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The Old Style Sextet: Yes, They're Named After A Beer

Credit: oldstylesextet.com

Jazz is alive and well in the Midwest, according to Matt Endress – a native of Madison, Wis. – and Clark Gibson. They are members of the Champagne, Illinois based jazz band the Old Style Sextet.

The Old Style Sextet is a 2013 Downbeat Award winning group devoted to performing new music penned by the members of the band.  While the group was initially conceived of as a school sponsored ensemble at the University of Illinois, it quickly grew into a working band, intent on exploring its own musical voice through original music. The different tastes and musical backgrounds of the members of the group are reflected in the wide variety of styles in which they choose to write and play—from hard swinging blues and bop, to their brand of modern jazz. Old Style is set to record its first album this June. OSS remains active in the community performing at community service events, public outreach concerts, as well as clinics at schools and colleges throughout the Midwest.

With more degrees than a Russian protractor, the sextet is made up of several doctors and teachers, including Michael Fenoglio (fen-oh-lee-oh), Euan Edmonds, Sam Peters, and Easton Stuard. Starting out as an academic project, the band quickly found success, winning several Downbeatawards, a jazz and blues recognition distributed by Downbeat music magazine.

Rachel Owens spoke with drummer Matt Endress and saxophonist Clark Gibson after playing their band, the Old Style Sextet’s song, “Mission.”

“The name of the group doesn’t have anything to do with the style of music we play,” Endress chuckles. “It’s actually from playing one of our first gigs; we were all drinking Old Style.”

The group started performing together after they met as college students. All enrolled in the University of Illinois as graduate and undergraduates, the group decided to pick up shows together. Awards and recognitions aside, both Endress and Gibson feel like their musical style is misunderstood, especially to younger generations who think jazz music is only defined by its roots in swing.

 “They have this view of jazz already set in their heads, of a rinky tinky, corny kinda of sound,” says Endress. “If you hear modern jazz today, it’s a different sound of what it used to be in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.”   

Credit Credit: oldstylesextet.com
(l-r) Sam Peters, Michael Fenoglio, Matt Endres, Easton Stuard, Euan Edmonds, and Clark Gibson make up the Old Style Sextet.


Gibson, 18 years as a professional musician, has seen the genre transform over the years. Today, jazz has moved into an academic area, where much of the music sounds a lot like “math problems.” For Gibson, jazz music is a style that certainly cannot be taught in a classroom setting.  

“I just hope we don’t lose the essence of jazz,” says Gibson. “I hope we don’t lose the improvisation and telling a story through the music and composition versus it just becoming an academic exercise.”   

Gibson notes that the jazz scene in the Midwest is strong and thriving. The Midwest in particular sees a large influence from the jazz music of Chicago, lots of guitar sounds. Historically, the Midwest tends to be more blues based.  

“There are great jazz players anywhere you go,” says Clark “whether you’re in a small town in the middle of Illinois or in a big city like Chicago or New York.”  

The group left with a rendition of “Mio Folia.” The Old Style Sextet features drummer Matt Endress, saxophonist Clark Gibson, saxophonist and composer Michael Fenoglio, trombonist Eaun Edmonds, jazz bassist Sam Peters, and pianist and multi-instrumentalist Easton Stuard.

View the Old Style Sextet's song "8 Ball" here, Composed by Clark Gibson.


Rachel is WUWM's Morning Edition host.