No stranger to WAMI, Warren Wiegratz has received the WAMI Award for Reeds/Brass Player of the Year an unprecedented 12 times.
Early in his career, he joined Milwaukee-based Sweetbottom (1973-1980), a highly acclaimed jazz/fusion group which recorded five successful albums including two on the Elektra/Asylum label. He later formed Oceans (1981-1990), a contemporary jazz group that recorded two nationally released albums. They led to appearances on NBC’s Today show, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS Sports.
Warren has performed and recorded with countless renowned artists including Phil Collins, George Duke, Al Dimeola, Daryl Stuermer, The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Supremes, Steve Smith, Jaco Pastorius, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Spheeris, Bobby Caldwell, Eric Benet and many more.
Scoring credits include two motion pictures (Dreamweaver, Lady MAry) and his tune Felicia is featured on the soundtrack of the film, “I Love You to Death (Columbia/Tri-Star Pictures.) He’s won several Addys for scoring commercials. Mr. Wiegratz’s original orchestral concerto “Three Scenes for Contemporary Jazz Saxophone and Orchestra” has been performed throughout the state.
Warren’s solo version of The Star Spandled Banner has received national acclaim providing countless opportunities for him to perform it at sporting events across the country. He was recently selected as Jazz Artist of the Year by Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express publication.
Additionally, Warren is resident composer at Milwaukee’s Beat House Recording, lead tenor saxophonist with the WAMI Award winning All Star SuperBand and a member of Hal Leonard Music Publishing’s “A-Team” of studio musicians.
Originally from Oshkosh, Janet’s decades-long career as an accomplished jazz vocalist launched following her success at a high school talent show.
Since those early years, Janet’s busy concert schedule has taken her to performing arts centers, opera houses, colleges, universities, jazz festivals and jazz clubs across the USA and internationally with appearances in Europe and Japan.
Jazziz Magazine hailed her as a “Voice of the New Jazz Culture … amazingly powerful with seemingly limitless expression.” To date, Ms. Planet has performed alongside such legends as Jackie and Roy, George Benson, Nancy King, Ellis Marsalis, Gene Bertoncini, Marian McPartland and WAMI Hall of Fame member John Harmon.
Known for her unique vocal stylings, Planet employs a faultless technique to the service of phrase and text. Her clear but easy diction explores surfaces and recesses alike. In ballads, even sambas, the sheer beauty of her tone takes her performance to a level of its own. Cadence Magazine says of Janet: “She displays uncanny vocal virtuosity … voice and lyric can be heard as one.”
Janet has 25 recordings in her discography to date, the most recent titled “Janet Planet Sings the Bob Dylan Songbook.” In addition to performing and recording, she co-founded Stellar Sound Productions, a record label that has consistently earned praise from reviewrs. She also owns Steel Moon Recording Studio in Oshkosh with her husband, musician Tom Washatka.
In Ms. Planet’s own words: “The honor of being accepted by musicians and listeners alike is not taken lightly. When you get to a certain point in a singing career, yes, it is about ‘working.’ But it’s also about breathing life into each moment … breathing honesty into a lyric … and hopefully, breathing love into a listener’s ear.”
Herman, one of the greatest big band leaders of all time, was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herrman in Milwaukee on May 16, 1913. He began performing at age 6, singing in Vaudeville, but by age 12, he was playing saxophone and clarinet. As a student at Marquette University, he began playing with several regional big bands.
In 1934, he joined the Isham Jones (“It had to be You”) Orchestra. When Jones left, Herman wisely took over and in 1936 reformed the “Woody Herman Orchestra,” known as “the Band that Plays the Blues,” though some tunes also had a distinct Dixieland feel. This first band recorded on the Decca label; Herman can be heard both singing and playing clarinet.
By 1943, the Woody Herman ORchestra was evolving into the first “Herd.” By the end of 1944, Herman had what was essentially a new orchestra. It was a wild, good-time band with screaming ensembles, propelled by first trumpeter Pete Candoli. By 1945, the (first) Herd was considered to be the most exciting big band in jazz, progressive in style. Popular hits included “Caldonia,” “Your Father’s Mustache” and the classically-based “Ebony Concerto.” Woody established himself as the bandleader with the modern repertoire, always cutting edge with creative music. However, in 1946, family problems led him to break up the band.
In mid 1947. Woody formed a new orchestra called the Second Herd aka The Four Brothers Band. Included on its roster were tenors Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. Other notables in this “Herd” included Gene Ammons, Oscar Pettiford, Terry Gibbs and Shelly Manne. Among this band’s hits were “Early Autumn” and “The Goof and I.” HErman and his band appear in the 1947 movie “New Orleans.”
Herman’s other bands include the Third Herd (1950-1956) and various editions of the New Thundering Herd (1959-1987). In the 1960s, he gained wider recognition by fronting one of the most exciting Herds featuring future stars like drummer Jake Hanna, saxophonist Sal Nistico, trombonist Phil Wilson and trumpeter Bill Chase. By 1968, the Herman library came to be influenced by rock and roll.
In the early 1970s, he toured frequently and began to work more in jazz education, offering workshops and taking on younger sidemen, earning the nickname “Road Father.”
He celebrated his 40th anniversary as a leader with a notable 1976 Carnegie Hall concert. Herman, who might have taken it easy, kept on touring and working into his 70s. He celebrated his 50th anniversary as a bandleader in 1986, continuing to introduce young stars to the jazz world. Failing health led to his death on October 29, 1987,
His music lives on through more than 80 recordings on labels including RCA, Capitol, MGM and Verve. Herman also received four Grammy Awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award.