By Emily J. Weitz
For a group that’s been playing together since 1982, the Hackensack Men and the Trenton Horns has had many incarnations. Over 40 members have been a part of the band, and all of them have brought their own style to the music. A fusion of funk, soul, R&B, swing, and retro rock & roll, the group offers something for everyone, and fans will get a chance to hear them when they play a benefit for Hamptons Youth Sports this weekend.
It all started one night, 30 years back, when the original members were hanging out at a club on Long Island.
“The regular band didn’t show,” says David Doscher, the group’s coordinator as well as the bass player. He wasn’t a member of the group back then, but the story has since become legend.
“All these guys were musicians, so they got together and performed an impromptu show that night,” he explains. “An audience member asked if they’d be willing to play a party the next weekend. When they asked for the name of the band, the lead guy just came up with ‘The Hackensack Men’. When they looked down at the horn players, they said ‘and the Trenton Horns’.”
That’s how the band came to be, having nothing to do with the New Jersey cities the name implies.
“Over the years, the number of musicians has grown and shrunk,” says Doscher. “We had a reunion about ten years back and I think we had 37 people on stage who had been in the band. We played for eight hours.”
The band currently has 10 members (including a few who play more than one instrument): there’s a bass, a keyboard, drums, a guitar, a conga, a four piece horn section, and three lead vocalists.
“It’s a full sound,” says Doscher. “And this combination of instruments is required for a lot of different styles. We can go from swing to Motown to R&B without being fake.”
In a band this large, “Patience is a required aspect,” says Doscher. “I’m the band coordinator. We try to run as much of a democracy as possible, but it’s like herding cats to get nine other people to do something.”
This means everyone needs to play close attention.
“So much is about communication,” he says. “In a large band the communication is harder. I work with a three-piece band as well, and communication is head nods and hand signals. But on stage with nine other people, there has to be a lot more strategy. We’ll call point men for certain things… You have to look up and be aware of what’s going on. When to cut someone’s solo short, etc. It’s standard, but in a large band, the rule of the day is you have to look up and be present.”
Even though the sound is robust, one key to playing together is listening.
“The success of this band has always been on the ability of each musician to hear all the other instruments simultaneously,” says Doscher. “People who only listen to their own instrument don’t last with us very long.”
The Hackensack Men and the Trenton Horns were the house band at Stephen Talkhouse for many years, and they’ve played up and down the East Coast. At one of their shows, you can expect to dance. Even the band has a few choreographed moves in certain songs.
“Back in our heyday,” says Doscher, “we played pretty much every club on Long Island. We did dinner music clubs and dance clubs. Lately we’ve been doing more black tie events.”
Of the founding members of the band, only one is still playing with them.
“Dave Stadnicky has been with us from day one,” says Doscher. “He’s seen the band change membership and all kinds of logistics. He’s seen everything that Long Island’s thrown at us for 30 plus years.”
With the bright sound of the full horn section alongside all the other instruments, Doscher is happy to help keep this kind of music alive.
“It’s a great band,” he says, “and it’s great to still be playing. It’s great that people are still into this music. I hear the stuff that passes for music on the radio, and I find it disheartening. It’s nice we’re still getting calls to play our craft.”
The band will play at the party to benefit Hamptons Youth Sports this Saturday, March 24, at 230 Elm Street in Southampton. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at www.HamptonsYouthSports.com.