Performance marks new CD, a 95th birthday

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 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

The Liz Wood Project Featuring Joe Keracher began as a one-note project.

Vocalist Liz Wood had been in a college band with drummer Jimmy Henderson, performing what could best be described as alternative-type rock with some covers.

Later, when a band Henderson was performing with needed a singer for a Christmas engagement, he called on his former band mate.

The song list didn’t include many alternative rock tunes; Henderson and the band played jazz standards. But for this show, they were doing Christmas tunes, Wood said, so it was songs she knew.

“He said, ‘Sing ‘em jazzy,’” she recalled.

The performance obviously went well, and the band gave Wood a CD of jazz standards to learn – music from artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Louis Armstrong – for future performances.

“It wasn’t a genre I was all that familiar with, much less appreciative of,” Wood said.

About seven years later, with the band bearing her name and launching its third CD, that situation seems to have changed.

The Liz Wood Project featuring Joe Keracher will perform Sept. 20, at the Water Wall beside the Pitman Theater for Downtown Gadsden, Inc.’s Third Thursday series. 

Music starts at 6 p.m. and continues until dark. Every one is invited to bring their dinner, their coolers, lawn chairs and dancing shoes.

The performance will mark the launch of the band’s third CD, “Happiness is a thing called Joe,” which is being issued in honor of clarinet player Joe Keracher’s 95th birthday. The band’s first CD, “Spare Time,” Wood said, was recorded in honor of Keracher’s 90th birthday. In between, the band recorded “Yule Time,” a collection of Christmas favorites.

Henderson joked that Liz and Joe, featured on the cover of the new CD, are the stars of the band. “The rest of us are just flunkies,” he said.

The rest includes lead guitarist Brian Bankston – by day, band director at Gadsden Middle School, and normally, bass player Tim Caroll. Henderson said Carroll is the only professional musician of the bunch. He’s currently touring in Asia with his other band, “Act of Congress.” Joe Skaggs will be playing bass for the Sept. 20 performance.

“Everyone else does something else to pay the bills. We do this because we enjoy it,” Henderson said.

Until recently, Henderson said, Keracher tuned pianos for Baker Music, and he bowls around three times a week. Wood’s day job is at FDL Landscraping and Design. Henderson is a graphic artist, which came in handy for the band. He designed their CD covers. Joe Keracher’s son Mike executive produced the band’s CDs.

“There’s definitely an audience for what we do,” Wood said, “but we’re not the normal band you would see on Friday night at the bar.”

Henderson said copies of all three of the groups CD’s will be for sale at the Sept. 20 performance, for $10 each.

“Happiness is a thing called Joe” was recorded at the Gadsden Vineyard Christian Fellowship church on Broad Street. Wood said for some reason, the acoustics there were wonderful for performing and recording music.

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