2014 Best Oldies Performer
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra
Aaron King said when he got the idea to form Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, he wanted it to be something worthwhile, something he could feel positive about. So he called on friends and former bandmates, many of whom had not met one another.
“I brought them all together,”said King, who plays trombone, raps and serves as the artistic director. “So I felt like it was something special that we could blend together and make some magic happen. I just felt like Fort Wayne needed something different.”
Apparently Fort Wayne felt the same way.
When the results of the whatzup Readers Poll were tallied, the funk/hip-hop powerhouse had hip-hopped away with an unprecedented five Whammy awards. There have been plenty of multiple winners over the years and even a few four-time winners, but until now none had swept up so many. And this after winning the 2014 Battle of the Bands competition.
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra beat out worthy nominees to win Performer of the Year, Best New Performer, Best Funk/World Performer, Best Live Band and Best Oldies Performer.
They breezed in the Live Band and Funk/World categories by 38 and 11 percentage points, respectively. But the other ballots were closer. A lot closer. FWFO edged Sum Morz (Best Rock Cover winners) in both Performer of the Year and Live Band voting. The tally? FWFO 16.83 percent, Sum Morz 16.38 percent for Performer of the Year and 17.83 percent to 17.65 percent for Best Live Band.
King was understandably pleased, if somewhat perplexed.
“It’s a little disarming,” he said. “I’m definitely surprised, I’m definitely super happy. I feel a lot of vindication in that I helped start this organization. But I’m a little shocked about the oldies win. We play ‘Vehicle’ by the Ides of March and ‘Beginnings’ by Chicago. That’s about all I can think of.”
The Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra organization is eight members strong, with King joined by lead singer Tony Didier, Jamont Simmons on drums, bassist, Drake Bates, keyboard player Dave Latchaw, guitarist, vocalist and rapper Dave “Catfish” Pagan, Jason Westerman on trumpet and Will Brown on congas and vocals. An impressive lineup to be sure, and one that combined has extensive experience here and elsewhere.
It’s no surprise that King wound up playing the trombone. It’s a family tradition. His father, North Side High School band director Ed King II, and his grandfather, Ed King Sr., were both trombone players. But he did attempt to follow his own path
“I wanted to play drums in sixth grade,” he said, “but my dad said no.”
The trombone isn’t the only King family tradition. Like his father, King is a band teacher. He runs the program in Anderson, Indiana, teaching grades 5-12. King holds a bachelor of arts degree in music education from IPFW and a master of arts degree in wind conducting from Middle Tennessee State University. He sees his work not only as returning a favor, but as a possible fast-pass to paradise.
“It’s demanding,” he said. “But somebody had to listen to me be awful on my instrument for me to get where I am now. I’m just returning those dues that somebody paid for me. And I feel like when I’m helping these kids, I’m being the best human being I can be. I’m hoping it might get me into heaven too. I’ll be like, hey, I taught sixth-grade band – I should get in here.”
The members of Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra come from varied musical backgrounds. Bates previously played with King in a hip-hop band, but left to help his mother, a gospel singer, in Las Vegas. He’s a multi-instrumentalist who likes the originality of FWFO’s approach.
Latchaw is well-known around town as a jazz player, but he has also played with musicians from around the world in a variety of genres. In addition to his work with FWFO, Latchaw fronts his own jazz trio, among other things.
Pagan is a funk and hip-hop veteran who led Strut Train to numerous Whammy wins about a dozen years ago. He has since made a name for himself throughout the region with various bands.
Brown founded the Afro-disiacs in Fort Wayne and gigged with the prog-rock/fusion band Particle. Plus his dad was a recording engineer at STAX, Ardent and the Willie Mitchell Studios.
Didier is an actor, dancer and singer who has performed with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and opened for jazz great Boots Randolph.
Westerman is also a graduate of the vaunted North Side jazz program and played with King in the New Millennium Jazz Orchestra.
Simmons is a well-known drummer around town, recently working with the band Last Call. He is the newest member of the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra.
“Our rhythm section was born out of the gospel church scene,” King said. “Gospel music kind of gave birth to a lot of different things. They have a deep understanding of those rhythms.”
The approach the band takes is simple. King sees the act of playing in front of an audience as the tacit acknowledgment that they are entertainers first and artists second. So King likes to rehearse beginnings and endings. That’s the most important thing a band as entertainers can do for its audience. The middle is where the artistry lets loose.
“I like to have really high-quality beginnings and really high-quality endings so that we come across as being well-rehearsed and being tight, but we still have that freedom in the middle where we improvise and do different things to bring the song to life and make it more of our own.”
And don’t look for a lot of time between songs to straighten your tie and refresh your drink. FWFO moves quickly between tunes to keep the energy high and the dancers, of which there are many, happy. Covering Earth, Wind & Fire and Rick James helps.
“We play ‘Brick House.’ I’m not too proud to play ‘Brick House.’ I love that song, and the people love that song. But it’s really repetitive. The horn part is extremely repetitive. A lot of horn players don’t like to play it. But if people love to dance to it, I love to play it. I like that. I have no problem serving a crowd. I think that’s what it’s supposed to be.”
They also have a number of originals they play live.
King sees the hip-hop aspect of FWFO as a blend of West Coast and East Coast styles. The difference, he says, is like the difference between bebop and cool jazz. He says he’s more West Coast while Pagan is more East Coast. But together they are Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra style.
“I like to be somewhere in the middle of that. I kind try to maintain that cool sound of the West Coast and also have the vocabulary from the East Coast style. I think we do a nice job of that.”
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra feels like a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They are a class act. They have the maturity, experience and respect to take nothing for granted. It’s an approach that paid off in Whammys.
“When you have this type of competition thing that’s happening here, it makes everybody better,” King said. “Regardless of who wins. Everybody gets better from it. Obviously, there’s a lot of great bands. The bands that are on those lists could have won just as easily as we did. We had maybe just a little bit more following in the voting process. I did know we were nominated, but I had no idea we were going to win.” (Mark Hunter)
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra*
Pop 'n' Fresh*
Juke Joint Jive*
Junkyard Band, Cadillac Ranch, Freak Brothers
* On the ballot † More than one
|2013 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2012 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2011 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2010 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2009 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2008 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2007 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2006 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2005 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2004 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2003 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
|2002 Winner:||Spike & The Bulldogs|
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Thursday, April 27
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Community Unity — Community dinner, games and prizes, and neighborhood safety forum, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Jennings Recreation Center, Fort Wayne, free, 427-6028
Issues and Ales — Panel of experts discuss important issues in the community with audience Q&A , 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, Fort Wayne, free, 456-7005
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Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Chris Worth — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at River View Tavern, Decatur, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 724-3500
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
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Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
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Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
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37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru April 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568