Bio of the Band
The award-winning Lunar Octet plays highly original and eclectic music drawing on jazz, Cuban and Puerto Rican salsa, rock, African high-life music, and Brazilian sambas, to forge a vital new sound enriched by these traditions. Almost all of the band's music is original compositions involving rich arrangements and strong focus on soloists' improvisations, and all of the band members contribute to the compositional process. The band's music is exciting, dynamic, and powerful, including fiery Latin grooves, driving funk rhythms, swinging bop tunes, and romantic ballads.
Since its debut in February 1984, the band (then called the Lunar Glee Club) carried its high-energy message to dancers and listeners, jazz, R&B, and rock fans alike. Over the years, the band expanded its following among audiences by performing more than 200 times in numerous club and concert settings, including the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival (in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, and 1991), the Flint Jazz Festival, the Columbus Arts Festival, the Lancaster Festival, the Ann Arbor Art Fair, the WEMU/Depot Town Winter Jazz Series, Rusty's Jazz Cafe, Ann Arbor's Top of the Park, the Bird of Paradise, the Del Rio, Mr. Flood's Party, the Blind Pig, the Detroit Festival of the Arts, Detroit's New Center Park, Toledo's CityFest, Toledo's Rib-Off, the Ann Arbor Art Fair (every year beginning in 1985), and in many other settings as well.
The group won the WEMU-Depot Town Jazz Competition (Ypsilanti, Michigan) in 1985 and performed numerous live simulcasts on Michigan radio stations, including WCBN, WEMU, and WDET. Its live performances were featured twice on WEMU's program "City Scene". In addition, Lunar Octet was the opening act on National Public Radio's national broadcast of the Miller Lite Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival on August 31, 1991.
The band appeared live on television on Channel 7 WXYZ's show "Good Afternoon, Detroit', on Comcast Cable's "Live from Industry" series, and on Barden Cablevision's "Live from Montreux-Detroit" program.
The band released four albums of their music, including "Highway Fun" on the Ann Arbor-based Schoolkids Records, in addition to "Lunar Glee Club", "Moonburn", and "Live at the Ark." One song from the band's performance at the Michigan Union was featured on the compilation album called "Cruisin' Ann Arbor II".
The Lunar Octet was formed as a forum for a group of Ann Arbor based composer and performers to develop and present their original compositions. The original members had a wide range of musical backgrounds, including rock, classical, jazz, and Latin music. When brought together through weekly rehearsals, these influences yielded an innovative blend of creative original instrumental works. The group began to perform in local clubs and concert settings in 1984, and attracted increasing attention from the press and from audiences in Michigan and Ohio over the coming years. Through a variety of personnel changes, necessitated by migration of band members to other parts of the country, the group maintained a cohesive and enthusiastic camaraderie, giving it a longevity that is rare among comparable performing ensembles.
Because of confusion about whether the band included singers, the group's name changed mid-way through its career from the Lunar Glee Club to the Lunar Octet.
The band's live performance of "Heart of Congatar" at WGVU's Jazz Night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was included on the compilation CD, "The Best of WGVU Jazz Night" in 1996.
A Note from Dan Ladizinsky on the Creation of the Lunar Glee Club
The band really came to life at Fuller Pool in the Summer of 1983. I had talked about the concept of the band with Aron Kaufman, and I wanted to try a band that would leave a lot of open mid-range sonic space by having no keyboards and a guitar that did not play chords. This left the mids to the drums so 3 drums could be heard, and the highs to the horns, and the lows to the basses who could play things like discernible contrapuntal lines. The guitar could traverse the sonic range, but not play with much polyphony, again more a rhythmic approach.
I was very into the sparseness of King Sunny Ade, who played with 5 or 6 guitarists and about 8 percussionists, yet they were so respectful and orchestrated, it did not sound busy. So I screwed up my courage and with Aron approached Kalle at Fuller Pool one day with that idea, and he stood there listening, tall and stoic ( and intimidating as hell to me because I thought and still think he is a monster musician) - and lo and behold he liked the concept! Getting Kalle on board was a big deal and to me that was the real start...
The group composition aspect was another thing - In those early rehearsals, we would bring very skeletal ideas in, the horns would work out their parts, drums same, bass and guitar same, and then we would try the gumbo, tinker some more and get the flavor right. I have not experienced such a positive environment for group composition before or since. That to me was truly unique and wonderful.
Another note: we got airplay on WEMU: "From the Mountaintop" was the background theme for Michael G. Nastos' Radio Program "Music at Nightspots", a spoken preview of upcoming musical events...