The Urban Renewal Big Band has its roots in the Jimmy Coe Orchestra, which was a band of the Count Basie tradition performing modern jazz as well as popular music loved by generations. The orchestra was based in Indianapolis and performed regionally from the 1960s through 2003. Following Coe's death in 2004, there was a void in the central Indiana area of full-sized big bands playing modern jazz of the urban tradition. When we speak of the "urban jazz" tradition, this is intentionally vague. In general, it means there is a big emphasis on energy, spontaneity, "the groove", and improvisation. This is a little different from the "Swing era big band" tradition that was more about familiar song forms, less intense harmonies and rhythms, and suitability to swing dancing.
In 2009, trumpeter Cliff Ratliff and singer Larry Greene decided to form a band that would fill this void, performing regularly at the Jazz Kitchen and other places in the area. Never envisioned to be a major touring or recording band, the focus of the group was to provide a place for musicians to collaborate playing music of the modern jazz style.
Thus the Clifford Ratliff Big Band was formed. This group has rehearsed regularly and performed frequently from 2009 through 2018. Jimmie Coe Jr. has served as the band manager throughout that time. Along the way, Rudy Finnell joined as bassist and Artistic Director. In this decade, Rudy (and several other band members) have penned dozens of unique arrangements that are not performed by any other band, making every performance a unique experience.
In 2018, Cliff is moving to the East Coast to be closer to family and to start a new musical journey. While Cliff promises to return frequently and be with us on the bandstand, this change caused the band to think about our mission. The mission is mostly about the music and keeping it relevant for the public. Therefore, we are adopting the new name Urban Renewal Big Band, which we think nicely represents who we are and what we want to do. Jimmie Coe Jr. continues as band manager, Rudy Finnell continues as Artistic Director and the band personnel continues essentially as before, other than a hole in the trumpet section that can never be filled.