Who are the Senior Jammers?

Superstar songstress Taylor Swift regularly tops today's Billboard charts. Her hit-making predecessors a century ago had names like Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, similarly transcendent talents that helped compose the soundtrack of an era.

The Great American Songbook, as it's known, will serve as the playlist for the Hinsdale-based Senior Jammers as they take listeners on a musical journey back to the early 20th century Wednesday, June 14, at The Community House (see Page 22 for details).

Saxophonist Bill Zakavec, 76, said he and his fellow retiree bandmates enjoy breathing new life into the classics.

"The songs we do are traditional jazz numbers," Zakavec said, listing off "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Witchcraft" and "Girl from Ipanema" as part of the group's standard set. "Not many people today would recognize them, but once we play them, the melodies are catchy."

The group gathers monthly at The Community House for a two-hour jam session, including guitarists, drummers and keyboardists ­- some in their 90s - although not all regularly.

"That's how musicians are - you can't always expect the same people," Zakavec said with a laugh.

Two months ago a female vocalist popped in for the first time and will be part of the concert.

"She hadn't sung in like 20 years," he said. "People just seem to show up, and that's the good part about it."

Zakavec, who's a member of several jam groups, heard about the Senior Jammers from another musician a few years ago. After finishing his career as a teacher and school administrator, this has been the perfect outlet for his desire to stay active.

"Some guys go golfing when they get old," he said. "I don't golf, so this keeps me occupied."

The group was started in 2013 by Hinsdale's Don Moritz and others. Zakavec said the goal is camaraderie.

"It's for fun, just to have a good time and meet musicians," he said. "You can make all the mistakes you want. You've just got to love the music."

Holding their sessions at The Community House enables the Jammers to share their sound with families and youth who are also using the facility.

"Sometimes the parents bring the kids in just to watch us, and the kids are really amazed because many have never seen a saxophone in person or even live music," he said.

Zakavec's instrument collection features nine saxophones, including a 1920 model that played selections from the Great American Songbook back when they were fresh releases. He is heartened to see the recent resurgence of interest in Big Band music and swing dancing among the rising generation.

Proceeds from the concert will support The Community House's senior programming. A cash bar will open, and popcorn, coffee, tea, soda and water will be provided.

Zakavec encouraged all to come out for the jam session to mingle with other music enthusiasts while listening to tunes they haven't heard for a long time, or perhaps for the first time.

"Part of the joy is having people come and listen to you," he said.

- by Ken Knutson