The Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra was formed in 1982 by former leader and founder, Ron Cope. Ron was part of a Downbeat award winning Traditional Jazz Band at the University Of Colorado – Denver. This group toured the country appearing on television and radio programs along with performing at traditional jazz festivals.
Through Ron’s travels and performances in Jazz Festival circuits on the West Coast, he was enamored with The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra out of the Bay area, which performed “flapper” music of the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1982, Ron formed a new group in the spirit of The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra and originally named it the 9th Street Flappers, after Denver’s 9th Street which borders the University of Colorado – Denver. The name of this group soon changed to The Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra.
With the advent of renewed interest in the Swing Era and swing dancing, the Hot Tomatoes transformed itself from a 1920s style band to a Swing-Era band performing numbers from Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and many others. The Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra soon became a regional favorite for concert goers and dancers alike and has performed not only in the Denver metro area, but also across the Western U.S. and Canada.
“Quiet and shy” Jack moved to Denver from Kansas when he was four years old and Denver has never been the same! After a four year stint in the Navy (assigned to two Admiral’s Bands), he graduated from DU and went on to teach in Denver Public Schools for 30 years, retiring in 1989. To his credit, Jack has performed with many entertainers, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Johnny Mathis, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, the Four Tops & Temptations, Rita Moreno, & Joan Rivers. He also played with the Denver Bronco Jazz Band for 32 years!! Jack joined The Hot Tomatoes in 1990.
In 1992, Joe joined The Hot Tomatoes and is also another Denver native. He has performed for many years in most of Denver’s finest nightclubs and has toured with such jazz greats as Gene Harris, Carmen McRae and Sammy Davis Jr. He has twice received the “Outstanding Bassist” award from DownBeat magazine. Joe just loves drivin’ the band!
Another alumnus from the Brown Palace Hotel Orchestra, Rich has been with the band since 1992 delighting fans with his musical interpretation of Artie Shaw and others. He has populated the saxophone sections of most of the best big bands in Denver for years. In addition to his many talents, Rich is also a professional piano technician.
A Colorado Native, Dave has been playing trombone in the Denver area for the past 25 years. He has performed with artists such as Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt, Frankie Valli, Rita Moreno, Marvin Hamlish, Jim Neighbors, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and the big bands of Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Riddle, and Benny Goodman. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from the University of Northern Colorado and is currently working on a doctoral degree in trombone performance at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dave has taught music in the Thornton, Colorado area for the past 20 years.
Gary live in Estes Park after retiring from a career that included responsibilities in marketing, public relations, and web/enterprise portal development for a Seattle-based software company. With a BME degree from the University of Missouri at Kanasa City, his primary interest in the arts evolved as a pianist that eventually led to performances/tours with the Andy Williams/Henry Mancini show as well as a number of ‘name’ road bands. His background includes various ‘hotel band’ gigs in Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Milwaukee, as well as a three -year stint in the house band at the venerable Taylors Supper Club in Denver. Visit Gary’s website at: www.gdempsey.com
Kevin came on board with the band in 1984. He attended the Eastman School of Music and received a trumpet performance degree upon graduation. Kevin is also a much sought-after freelance performer and arranger in both classical and jazz idioms.
Charlie is not only a business man but a well traveled musician. He has toured the world with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and performed with the Woody Herman Orchestra. Music festivals around the world have heard his trumpet playing. In the Denver area he plays on a regular basis with local ensembles, big bands, disco and jazz groups. Charlie holds a degree in trumpet performance from the University of Northern Colorado.
Ward Durrett is the owner of DrumsWest Percussion in Fort Collins, and his credentials also include Guest Lecturer at the University of Northern Colorado; Former Instructor of Percussion at Colorado State University as well as Colorado Christian University and Director of Admissions and Director of Percussion and Jazz Studies at the VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. A graduate of Millikin University and the US Navy School of Music, Mr. Durrett has performed with such noted band leaders Bob Crosby, Ray Eberly, Les Elgart and Ray McKinley as well as singer Carol Lawrence, entertainer Sheri Lewis, accordionist Myron Floren and Al Pierson (Guy Lombardo Orchestra).
Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute