Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra

Swing - Jazz - Big Band
Bay Music and Entertainment performer Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra

Don Neely and the ten piece Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, from San Francisco, are renowned for capturing the essence of Hot Swing, Hot Dance, Hot 1920’s Syncopated Big Band Jazz, Cotton Club, and 1920’s Jazz and 1930’s Jazz, with an approach both fresh and exciting.

Innovators such as Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Biederbecke, and Louis Armstrong are among the group’s inspirations but the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra has a personality all its own. Electrified by the RSJO’s sound, dancers do the the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Charleston, and East Coast Swing to band’s music. Songs in their repertoire include those written by Fats Waller, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, Walter Donaldson, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and many others from Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Vaudeville and the Silver Screen.

n addition to the eleven-piece Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Don Neely also leads three superior small ensembles: the Royal Society Six, the Don Neely Quartet, and the Don Neely Trio. These groups are immensely popular at weddings, private parties, special events, jazz festivals, and public dances throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Each of our ensembles is perfect for dances, for dinner music, and even for cosy events where a warm and intimate atmosphere is desired.

Whatever size ensemble you require, all of our musical groups specialize in entertaining people with smart Broadway classics, popular swing standards, traditional jazz classics, and Latin favorites. From the trio to the sextet, we’ve got what it takes to add a sophisticated and jazzy touch to your party.

Whatever musical styles you prefer, we will help you select the right music to make your party perfect.

From the eleven-piece Royal Society Jazz Orchestra down to the Don Neely Trio, every ensemble provides the highest calibre music.

Drawing inspiration from the great bands, performers and composers of the “Jazz Age” and “Swing Era,” Don Neely and the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra affectionately and authentically recapture the excitement and fascination of that musical heyday. Guided by their affinity for the superb music of innovators such as Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Louis Armstrong, Bix Biederbecke, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and songwriters like Harry Warren, Fats Waller, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, and Walter Donaldson, the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra has captivated audiences all across the country.

The eleven-member RSJO present the colorful songs made famous by such greats as Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, Ruth Etting, Eddie Cantor, Billie Holiday, Helen Ward, Dick Powell, Ethel Waters, Fred Astaire, Maurice Chevalier, the Boswell Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and Al Jolson. And what songs! Avalon, Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams, Three Little Words, Truckin,’ The Music Goes ‘Round and ‘Round, Walkin’ My Baby Back Home, Moten Swing, Hello Beautiful, and Shakin’ The Blues Away. Don Neely draws from several sources, including the best of Silver Screen and Broadway classics such as the Gold Diggers movies, Top Hat, Shall We Dance, Cotton Club Parade, Anything Goes, Footlight Parade, Babes In Arms, The Wizard of Oz, 42nd Street and The Blue Angel.

One of the many things that set this eleven-member ensemble apart is their genuine understanding of the music they perform. By going back and carefully studying the original musical ideas of the period, they have been able to achieve their remarkably authentic sound. The band’s entertaining and talented soloists are creatively spotlighted in their exciting and varied show, providing many delightful surprises. And the RSJO plays it all – from intricately-faceted, Syncopated Jazz to ultra-sleek, Big Band Swing.

When the saxophones and brass sound their first rousing phrases, the audience will know they are in for a rare experience. Projecting the original and exhilarating spirit of the music, they deliver each song, from high-flying barn burners, bitter sweet love ballads and earthy blues to whimsical novelties, in a fresh and dynamic style all their own. With propulsive rhythms and inventive harmonies, their sound captures audiences in its spell and tranports them to the “Jazz Age,” setting their minds and feet to dancing. A concert journey with the RSJO covers a grand panorama of classic American music, from red-hot, Harlem nightclub revues and saucy Vaudeville shows to the Broadway extravaganzas of Florenz Ziegfeld and celluloid fantasies of Busby Berkeley. The artistically fertile time known as the “Art Deco” era, gave birth to some of the most stylish and intriguing music ever created. The RSJO presents a stirring array of selections drawn from this musical cornicopia-from the most celebrated and enduring songs to newly rediscovered gems. Experiencing a performance by the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra is a wonderful tonic, alive with fun, and guaranteed to lift the spirits.

