Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

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    Cool Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    I'm playing first tenor in a Jazz Big Band for about 12 years now. Our band repertoire is a mixture of old style Swing and more modern tunes, with occasionally some other stuff (Tango, Latin, Pop). I have been a Jazz snob for 40 years now (since I was 15) and enjoy the old Swing and Jazz repertoire the best, never really liked the other stuff.

    We are now preparing for a 'real' dance gig for coming Friday, where we have to play 3 sets of about 50 minutes for an (old style) dance party at a dance school in Vlaardingen (NL). For the occasion our band leader gave us some weeks ago about 8 new numbers to study (Tango's, Waltzes, Rumba's, Rock and Roll) and we also have to play a lot of songs from our normal book in a different (danceable) tempo (our band leader worked with the dance school instructor on the tempo's and rhythms which are the best for the dancers).

    Yesterday we had the last rehearsal and for the first time I really enjoyed some of the new songs and the (very) simple dancing style arrangements we played. It felt like the band sounded like one voice and the volume was also very decent, which made the band really blend well and made that you could hear all voices from all sections much better than when playing just some loud swing. Also using the appropriate vibrato for a certain piece makes it more fun to play than only giving attention to the notes.

    First time I got shivers from playing such kind of musical styles. I must be getting old I guess!

    T : Selmer SBA serial 50xxx (1953) - Otto Link Florida no USA 10* - Rico Plasticover 2
    A : Klingsor serial 016xx (early 60's) - Otto Link STM 9* - Rico Royal 2.5
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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Playing for dancers is the best!

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    What! No Polkas?
    I have been playing in the same big band since 1991. This band has been playing 2 hangar dances a year since the mid 70’s. These dances are held in an authentic WWII hangar that houses a B 25 and several trainers. These events include Swing dance lessons, approx 5 numbers with bagpipes (they use orchestral chanters), and then they run-up the B 25. We get 750 to 1000 dancers each time. We play a mixture of all the dance styles you mentioned plus 3 Polkas (This is in Minnesota don’t you know). These dances are the highlight of our season.
    We also play for a winter ball at one of the local colleges and these kids crowd the floor. When you consider the average age of the band members is now close to 60 this is quite a hoot. We have played this dance for about 25 years.
    We also play about 10 concerts a year and host 2 sit- in nights a year. I feel very fortunate to be able to play in such an organization.
    Have fun playing for the dance.

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Haven't played in a big band since 1984, kinda miss it.

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Quote Originally Posted by click View Post
    Playing for dancers is the best!
    I agree click!

    We played before with rock and roll dancers, but with our normal not adapted repertoire and in a more free atmosphere. The upcoming gig is a bit more formal and especially for dancers only. Hence the new repertoire, which I would have classified as boring in the past, but now like a lot (when played with the right intention and attitude!).

    Quote Originally Posted by pitsen3 View Post
    What! No Polkas?
    I have been playing in the same big band since 1991. This band has been playing 2 hangar dances a year since the mid 70’s. These dances are held in an authentic WWII hangar that houses a B 25 and several trainers. These events include Swing dance lessons, approx 5 numbers with bagpipes (they use orchestral chanters), and then they run-up the B 25. We get 750 to 1000 dancers each time. We play a mixture of all the dance styles you mentioned plus 3 Polkas (This is in Minnesota don’t you know). These dances are the highlight of our season.
    We also play for a winter ball at one of the local colleges and these kids crowd the floor. When you consider the average age of the band members is now close to 60 this is quite a hoot. We have played this dance for about 25 years.
    We also play about 10 concerts a year and host 2 sit- in nights a year. I feel very fortunate to be able to play in such an organization.
    Have fun playing for the dance.
    Thanks pisten3.

    No Polka's in our upcoming gig! Those dance concerts with your big band sound like fun, I can imagine you feel very fortunate. We also have regular gigs (normally 5-10 a year), but never for such number of dancers you mention. Not sure how many dancers we will see coming Friday, but I guess somewhere between 50 and 100.

    T : Selmer SBA serial 50xxx (1953) - Otto Link Florida no USA 10* - Rico Plasticover 2
    A : Klingsor serial 016xx (early 60's) - Otto Link STM 9* - Rico Royal 2.5
    SoundClick | SoundClip Index | YouTube | SOTW Blues (Round 8) | Mouthpiece/Sax Pictures

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Jazz on the O.jpg
    Nothing like playing for a college dance with the dance floor full, we'll be back at our annual dance at Covenant College Friday night.
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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    I'm much like you, being a "jazz snob". Played for dance competitions in Germany for a couple of years. Calls for a lot of precision from the director. Have fun.
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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    The college students always request a Tango!

