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Commentary: Livin' in Liverpool August 4

Big band traces its roots to Legion Post 188

On Saturday afternoon Sun Harbor resident Larry Luttinger relaxed for a few minutes during his busiest weekend of the year at the second annual Northeast Jazz & Wine Festival down city.

The festival director -- who's also executive director of the CNY Jazz Central and the drummer for the CNY Jazz Orchestra and percussionist for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra -- sat down backstage to reminisce about the origins of The Rhythm-Airs, the 16-piece big band which was added to the 2010 festival line-up at the last minute.

Just as bandleader Maureen Clum prepared to open The Rhythm-Airs main-stage set with "Leap Frog," Larry remembered how her band got its start in the late-1970s at Liverpool's American Legion Post 188.

"They were named The Legionnaires back then in honor of their rehearsal hall," Larry said. "I remember they had a trumpet player by the name of Russ Stott. And then they changed the name I guess because of all the bad publicity about Legionnaires' disease."

The band began as The Legionnaires in 1977 when city school district music educator Theron Forbes organized the orchestra at Post 188.

In the mid-1980s, the band moved to Eddie Butler's restaurant in Armory Square, before changing its name and relocating to Baldwinsville's Fireside Inn and then to Le Moyne Manor on Old Liverpool Road.

Over the years the The Rhythm-Airs benefited from the leadership of Sal Phillips and Mike Zahn before Ms. Clum took over out front.

On Saturday, Maureen played a beautiful muted trumpet on Clyde McCoy's "Sugar Blues," while vocalist Augie Simonetta channeled Sinatra on "Night & Day" and Darin on "Mack the Knife." Pianist Mimi Osmun sang a lachrymose "Boo Hoo" before the horn sections added their voices to the mix on "Pennsylvania 6-5000."

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