Creole Gumbo Jazz Band Turns 5

The Creole Gumbo Jazz Band – Jim Ritter, cornet; Ben Redwine, clarinet; Rick Rowe, banjo; Tom Holtz, tuba

We celebrated the 5th anniversary of our first gig at The Westlawn Inn. It pains me to think that, at one point, Jim was thinking of hanging up the cornet for good! I’m glad he came to his senses before he did anything foolish. This has become a really fun and really good little band.

It all started when Jim Ritter bought a place down in Chesapeake Beach, MD, for a getaway house for he and his wife, Betty. They were spending all their weekends out on the western shore, and coming up to this great little restaurant up in North Beach. They became regular customers of the Westlawn Inn, and soon got to know the owner, Lee Travers.

One weekend, they sat at a table in the corner, where there are pictures on the wall of a 1960’s rock band. Hanging with the pictures are a few 45 RPM singles all framed very nicely. Jim asked Lee who those guys were, and as it turns out, that’s Lee’s band from back in the day.

Well, Jim and Lee got to talking about music, and musicians, and bands, and playing, and so on and so forth. Wouldn’t you know it, the two of them talked themselves into a semi-serious semi-regular jazz gig at the Westlawn Inn. Lee committed to hiring a four-piece group, all acoustic, for evening dinner audiences. That’s no small commitment, especially when you’re an independent restaurant owner in a small town in southern Maryland. Jim pulled me on board as the one Buck Creek Jazz Band veteran left in town. I had never met Ben Redwine before, but I’d played with Rick Rowe plenty of times, and it’s always good when Rick is on the gig.

I was really impressed with the Westlawn Inn the first time I walked in. This is a place as nice as any in Annapolis or DC, and the food is amazing. The chef is for real, the entire Travers family works hard every day and night making it the best restaurant it can be, and it really lends itself well to live music. I realized that Lee had built the restaurant to fund his music habit when we set up that first night, five years ago. There’s a box with a dozen microphone inputs hardwired into the wall where the band sets up, routed to a mixing board near the host’s stand at the door. He brings his rock and roll buddies in, and they blow the doors off the place.

It was fun the first night, and it’s only gotten better over the years. We’ve accumulated a nice little following when we play there, and we have a pretty good reputation among the locals. They know they can have dinner and still have a conversation even though there’s a band right there in their faces playing live. Since Jim was used to my concert tuba, because that’s what I could fit on the plane for all the Buck Creek appearances, this is the one jazz gig where I don’t take the helicon. Besides, Lee runs a classy operation, and he’s been taking care of us loyally for five years. The least I can do for the guy is bring the shiny tuba.

Go visit The Westlawn Inn or Like them here.