"Everything from Lady Be Good to Johnny Be Good!"
Inspired by a chance encounter with legendary bandleader Sun Ra in the late 1960s,
Ann Arbor native David Swain soon formed his own large jazz ensemble.
After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in 1974, Swain formed the II-V-I
Orchestra; several charter members continue to play in the band. The Orchestra performed
regularly in Ann Arbor at the Golden Falcon Supper Club (now Maude's) and the Earle, and
in Ypsilanti at the Spaghetti Bender and the Cross Street Club. Also during this period,
the II-V-I Orchestra performed at the 1978 Ann Arbor Jazz Festival at Hill Auditorium.
Recording artists Kenny
Garrett and David Mann weren't even old enough to drive when they were regularly featured
with the II-V-I Orchestra. In the 1980s, the late be-bop legends Kenny "Pancho"
Hagood and LaMonte Hamilton were regular members at engagements in Detroit venues
including Cobb's Corner and the Soup Kitchen. In the 1990s the Orchestra performed at the
1993 Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival and supplied rhumbas, cha-chas, foxtrots and
waltzes for "ballroom dancing" every
Sunday at the Heidelberg
in downtown Ann Arbor.
The late 90s "Lounge" music phase put the Orchestra in a
martini-and-cigar, swing dancing scene at venues like Clutch Cargo's in Pontiac and
Motor in Hamtramck. The Orchestra was long featured on annual live radio broadcasts
from the Ann Arbor Art Fair before funding cuts forced WEMU to
discontinue its jazz stage.
In the new century, the Orchestra has performed regularly at the Ann Arbor Summer
Festival's Top of the Park concerts, as well as the Main Street Area Association's Taste of
Ann Arbor event in early summer. Home base is now the Creekside Grille
west of Ann Arbor at Zeeb and I-94, where the Orchestra performs the last Sunday of every
month for listening, dancing, and eating barbeque. The II-V-I Orchestra has also
undertaken important jazz repertory projects, including the 2003 performances of Duke
Ellington's big band versions of Tchaikowsky's Nutcracker and the 2004
performance of Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool". On the "Birth of the Cool" the Orchestra
featured the Blue Note recording artist, trumpeter Louis Smith.