It started late in 2014. Edina resident Greg Fast and his wife, Robbie, decided to have a few people over for a holiday party. They invited friends from a couples’ group at Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) and also their new neighbors, Dr. Joel Hutcheson and his wife, Kelly. After everyone sang and played a few rounds of Christmas carols, newcomer Joel asked if he could sit at the piano. Carl Priest and his string bass were in, and host Fast joined them for an impromptu jazz jam.
Fast…3 was born. Make that Fast4!
“I called Don [Durrett] to join the group [as guitarist] after we decided to go for it,” says Fast, the new band’s frontman and quartet-acknowledged “energy source.” Durrett joined in January when they got together for their first official practice.
They are a remarkably accomplished musical foursome. President and CEO of an architectural manufacturing firm, Fast started playing piano at an early age and also does vocals, tenor sax, percussion and xylophone for Fast4. Hutcheson plays piano and does some vocals for the group as well. Although he had little formal musical training, Hutcheson grew up listening to his father’s jazz records, particularly Vince Guaraldi. “I heard that music, and I wanted to play it,” he says. Carl Priest, a US Bank executive, had an uncle, George Strahl, who was the bassist with the Minnesota Orchestra from 1968 to 1997. Strahl was the reason Priest chose to play bass. Durrett, a businessman, “spent a lot of time as a kid growing up with a Fender guitar and the FM radio.” He’s done a lot of small-group jazz and improvisational music.
“We’re all middle-aged Edina guys,” says Fast. “Musicians with busy, executive-type day jobs.” In spite of time and schedule restrictions, the group sound gelled quickly, recalls Durrett. If no one in the quartet has quite as much time as they might like to practice, not to worry, says Priest, “We’re a relaxed group of guys who focus on the joy of life and faith in God, and happen to express part of God’s love through making music together.”
As to repertoire, the quartet favors Burt Bacharach and Ray Charles–or songs like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” plus fresh spins on movie themes and jazz standards. They’ve put together a set of 10 or 12 songs that can be performed in an hour or two. In the past several months Fast4 has performed a number of free concerts at Edina senior living facilities, including the Waters on 50th. The quartet has been asked back to the Waters, says Fast, and they’d like to do a dance there.
Fast4 will have a few other performances under its belt by the time this story goes to press. Fast’s wife, Robbie, serves on the board of Bethany Christian Services and Fast4 played during the social hour of the organization’s annual gala this year at the Metropolitan in Golden Valley. Late in October, the group was scheduled to play at a Calhoun Beach Club fundraiser for Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, where Hutcheson is a pediatric urologist and surgeon. Fast is currently working on a November event with Opportunity International at Edina Country Club.
The jazz quartet typically plays for free. “My favorite things about our group is how we feel the music together and the joy of giving back through our [performances],” says Fast. “We feel the gratitude of the crowd when playing at a place like the Waters,” says Hutcheson. Priest says he is playing more and more for the love of music. He adds, “The key to the music is the emotion, genuine emotion, and not necessarily playing it perfect.”