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It’s October 2023 and final preparations are being looked at for the impending trip to USA in January 2024 with the Rodger Fox Big Band to attend the Jazz Educators Network Conference in New Orleans which the band has been invited to play at.

We have just received word Creative NZ has declined our application for assistance which is disappointing given this is the band’s 50th Year of existence and not sure if they truly appreciate the amount of contribution that has been given back to the music community over those years by the band leader and all of the band members over the years.

This left the Band having to find $87K in 6 weeks so the call was put out to the music community and with many people understanding what the Band represents within the music world in New Zealand support was forthcoming from many different quarters and we were on our way. These people probably are not aware of how the Band members felt about this support so this is a short overview of how the tour went and will hopefully show why this tour was important on so many levels.


Our main mission of this section of the tour was to demonstrate what we in New Zealand have to offer to the jazz world plus take in the mystique of New Orleans and its cultural and musical history.

The JEN Conference runs from Wednesday to Saturday and has several events running from 9.00am to midnight each day so you can attend a concert one hour and then a presentation from highly regarded musician the next hour and this continues throughout the day until about 8pm when each night there are concerts running in 3 different venues with the main one in a large ballroom which  hold upwards of 5000+ people.

The ballroom is where the band performs on Thursday afternoon to a conservative number of 2000+ people. The band was up for the event playing a cross-section of NZ compositions and material the band would normally play in concerts at home. The audience response to what we did was outstanding with comments around the choice of programme and style of music being most prevalent and leading some USA band leaders to enquire how they could get their hands on the arrangements. This certainly was a performance that put NZ on the map once again and job done!!

Rodger Fox and Mike Booth had the opportunity to adjudicate and run clinics for junior bands so was good to see this included as part of the Band’s participation at JEN.

The rest of our time in New Orleans was spent checking all of the music available not only at the Conference but in the normal areas in and around the town.


We moved to Washington for a few days where we were going to complete a couple of concerts including a featured guest in drummer, Dennis Chambers.

Most band members took the opportunity to look at some of the many Museums within Washington which included Natural History, Art and American history as some of the opportunities to see different things than we have in NZ so the tour is not all about enriching your music and includes getting balance in learning.

Our concert in Baltimore was at Keystone Korner and the weather was not that flash with the possibility of the event being cancelled if the canal opposite overflowed. To our astonishment, a very good crowd turned up and the band was up for the challenge and certainly, it was enjoyable to play with Dennis Chambers again. The feedback again was around the type of music played and the wonderful energy of the band.

The next night we performed at the Carlyle Room in Washington and it was another good crowd with a few Kiwis in the audience. Another great performance!!


We were here to record tracks to document our time away in January 2024 so spent 3 days in Sear Sounds studios laying everything and think the band played very well and should end up with a suitable depiction of music played on tour.

Once again band members took the opportunity to see many top jazz artists who were town, the Billy Joel concert at Madsion Square Garden and a bit of opera and the Broadway shows.



It cannot be underestimated what value these tours have on the members of the band from a musical standpoint but also enabling them to grow as a person.

From the musical side the band members get to see how other musicians play, how they put their shows together and sometimes the chance to interact with these people as most are more than forthcoming to have a chat.

All of the experiences from touring assist with giving back in the “classroom” when returning to NZ so as has been the case over the last 50 years of the Rodger Fox Big Band I am sure the current crop of players will continue to share the knowledge they gained on tour and this is why these events are so important to keeping the music alive.



Life living in a big band




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