West Central Quartet brings unique jazz sound
Long before singer Andrew Stout was to be a member of the group, he was very familiar with the West Central Quartet. Stout’s mother, Jamie Wise, is also a singer, and both she and the quartet could be heard performing at Club Soda. In its early incarnation, the West Central Quartet, formed when performance was introduced to the West Central Neighborhood Tour, was completely instrumental. Although there have been various members over the years, founder and bass player Patrick Gillan continues to join Stout on vocals, Jim Steele on piano and Doug Laughlin on drums and vocals to provide a unique jazz sound to the city’s diverse music landscape.
“When I joined, we became much more focused,” Stout said. “We do a lot of songs from the American songbook, everything from Frank Sinatra to Bobby Darin. But we do pop songs from different generations, giving them a swing or jazz twist.”
Stout said that openness to different genres of music has helped them broaden their audience, but he also knows they have to carefully select what music they perform.
“We’re not just picking songs randomly. A lot of preparation goes into the music we select. As a vocalist, I have to connect to a song, relate to it in some way, feel passionate about it. Then once we choose a song, the guys get together and come up with an arrangement that makes it their own. We bring our own sound to the mix, and we can change it so that it’s different at every show.”
Asking Stout what his favorite songs are to perform provides some clue as to how eclectic their set has become.
“I love Frank’s stuff. I love the old stuff. But we do an amazing jam version of ‘Rocket Man’ that I really love, too. I like challenging myself and surprising the audience. I like seeing the crowd look around and wonder ‘Is that really a Justin Timberlake song they’re doing?'”
The West Central Quartet are all natives to the area and have found ample places to share their love of music in and out of Fort Wayne. They play everything from local venues, like Club Soda and the Phoenix, as well as corporate parties, receptions and fundraisers. They’ve also found a frequent home at Indianapolis’ Jazz Kitchen. All told, the quartet often plays up to a half-dozen times a month. Juggling that with their “day jobs” means having a plan in place for what their next move will be.
“I’m always looking to the future, looking for that next logical step. I think about what clubs we should play and what can open another door. I like to think about the business side of things, and we’re already booking six months to a year out.”
What might someone expect if they’ve never heard the West Central Quartet before?
“Expect to have one hell of a good time! That’s what I always tell people. Expect the unexpected, and expect to stay longer than you originally anticipated.”
First appeared in the April 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.