The Manhattan Transfer on Acid... That was probably the best of the many attempts to describe Dutch Falconi and his Twisted Orchestra. One of Sacramento's most successful and popular bands in the 1990s, DF offered a high-impact blend of Vegas style showmanship (Louis Prima was a favorite), Bertolt Brecht theatrics (Dutch's influence) and any fun wacky thing band members could throw in the mix (the Penis Guillotine was a fan favorite). The music was all over the map, but always unmistakably Dutch Falconi, with over a hundred original tunes and arrangements in the book when the band called it quits year 2000.


I first heard about Dutch Falconi in 1990. Trombonist Chris Cook and I were slaving away together in the Sign of the Crab warehouse. One day he told me one day about this strange, experimental jazz group he had joined. It was called "Dutch Falconi", had seven members, and played only originals written by Dutch and the others. Coincidentally, I played trombone in high school. I did not join the group right away, but only after seeing some of their shows.

Dutch and the band practiced about 8 months before their first gig, at Old Ironsides (new to live music at the time). The Bub Orchestra was the opener, it was crowded early, and would be packed beyond reason by the end of the night, a common occurance for most every show DF ever played! All the guests decked out in forties clothing... it got them in free... We were early adopters of the brief mid-90s swing revival.

I'll never forget the first sight of Dutch as he strode out in his all white suit, looking like a cross between a Broadway showman and greasy carnival worker. The band opened with a song written by Saxophonist Steve Vanoni, the August March - a wild cacophany of ascending chords - and then Dutch plunged into his signature tune, The Shoes of Despair.

Dutch Falconi went on to dominate the Sacramento scene during its glory days of live music in the nineties. It played every club in town - Old Ironsides, Harlows, Melarkeys (now the Tower Club), the Press Club (as it transitioned from dive biker bar to dive music venue), The Cattle Club (run by Alive and Kicking's Jerry Perry), and countless others venues: A bowling alley, wedding receptions (one for sactown lawyer Stewart Katz), and a memorable gig on the steps of the State Capitol (for an AIDS march).

The band enjoyed tremendous success, culminating early in their famous appearance at the Crest Theater on Nov 2, 1992. The theater sold out its 1,000 seats and turned several hundred away (DF was the second local act to sell out the Crest. Kai Kln was first). We broke attendance records continually (and bar records too... DF fans like to drink)... At Old Ironsides, DF has the annual record for single evening success three years in a row (92-94). Spider Smith and His Sinister Seven, an offshoot group led by Trumpet/Singer Bill Smith, took the crown in 95.

Club owners feared the guest list for this mighty organization, which boasted 32 members at its peak. It started as a small combo, but just kept growing, as many well known local musicians found themselves members at one time or another. Saxophonist Gene "Gizmo" Avery was a major contributor, co-writing with Dutch many of the signature tunes, and performing his own regularly. Folks loved Gene and his hyper-catchy tunes ("Freeway Ghostrider", "Bad Girl"); so much so he won a Sammies award for Jazz Player of the Year 1996. DF was inducted to the Sammies Hall of Fame in 2000.

The author of this page (who is completely unbiased in this account, and pictured as Gimp at left) was a trombone and theremin player, gimp, penis guillotine victim and webmaster for DF for many years. Dutch Falconi launched the first website by a local band in Sacramento in 1995 (beating arch-rivals Cake by two months). Dutch himself provided all photoshop work.

Another well-known and well-loved player was Jim Pantages (Trumpet 94-95). Jim was tragically murdered in 1995 after a gig with the previously mentioned Spider Smith band. There were annual memorial gigs for many years afterwards. Jim was a brilliant trumpet player and all around musician, and is still missed by those who knew him. Click here for Jim's story.

While enjoying great local success, the Dutch Falconi Orchestra had troubles advancing to a national level due to the sheer size of the band. It was too much for the dozens of downtowners to quit their day jobs for a long shot at greater glory... too many mouths to feed.

The band released two albums:

The Shoes of Despair (1994)
Crimeboss Hootenanny (1997)

Each album has its flaws (the band was not known for being especially "tight" in the early years), and neither captures the full impact of the live shows. But they do showcase the clever wordplay and superb songwriting skills of Dutch and Gizmo and the gang!

One last name drop: Stan Atkinson and Charlton Heston were fans.

if you really care...
check out
Dutch's Lineup (circa 1996)!

On The Facebook...
Group Photos
Set Lists
we have the best misc around...
better than all other miscs!

Or... if you really dare...
the Penis Guillotine
the gimp


Site by Kurt Foy Booker