The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra will return to Statesboro on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 7:30 p.m., lighting up the Emma Kelly Theater with their special brand of Louisiana spice and big band sound.
Orchestra founder Jeremy Davis is excited to come back to the Boro with a core group of 11 musicians, which he says is his favorite group to play with.
"It looks like a big band, sounds like a big band, and it's just kind of drilled down to what makes it special," he said, adding that at times, they have increased the number of musicians to as many as 30, depending on the venue and the content of the show.
He will be joined in the show by his partner and best friend since the seventh grade, Clay Johnson. Both men play instruments, as well as sing. Davis calls their friendship a "long and pretty special story."
"We have literally done every phase of life together, from junior high to high school to college. We learned to play music together. We were college roommates, we met our wives around the same time, and we even got married two weeks apart," he said.
The duo even moved their families to Savannah after falling in love with the city and its arts community. Davis and Johnson hail from Louisiana, and although they love their home state, they felt it wasn't the best place to be positioned if they wanted to reach a bigger audience with their Fabulous Equinox Orchestra.
What they found in Savannah was great history and beauty and, Davis said, a lot of affluence.
"There are a lot of people who appreciate the arts," he said, "and who spend money on the arts. And there are a thousand places we can play and still sleep in our own bed. We're close to so many places on the coast, that Savannah is just really perfectly situated for us."
In the beginning, the orchestra didn't have a vocalist, and simply played big band, '40s-era music.
"I brought in the best players in the region, and we would play on Monday nights, and it kind of grew into a really, really cool scene. Fast forward 15 years, and musically it's completely different, and there's so much of a show and an entertainment factor," Davis said. "It's evolved into an amazing musical vehicle."
Across several genres
"There are not many big bands in the world that do what we do," he continued. "There are some Sinatra cover bands and '40s bands. But that's not who we are. We're going to run the gamut musically, all with the musical voice of the big band. This is the entire reason that people should come to see us. It is unique. It is cool. It is powerful. It is big, and it has a physical feel to it when you walk into the room and you see the band set up, and you hear those six horn players start to go all at once."
Davis calls big band the "luxurious musical vehicle of choice." And that vehicle lends itself to more than you think.
"Musically, we're going to be everything from all the great Sinatra and Bublé, Tony Bennett and all the things people love, but so much more than that. We're going to be Motown, we're going to be Elvis, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles. We're going to do some '70s and '80s pop tunes, all beautifully orchestrated for big band. And all with a really fun Louisiana spice," he said.
How do you put a big band swing on all those genres? According to Davis, it's simple.
"Usually a great song boils down to a couple of things: It has to have a beautiful lyric or compelling lyric and a beautiful melody, or something special to it. When you deal with 'The Great American Songbook,' pretty much all those things are there. We pick songs that are our favorites, we pick songs we think we can put a pretty unique spin on," he said.
Davis says the orchestra has an extensive list of songs they perform, so there is something for people of all ages, from ages 9 to 90. And all of those songs have that distinctive Louisiana feel, which Davis defines as an attitude or a spirit.
"When you go to Louisiana you feel it. It's in the food, the people, the air. They're genuinely ready to have a good time. It's the spirit of it. I have performed all over the world, and I can tell you that Louisiana people, and even southern people in general, are ready to get it on. They want to have a good time and it doesn't take that much to get them fired up," he said. "It's a festive experience and it really is the exclamation point on The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra."
More than a 'big band'
The phrase "big band" brings certain things to mind — but Davis encourages their audiences to leave those preconceived notions at the door.
"When people think big band, they're going to think Tommy Dorsey, they're going to think Glen Miller, they're going to think World War II-era music. That's was the big band era. That is not what we do. "We're using the musical vehicle of the big band to do music that's much more relevant to audiences today," he said. "People love that era's music, but it's not our musical language. We are not your grandfather's big band. We are a big band that has a much more wide voice."
Davis promises that if you come to the show, you will not leave unhappy.
"We will entertain for 90 blistering minutes," he said. "Come to the show knowing you are going to have a good time."
As for returning to the Boro, Davis said he's looking forward to it.
"It's been a long time since we've been there. It's a beautiful venue and it's going to be a great season there at the Averitt, and we're just really thrilled to be able to kick it off," he said.
The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra will perform on Saturday at the Emma Kelly Theater, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased online at www.averittcenterforthearts.org, or by calling (912) 212-2787.