[15-piece Soul/Funk R & B Revue. Authentic Classic Soul '63-'73]
GRAND WAZOO-Band of 1000 Dances was founded in 1981 by Trumpeter & Arranger JOHN MONTESANTE, who still leads the band today. His 'objective' was to recreate an authentic era of Soul, and he has since written arrangements for the 300+ numbers in the band's repertoire.
A musician for 30 years, Montesante's experience prior to establishing GRAND WAZOO ranged across Jazz, Soul, Funk, Swing & Rock- arranging & performing for outfits as diverse as 'Cafe Society Big Band' and the outlandish 'Kush' in the early 70s of which he was a founding member. (That band's 'Easy Street' soared to Number 1 in the charts). Montesante participated in jazz clinics & workshops with visiting greats like Jamie Aebersol, Randy Brecker & Dave Liebman.
Initially he set up a 10-piece outfit called 'Heavy Metal Be-Bop Band', but the name confused the Australian public, so he then chose GRAND WAZOO from Frank Zappa's mythical tale of warring jazz & classical types, where musical notes are used as weaponry.
Montesante's arrangements created excitement and he expanded the band to 17 members, when it moved to a 700 capacity venue, where 'full house' signs were always required whenever GRAND WAZOO-Band of 1000 Dances played. (The Soul addition to the name came from Wilson Pickett's 'Land of 1000 Dances')
His uncanny knack for picking rising stars saw vocalists like a youthful Kate Ceberano, Alex Burns, Robbie Forster, Zan & Sherrine performing with the band. Prominent musicians and singers always turned up to watch GRAND WAZOO work. Montesante was concurrently writing charts and conducting the 20-piece CAFE SOCIETY BIG BAND for a monthly Swing night at another prominent venue.
Phenomenal success ensued, with the band saturated with offers, a potential US recording contract and bookings six nights a week. A slick manager then divided the camp and Montesante was undermined and lost GRAND WAZOO for two years.
He immediately established the 18-piece 'Reverend Blues & The Blues Messengers' in competition with his former band. The breakaway GRAND WAZOO exhausted it's potential without Montesante's passion and arrangements to drive it, and he was eventually offered back the name as a goodwill gesture.
The 'Reverend Blues' final gig , before retrieving the original name, was backing Sam & Dave, who were so impressed by Montesante's 'world class' arrangements that they urged him to return to the US as their Musical Director. He declined, choosing instead to rebuild the credibility of the 'Grand Wazoo' name. Subsequently GRAND WAZOO re- established itself as an institution, backing or supporting Soul artists of the calibre of Wilson Pickett, Nancy Wilson & Hot Chocolate, and producing a CD in 1998.
Eighteen years after its inception, GRAND WAZOO-Band of 1000 Dances is the only exclusively Soul Band in the southern hemisphere and performs at a variety of gigs & events and in the media. The band does a showcase on Sunday afternoons at The Rainbow Hotel,(Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia) where public, promoters, producers can see them live- and that is always packed out.
As Australia's Ambassador of Soul, JOHN MONTESANTE and his GRAND WAZOO have stood the test of time. Now, with the international resurgence of Soul Music, this revamped band's significant & unique contribution is again creating a sensation.