The Jazz Conspiracy started as a “rehearsal band” but ended up fueling a larger swing movement in Pittsburgh’s Northside.

By Nick Eustis

Photos by Clifton Loosier

Pittsburgh has a significant place in the history of jazz music. Greats like Mary Lou Williams, Art Blakey and Errol Garner all have roots in this city, and Pittsburgh musicians carry on their tradition to this day. The Jazz Conspiracy Big Band brings the swinging sound of big band music to the Elks Lodge
every first and third Thursday.

Playing the work of famed musicians like Quincy Jones, Count Basie and more, the band performs for swing dancers and music lovers alike.

The Jazz Conspiracy was founded in 2011 by Dan Lindey, a baritone saxophone player looking to play with a group.

“I put an ad on Craigslist seeking out musicians,” Lindey said. “I had only been living in Pittsburgh for a couple years, and I just needed to find some guys to play with.” According to Lindey, he intended for the band to be more of a “rehearsal band,” playing a few community events each summer. “It kind of took a different direction. Everybody in the band now is highly professional,” Lindey said. “For some, playing is their occupation. Others are K-12 music teachers, college professors and eye doctors.”

In addition to performing every other Thursday at the Elks Lodge, The Jazz Conspiracy also performs at weddings and other events.

Bass trombonist Tim Speicher initially joined the band through the Craigslist ad. Speicher, a software developer*, said he enjoys being in the band because it is different and more relaxed than a traditional concert setting. “I really love this style of music, it’s very casual,” Speicher said.

Trumpeter Tim Brutscher was brought in by friends from another band. Brutscher, a nurse*, said he enjoys the authenticity of the band’s musical presentation. Brutscher is also a member of the “Swingtet,” a subgroup within The Jazz Conspiracy. The Swingtet performs on the fifth Thursday of months that have one, and plays swing, funk and modern jazz.

Tenor saxophonist Krista Wagner, was recruited by friends from her church who were members of the band. “I’m the only woman in the band, so I really have fun playing with the guys,” Wagner said. She’s been in the group for nearly five years.

Every Jazz Conspiracy performance attracts swing dance enthusiasts to the floor of the Elks Lodge. Dance instructor Mark Peters hosts couples swing dance lessons before each performance. Peters’ lesson teaches the
building blocks of couples swing dance, including basic spins and intermediate steps. Those without partners are also encouraged to participate.
Peters first worked with The Jazz Conspiracy while working as a dance instructor at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale.

“I was one of the dance instructors while The Jazz Conspiracy was playing up there,” Peters said. “They’re just such a fantastic band that when they went down to the Elks, I followed them there.”

Whether you’re a dancer extraordinaire, or just want to travel back in time for a couple of hours, The Jazz Conspiracy has something for all audiences. The band performs at the Elks Lodge, 400 Cedar Avenue, he first and third Thursday of each month at 8 p.m. Swing dance lesson begins at 7:15 p.m. Cover charge is $10.

* This article was updated on 9/10/2018 to correct the occupations of Speicher and Brutscher. 

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