80-year-old founding member of Spokane Jazz Orchestra prepares for final performance

80-year-old founding member of Spokane Jazz Orchestra prepares for final performance

The Spokane Jazz Orchestra formed in 1975, the organization helped bring famous names to the area – including Dizzy Gillepsie, The Drifters and Ben E. King. The orchestra has helped guide several hundreds of jazz musicians throughout the years.

One of SJO’s founding members is preparing to make his final performance next week, after putting in more than 40 years at the organization.

Judging by the youthful playing and accentuated notes, you almost wouldn’t guess, the musician playing just turned 80 years old. Keith Lamotte has been playing the trumpet for decades.

“There’s just a lot of heart in the way that he plays, and I just really admire that,” said Don Goodwin, musical director for Spokane Jazz Orchestra.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen my grandpa have a bad time playing music. And you can really hear that in his playing,” said Michael Gerety, Keith’s grandson and member of Spokane Jazz Orchestra.

Keith moved to Spokane in 1975 for his job, not knowing what to expect with the city’s music scene.

“I thought – my gosh. I had this really bad attitude about going to a little town after you’ve been in the big business in Los Angeles,” Lamotte said.

He had just wrapped playing with the Stan Kenton band. Back in the 60’s, this was a big name in the music industry.

“I was able to become a member of a band I idolized throughout all my youth,” Lamotte said.

However, Spokane impressed him in more ways than one. He soon became one of the founding members of the Spokane Jazz Orchestra. After more than 40 years, Keith is ready to be under the spotlight one last time.

“I’ve decided to pack it in. As you get into your 80’s – you don’t do things as well as in your 70’s,” Lamotte said.

“I’m glad that he’s going our on his terms. I’m glad that he’s going out on his terms and I’m very happy for him and very proud,” Gerety said.

He said that final performance will be nothing but a great memory, doing what he loves with the people he shares his passion with.

“I’m never sad or bitter when I’m having a chance to make great music with great other musicians,” Lamotte said.

He said he’ll continue to be a loyal audience member, as his grandson is taking the family talent and continuing the tradition.

“Having him part of something that I love so much is exceptional for me. Because he is so good at this craft,” Lamotte said.

“My grandfather and this organization has had a big part in making sure that students have the opportunity to see quality jazz on a regular basis here in the Spokane area,” Gerety said.

“Four concerts or more per year – for the last 40+ years. That legacy, I don’t know if that’ll ever happen again,” Goodwin said.

“It’s time to move aside and let someone else have the wonderful experience of playing in this band,” Lamotte said.

Keith’s final performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., December 15 at the Bing Crosby Theater. The Spokane Jazz Orchestra will be playing to The Sounds of Michael Buble. You can visit SJO’s website for more ticket information.

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