The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra became a smash sensation in San Francisco, gathering a large following of enthusiastic fans. Their concerts and other performances have taken them all across the country and abroad and include engagements at Paramount Theatres in California, Illinois and Texas, Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, San Francisco Symphony Pops Concert, Toronto Jazz Festival, Connecticut Jazz Festival, Sacramento Jazz Festival, St. Louis Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and the San Diego Jazz Festival. The orchestra starred in an hour-long PBS television special, a first-rate production. The RSJO is a prolific recording ensemble with several highly-acclaimed compact discs to their credit. In addition to concert appearances, they have enjoyed long-running engagements at several famous places. They have played for several San Francisco Black and White Balls, opening night galas for the San Francisco Symphony, Opera, and Ballet, international cruises and scores of high profile San Francisco social events. The orchestra was voted #1 Favorite Big Band in the Jazzology Poll, and was voted most popular Big Band in the American Rag music poll. The RSJO’s popularity and authenticity inspire many large-scale Art Deco-era-themed events in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Critic’s Comments

“The Royal Society is solid, tight, brilliant … It is at once a first-rate dance orchestra, a fine jazz ensemble (with strong soloists) … Carla Normand is the band’s perfect singer … a bright, sure-pitched gem of a voice.” - Phillip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner, Music Critic ”Royal Society is a class act in every way … Among the high spots, Frederick Hodges continues to knock me out with his dead-center replications of the technically demanding novelty-rag-infused white pop piano licks of the twenties. Multi-instrumentalist Neely is not only a strong soloist but also an engaging vocalist, evoking various period male singers from Ted Lewis, Rudy Vallee on up … Carla Normand’ s complete grasp of the idiom and just right pipes are impressive as always … possessing impeccable diction, accurate pitch and a voice that has just the right blend of warmth and cutting edge … Carla is always a pleasure to hear” - Tex Wyndham, American Rag

“Lovingly and precisely recaptures the sound in a irrepressible, irresistible style … Neely deserves a national medal … for preserving this music with such affection and accuracy … the whole idea soars when Normand steps to the mike and, in her lithe .. voice, sings “Get Out and Get Under The Moon” (which is so Ettingish it’ s spooky) ” - Gerald Nachman, San Francisco Chronicle

“the R.S.J.O. has matured and developed a tough, elegant art moderne surface to their work-they sound remarkably like a big-league hot dance band … Neely is excellent at reconstructing reed styles of the day, especially on clarinet and alto … the craftmanship here is excellent, and the music is consistently interesting, imaginative and varied. Don Neely has organized a highly entertaining show … Carla Normand … has clearly listened to the great song spinners, Lee Wiley, Mildred Bailey, Billie Holiday, et al.-and absorbed their intuitive approaches to phrasing and intonation. Only a handful of stylists survived the test of time, and she has paid close attention to their work, continuing the tradition respectfully but with fire and personal elegance … She sings with confidence and elan and projects a solid feeling of mastery over the songs.” - William J. Schafer, Mississippi Rag, Jazz Critic

“perfect in capturing the full essence of the past … the band plays with an effervescence … Neely’ s group really has the sound down pat … Carla Normand’ s voice is akin to singers of that period-Leah Ray, Helen Rowland and Annette Hanshaw as examples. Normand is really the find.” - Rapport, Contemporary guide to Books Art & Entertainment, Los Angeles

“Capturing the feeling, phrasing and intonation of bands that recorded over fifty years ago is not easy, as is proven constantly by contemporary ensemble that try. But the R.S.J.O. is more successful and versatile … placing its primary emphasis on the spirit of the originals, not on slavish, note-for-note accuracy.” - John S. Wilson

“Carla Normand has a warm, rich voice and sings in a boldly confident style … all of which she delivers with awareness of the lyrics and the nuances of the composer’ s craft.” - Jazz Journal International, Great Britain

“Excellent … Splendid … First Rate … Fine … Wondrous” - Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle

“It would be difficult to select a highlight from their program because each of the numbers was different and filled with zest. They seemed to have captured the best … of the big band era, keeping the audience interested in not only what was being played but in what they were doing as well.” - St. Louis Dispatch

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