Wanna dance?

If you really love big-band music - or even if you don't - you have five good reasons to move your dancing legs down to Hellgate High School on Saturday night.

The University of Montana jazz department is teaming up with the Hellgate High School jazz band and the funk group Kung Fu Kongress for a night of dancing, jazz, funk and soul as a fund-raiser for both UM and Hellgate music programs.

All three UM jazz bands will be playing, as well as Hellgate's top jazz ensemble and KFK, a deep-funk band made up entirely of UM jazz musicians.

The event is a fundraiser for the UM Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival, which is suffering from hard times financially - as are many organizations that rely largely on fundraising.

"We're in serious jeopardy with the jazz festival," said UM jazz professor Lance Boyd, who also leads two of the three UM jazz ensembles. "So we're trying to reach out in any way we can."

Boyd joins Hellgate band director Leon Slater, who is similarly trying to raise money for another musical cause - his students' trip to the Honolulu Festival this spring, where they will play and march in the festival's parade in downtown Honolulu.

UM's jazz festival is having so much financial stress that it has had to pare down its weekend concerts, and will bring in only one guest artist each of the weekend nights. For nearly three decades, it has hosted two.

Boyd, who is the founder of the jazz festival and has guided its growth over the decades, is confident that Missoulians will hear the call of distress and come out for a night of dancing.

"I've said this long before this recession hit," said Boyd. "This is a very nurturing community. When people need help, they get help."

Boyd and Slater are more accustomed to being the center of attention in jazz concerts. But Boyd is also quick to stress that big-band music was America's dance music for more than 20 years in its heyday.

So he and Slater have pulled out the old dance charts to accommodate.

"I've put a number of things in the folder that we normally wouldn't do," he said, like "April in Paris" and other songs that are meant to get feet moving.

And, they hope, wallets opening.

Reach reporter Jamie Kelly at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.


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