Jim Oatts grew up in a musical family, living in Earlham and Jefferson, Iowa. His father Jack, a professional jazz musician and educator, was a guiding force in Jim's musical development. During high school in Jefferson, Jim played with the R & B band, The Elm Street Grocery. They participated in numerous Battles of the Bands, the Iowa State Fair's Teen Town, and weekend gigs. While attending Drake University, Jim played with the Spartans who were inducted into the IRRMA Hall of Fame in 2005.
During the 70's Jim joined the trumpet rock band Chase. Jim, along with Dartanyan Brown (2011 IRRMA inductee), was fortunate to record the last Chase Album "Pure Music" before Bill and several other band members were killed in an airplane accident. In recent years, Chase Revisited has performed concerts in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Boston.
Jim has toured with the legendary Wilson Pickett. He also performed with the Temptations, Four Tops, Donna Summer, Sammy Davis Jr., Four Lads, Johnny Ray, Cab Calloway, and Stallion. His acting credits include appearances in Magnum P.I. and the ABC movie "Blood and Orchids" featuring Kris Kristofferson.
Jazz has also been a major force in Jim's life. He toured and recorded with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and the grammy-award winning Machito Latin Jazz Orchestra. Other tours include Woody Herman and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. In addition, Jim Oatts has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen, Tony Bennett, Al Martino, Anita O'Dey, Joe Williams, Vic Damone, Clark Terry, "Toots" Theilman, and others. Jim, a recognized jazz educator and performer, was inducted into the CJC Jazz Hall of Fame in 2008.
After living and performing in New York City, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, and Honolulu, Jim returned to Des Moines to visit his parents and to fill a temporary teaching position while he was considering going back out on the road. That temporary teaching position turned into a 25-plus year career in music education in Iowa schools.
Jim currently leads the Des Moines Big Band. During his 25-year tenure as leader, Jim produced the band's five cds and three specials for Iowa Public Television. The band performs Monday evenings at Adventureland Inn in Altoona. He also performs with the Tony Valdez Large Band (IRRMA Hall of Fame inductee).
Jim recently retired from teaching band after 27 years in Iowa public schools. However, he is currently teaching trumpet at Simpson College in Indianola and, in addition to regular gigs, is busy as a clinician and guest soloist.
Jim Oatts was blessed with a wonderful family. He and wife Lori have triplet sons, Chris, Jeff, and Eric who are following in their dad's footsteps. All three are pursuing music degrees and turned 21 on September 1, during the 2012 IRRMA Hall of Fame festivities.
Dick Oatts, Saxophone - Born and raised in the state of Iowa, Dick Oatts was brought up in a musical family. He was introduced to the saxophone by his father Jack Oatts, a respected jazz educator and saxophonist. After high school, Dick attended Drake University and in 1972 he began his professional career in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
It was 1977 when Oatts decided to move to New York City. He then became a member if the Thad Jones - Mel Lewis Orchestra. Since then he has recorded and toured with small groups such as Red Rodney, Eddie Gomez, Vic Juric, Bob Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis, Dom Salvador, Jerry Bergonzi, Flim & the BB's, Fred Hersch, Dave Berkman, Soren Moller, Terell Stafford, Jon Faddis, Lalo Schiffrin, and Ray Mantilla.
His big band and larger group experience include performances with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Mel Lewis, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Lester Bowie, Joe Lovano, Sam Jones-Tom Harrell, Paquito D'Rivera, Jim McNeely, Tito Puente, Kenny Wheeler, and Gunther Schuller. Oatts has also been featured with the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band, Norboton Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, and the UMO Big Band in Helsinki. He has accompanied such vocalists as Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Neene Freelon, Mel Torme, and Milton Nascimento. He has recorded solos for pop artists Luther Vandross, James Taylor, and Everything But the Girl.
Oatts is now a Steeplechase recording artist and has six Cd's released as a leader. (All of Three, Standard Issue, Simone's Dance, Standard Issue vol. 2, South Paw, Gratitude). He also has a CD out on the RED label with bassist Dave Santoro entitled Meru. Dick has 3 CDs as a leader on the DMP label with pianist and a co-leader Garry Dial.
For 30 years, Mr. Oatts has appeared at college jazz festivals as a soloist and clinician throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, South America, and the Middle East. Oatts is a professor of Jazz Studies at the Boyer School of Music at Temple University and has been an artist-in-residence at the Amsterdam Conservatory since 1997.
Sue Oatts, Jazz Singer - An extraordinary jazz vocalist, Sue (Oatts) Tucker, comes from a family of known jazz musicians. She didn't have to look far for encouragement when her love for singing took off. "My father, Jack Oatts, was one of the first jazz educators in Iowa. Music was always around... mostly jazz." Her brothers, Jim and Dick Oatts, are also internationally known and respected jazz artists.
Before she took up singing, Sue was blowin' her tenor sax in jazz band and playing a duet with Clark Terry at a jazz festival on her clarinet. "I think playing a horn has had a great influence on my singing. I've tried to approach singing from an instrumental mindset. Space is just as important as sound and attention to the lyric is paramount . The focus of my music is to capture emotion instead of constant embellishment."
After attending college, Sue began a studio career producing and singing jingles and industrials with a voice-over thrown in on occasion. She spent seven years teaching music theory, vocal studio techniques and coordinating the ensemble dept. at McNally Smith College of Music in downtown St. Paul and six years as Assistant Director of Education and Registrar at the Institute of Production & Recording in downtown Minneapolis. Sue has finished her B.S. in Business Administration and is currently back at McNally Smith College of Music as the Associate Registrar. Sue has been a board member of the Twin Cities Jazz Society and you'll find her at various night spots in the Twin Cities and beyond singing her cool jazz.
All of Sue's CD's are available at her website www.sueoatts.com, Amazon.com, CDBaby, iTunes and at all live performances.
Jim Eklof, Percussion - Jim has been with the Des Moines Big Band since 1960. A graduate of Drake University, he has taught music in and out of the public school systems for nearly fifty years and is highly regarded as a clinician.
He has performed from coast to coast as the drummer for the marvelous Marilyn Maye since 1971 with regular engagements in Manhattan and Miami and numerous symphonic pops performances around the country.
Now retired from his career as an educator, his performance schedule has become even busier.
Steve Charlson, Bass - Steve has toured with the Glen Miller Orchestra besides being the most sought after bass player in Iowa. Steve also plays with several of Iowa's symphonies. He is a regular with the Des Moines Big Band and was featured on the most recent CD.
Tanner Taylor, Piano - Tanner is a native of Jefferson, Iowa. While living in Des Moines he was a regular member of the Des Moines Big Band and the Tony Valdez Large Band. Since moving to Minneapolis, Tanner is in high demand as one of their premier jazz musicians. He also is on faculty at the IPR School of Music Production. Tanner studied piano with Gary Dial.