off with Breakfast with Santa at 8:30 a.m., when families can have an exclusive visit from Santa while having breakfast.
ISU students’ thesis and senior art on exhibit through Dec. 14 in Landini Center’s gallery
You can catch a glimpse of an art student’s experience in the University Art Gallery’s last exhibition for the fall. The BFA/BS Thesis and Senior Exhibition celebrates the work of graduating art and design seniors’ accomplishments.
Running now through Saturday, the exhibit includes artwork from bachelor of fine arts candidate Mark Voelker and bachelor of arts candidates Charles Athey, Dacia Rund, Lindsey Staletovich, Tenia Wheat and Qing Yu.
Village of Westfield offers its Christmas Carnival Dec. 15
Westfield, Ill.’s Improvement League is planning its annual Christmas Carnival for Sunday.
Festivities will begin at 3 p.m. and include a soup supper, kids games, Santa, a 50-50 drawing, bake sale, silent auction and vendors. Interested vendors can contact Kim Fouty at 217-967-5351.
LTC has audition materials available for production of ‘Les Miserables’
Audition materials for Lincoln Trail College’s spring production of “Les Miserables” are now available in the college’s Performing Arts Office in Robinson, Ill.
- Live Event listings: Dec. 12, 2013
- MUSEUMS/EXHIBITIONS: Dec. 12, 2013
Busy sidewalks … Dec. 6 ‘Miracle on 7th’ event brings crowds downtown
Christmas Music Schedule
Schedule of Events
‘Someday at Christmas’ with Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack coming to ISU Dec. 11
Sandy Hackett’s famous Rat Pack is coming to Terre Haute to ring in a swingin’ holiday season with its critically acclaimed show “Someday at Christmas.”
Hailed as “extremely strong and hugely entertaining,” “Someday at Christmas” blends the classic charisma of the golden age of Las Vegas with some of Ron Miller’s greatest Christmas hits.
Community Theatre offers up family show ‘Babes in Toyland’ in December
Community Theatre of Terre Haute celebrates the season with the holiday musical, “Babes in Toyland,” based on the operetta by Victor Herbert & Glen MacDonough. It opens this Friday and continues through the weekend.
‘Celebrate the Holidays’ Dec. 7 with Terre Haute Symphony and Solly Burton
Two-time Winfield National Mandolin Champion Solly Burton will play popular carols with the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Tilson Auditorium. The program also will include the Rose-Hulman Chorus, directed by Daniel Tryon. Mayor Duke Bennett will narrate the Clement C. Moore classic poem, "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas," while the orchestra plays.
Christmas Chocolate Sale coming up Dec. 12, 13
The Paris Community Hospital Volunteers will host their annual Christmas South Bend Co. chocolate sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13, near the FMC rotunda entrance.
Kiwanis annual ornament sale begins Dec. 6; find them around town
The third annual Kiwanis Club ornament sale will take place in December at various locations. This is one of three major fundraisers the club runs to raise money to pay for its projects.
‘Everyday Earth’ program to enhance NASA Exhibit in December at Marshall library
Holly Hudson, director of Allen Memorial Planetarium in Terre Haute, will present “Everyday Earth Phenomenon in the Universe” at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Marshall (Ill.) Public Library. This program is intended to enhance the traveling NASA science exhibit, “Here, There, and Everywhere: Science through Analogy, Near and Far,” which is on display at the library for the public through Dec. 30.
Christmas in Parke County Dec. 6-8
Celebrate Christmas in Parke County at the following locations:
Dec. 7 Rockville home tour among holiday activities in Parke County
The Art Gallery in Rockville’s annual home tour will feature styles of architecture from the early 1800s to present. The tour will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Many renovations have been completed on the homes to adapt to modern living, but the main character of the houses remain.
- Concert listings: Dec. 5, 2013
Lunsford to sign copies of ‘A Windy Hill Almanac’ Dec. 8
Local writer Mike Lunsford will be signing copies of his newest book, “A Windy Hill Almanac,” this Saturday at the Vigo County Library and Kadel’s Hallmark in Terre Haute. The author will be at the library as part of its “Author Accolades” from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and will sign at Kadel’s Hallmark at North Plaza from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Theater listings: Dec. 5, 2013
River City highlights pen and ink artist in December
River City Art Association and the Vigo County Public Library are showcasing artwork by Mike Bender of Terre Haute throughout December in the library at Seventh and Poplar streets.
- More Bash Headlines
- Effingham Center bringing ‘Home for Holidays’ show