The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 20, 2013

Jazz Babies maintain Christmas Eve tradition; Home Free concerts sold out, will compete in 'Sing-Off' finale

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Jazz Babies maintain Christmas Eve tradition

MANKATO — Playing Pub 500 on the afternoon of Christmas Eve has become a 10-year tradition for the Blue Ox Jazz Babies.

Apparently, those performances have also become tradition for fans of the south-central Minnesota six-piece and local keepers of the Dixieland jazz tradition.

“For the last two years, it’s been just packed,” said Jim Hayes, who plays trombone in the ensemble and traces his Dixieland jazz roots back to the Marigold Marching Dixieland Band. That band, he said, was comprised mostly of employees of the old Marigold dairy and earned national acclaim during a top finish at a music convention in 1960. “We get young and old, people who love Dixieland jazz and people who have never heard it. It’s quite a mixed bag.”

For the Blue Ox Jazz Babies, next week’s pair of concerts — 6-9 p.m. on Monday at the Loose Moose Saloon and 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Pub 500 — represent the exclamation mark on a long and successful year.

In addition to music festivals in Winona and Clear Lake, Iowa, the Jazz Babies also performed at Grugelfest in Toledo, Ohio. Coming up in March, the band will fulfill an invitation for play for the Madison (Wis.) Jazz Society.

“Group are starting to pay attention to what we’re doing a little bit,” Hayes said.

The remaining members of the Blue Ox Jazz Babies include: Tim Robinson (trumpet), Barry Clapper (clarinet), Tom Owens (washboard), Ted Schreyer (tuba) and Debbie Owens (banjo).

Home Free concerts sold out; in NBC show finale Monday

MANKATO — The a capella vocal band with Mankato roots, Home Free, has now sold out a second, matinee performance on Sunday at Hosanna Lutheran Church.

The group — which formed after winning a talent competition at Hosanna more than a decade ago and has since risen to national prominence — scheduled the second show after the first sold out earlier this week.

The band is currently enjoying a run of national celebrity as a contestant on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” (which was recorded earlier this year). After Thursday’s episode, the group will appear in the season finale on Monday. At stake is $100,000 and a Sony Music recording contract.

Tanner Kent