Get your toes tappin’ and your sway on for a Green Mill experience at Berwyn’s own Friendly Tap. The Packastanleys offers a collaboration between six, unique musicians melding their sounds into a cohesive jazz ensemble.
Meet Tim Teclaw, the band’s talented saxophonist who has a personality that shines brighter than his brass. While listening to the Packastanley’s rendition of Duke Ellington’s “C-Jam,” Tim’s energy moves the song, and smiles abound when he and lead guitarist, Gil Wieczorek, move into a horn and string give-and-take, as playful as a game of tag. Though Gil claims shy moments when performing, there’s nothing timid about his solo with a series of picks and strums that vibrates off the walls. Add rhythm guitarist, Bob “Hoya” Anast, into the mix, and the audience feels blessed by a musical embrace.
Crossing paths at Friendly Tap years ago, Tim (a lifelong Oak Parker and veteran teacher at Morton West High School) and Hoya (another local resident and former drummer for “Dawn and the Knights”) found that their connection ran deeper than their locale—their music meshed. The two started practicing together and soon Gil (a Northlake resident who was invited to an open jam and ended up jammin' with Tim and Hoya) joined in.
“C-Jam” continues, and this time bass player Cliff Killion’s sound makes its way front and center; his heartbeatific thumps draw this listener’s eyes to a close to experience the pulse of each pluck and vibe. Again, the sax enters along with the picks and strums until a light cymbal brushes against the echo. Ben Tucker's “Comin’ Home” brings percussionist Sean Cassin into the limelight as he goes solo with a heavy beat and follows up with hushed tings, and Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology” coos and warbles like the master Bird intended with classic keyboardist, Erin Spear, keeping perfect tempo and adding a touch of feminine complexity.
“I lived in the apartment upstairs and heard these guys. One day I just came down and asked if they’d mind if I played,” says Killion (who once performed at the Palmer House with the OPRF Stand Up Bass Symphony Orchestra, is currently in several bands, and also teaches bass and guitar at the Friendly School of Folk Music). When Sean, another regular, inquired about adding a drummer to the group (a self-taught musician who created Erfbeats, an ongoing electronic music project), the blend worked. Then, “Hoya got to talking to my mom at the Tap one night, and my name came up,” said the only female member. Minoring in music at Illinois Wesleyan, Erin Spear has her roots in Oak Park, and that seems to be the common thread that brought together these unlikely musicians. However, it’s their passion for recognizable jazz that brought harmony to the Packastanleys.
** Name origin: The Packastanleys was affectionately named by longtime patron, Dickie Jamison, when referring to the original group of predominantly Polish gentlemen.
The last tune I hear is the band’s version of a song from Sound of Music. It’s upbeat, whimsical, catchy— a selection that would work best with a glass of wine and dancing, candlelight shadows. As the players pack up their instruments, I find myself grateful for the opportunity to meet this crew and sit in on a rehearsal. I encourage you to come on out to hear the joy of Packastanleys, because they just might become one of your “favorite things.”