Arts & Culture

Forming MOJO

Missouri Jazz Orchestra plays Cartoons Oyster Bar Tuesday.

By Brett Johnston

Apr 03 2017 at 11:39 a.m.

Randy Hamm, Director of Jazz Studies at Missouri State University, grew up surrounded by jazz music. “Jazz was in my house,” he says. “I was four or five years old listening to Wes Montgomery and players like that.”


Hamm’s first instrument was guitar, but that quickly changed when his father, a weekend jazz musician in southern Indiana, introduced him to saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. “I think I was 14,” Hamm says. His father had an 8-track tape of Adderley’s sextet in the car. “At that time, I was still listening to guitar players. I listened to Cannonball and flipped out—I was totally immersed.”


Hamm left southern Indiana for the internationally acclaimed school of jazz at the University of North Texas. He says he ended up in Springfield in 1989. “There were only three other gigs for saxophonists in the entire country,” Hamm says. “I moved here for the job at Missouri State.”


But teaching sax and jazz full-time isn’t enough to curb Hamm’s musical appetite. Seven years ago, he started the Missouri Jazz Orchestra, known better as MOJO, a big band orchestra comprised of players from Springfield, Joplin, Branson and other communities. “These are guys who have regular day jobs, or are music teachers and love jazz, and continue to play around town,” Hamm says.

The group plays the first and third Tuesday of each month at Cartoon’s Oyster Bar. “We stretch across [eras of jazz],” Hamm says. “Count Basie from the 1950s, Buddy Rich from the ‘60s, to contemporary charts. It’s a cross-section of the history of big band music.”


Can't make it to Tuesday night's show? MOJO will run a live stream on Facebook.