When Normal native Ryan Weisheit played the GLT Summer Concert in 2104 with Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers, he gushed at the time about the thriving "Hot Jazz" scene in his current home base of New York City. Three years later, he said the scene is still growing, and wondering if the bubble will eventually burst.
"I wonder if there are going to be too many bands and not enough demand, but I think it's still at a pretty healthy ratio right now," said Weisheit.
Demand for Weisheit's talent is also growing. He was recently picked up by fellow Twin City native Pokey LaFarge to play saxophone full time in his band. It would be natural to conclude the Bloomington-Normal connection made it happen, but Weisheit said it was actually a conversation in New York City with LaFarge's drummer Matt Meyer that sparked the move. Meyer is a New Jersey native and a frequent player in the New York City Hot Jazz scene Weisheit has embedded himself into.
"I happened to bump into him when he was home in New Jersey for the holiday's," said Weisheit. "I asked him how it was going with Pokey and mentioned that Pokey and I were from the same town in Illinois. He said 'really, let me get your number because we may need someone for our next tour.' A couple days later I was on the phone with Pokey, and a couple days after that I flew out to St. Louis to meet him and the band. A couple days after that he offered me the job full time."
So now Weisheit is a full time member of two bands, which is keeping him quite busy. When he finishes this current tour with LaFarge in late February, he and his sweetheart Megg Farrell take their Hot Jazz group "Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers" on the road for a southern swing that includes a stop in New Orleans.
"Right now we play a lot in the tri-state area just because there's a lot of work there and it's where our fan base is. But it's been a goal of ours to become more of a touring band traveling the U.S. and the world playing our music for people," said Weisheit.
So far, he said he's liking what he's seeing of life on the road during the early days of touring with LaFarge.
"Especially when you have a group like Pokey's that is so established and well run. You know where you're sleeping every night, and most night's it's been a hotel room. It's been a real pleasure seeing the 'next tier' or a couple tiers up from what I'm used to in terms of how it's run and what a professional organization it is," said Weisheit.
Pokey LaFarge with new saxophonist Ryan Weisheit makes his annual return to The Castle Theater in Bloomington Saturday, February 18. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., Showtime is 8:00 p.m.