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    'First time I got shivers from playing such kind of musical styles. I must be getting old I guess!'

    No! This is keeping you young!

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    I played in a couple similar bands in the Chicago area for a few years. It can be quite the chop buster. A lot of those old arrangements have minimal rest, and the dance clubs want you to play with almost no time in between tunes.

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Last Saturday after 4 hours I get to end the night with "Show Me The Way To Go Home". My solo goes through the head twice. I recently switched from a Ponzol 110 M2 to a very good link 7*. Boy were my chops tired. I really had to fight like crazy to keep from biting.

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Quote Originally Posted by Saxhound View Post
    I played in a couple similar bands in the Chicago area for a few years. It can be quite the chop buster. A lot of those old arrangements have minimal rest, and the dance clubs want you to play with almost no time in between tunes.
    And by golly!! you better not deviate from the official tempo for each type of dance! I remember our band leader getting very seriously chewed out by an elderly guy holding a metronome.

    On the other hand, most bands constantly desperately try to get people out on the dance floor; here, that's the whole reason.

    Don't forget that jazz WAS dance music till the late 40s. And Dizzy always made danceable music (if you know how to dance).

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Quote Originally Posted by Saxhound View Post
    It can be quite the chop buster. A lot of those old arrangements have minimal rest, and the dance clubs want you to play with almost no time in between tunes.
    This is very true! Lots of long notes in backing lines and only a few places to get some air. And our band leader indeed already warned us that he will sometimes call the next number without announcement and almost no pause.

    Quote Originally Posted by pitsen3 View Post
    Last Saturday after 4 hours I get to end the night with "Show Me The Way To Go Home". My solo goes through the head twice. I recently switched from a Ponzol 110 M2 to a very good link 7*. Boy were my chops tired. I really had to fight like crazy to keep from biting.
    We just had two long gigs(of 3 hours) in the last two weeks, so I guess my chops should hold up (they did in the previous gigs). I'm on a Link 10*, but use a softer reed for the moment (Rico Royal 2) that hopefully holds up for the whole concert (it's an old one, play it already for months!).

    Quote Originally Posted by turf3 View Post
    And by golly!! you better not deviate from the official tempo for each type of dance! I remember our band leader getting very seriously chewed out by an elderly guy holding a metronome.

    On the other hand, most bands constantly desperately try to get people out on the dance floor; here, that's the whole reason.

    Don't forget that jazz WAS dance music till the late 40s. And Dizzy always made danceable music (if you know how to dance).
    You're right about the tempo's, our band leader got really precise indications for the preferred tempi from the dance school persons.

    We play some old dance songs like 'Sing Sing Sing' and 'In The Mood' and adapted the tempo and style a bit for the dance gig.

    T : Selmer SBA serial 50xxx (1953) - Otto Link Florida no USA 10* - Rico Plasticover 2
    A : Klingsor serial 016xx (early 60's) - Otto Link STM 9* - Rico Royal 2.5
    SoundClick | SoundClip Index | YouTube | SOTW Blues (Round 8) | Mouthpiece/Sax Pictures

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Those tangos, foxtrots, and old swing tunes aren't easy arrangements. They can trip you up pronto.
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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Quote Originally Posted by gary View Post
    I'm much like you, being a "jazz snob". Played for dance competitions in Germany for a couple of years. Calls for a lot of precision from the director. Have fun.
    Gary, one of our new numbers is a very slow version in 3/4 of 'Bist Du Einsam Heut' Nacht' (Are You Lonesome To-Night). I guess you've played that song too in your German days. The Big Band arrangement we have sounds terribly old fashioned and even a bit corny, but this was one of the numbers which gave me shivers when we played it as one voice during the last rehearsal. Our lead trumpet and lead alto where able to put exactly the right intention and vibrato in the parts where they had the lead in the arrangement.

    T : Selmer SBA serial 50xxx (1953) - Otto Link Florida no USA 10* - Rico Plasticover 2
    A : Klingsor serial 016xx (early 60's) - Otto Link STM 9* - Rico Royal 2.5
    SoundClick | SoundClip Index | YouTube | SOTW Blues (Round 8) | Mouthpiece/Sax Pictures

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Great!

    Regarding tempo, as band leader on competitions, I always had the tempo markings on the music and a metronome on the music stand.

    Had a funny experience in Scotland. During a huge dance at Aberdeen Airport, I played a Woody Herman arrangement of some classical standby. After the tune, I felt a tug on my pant leg, (which I hate), and looked down at an irate elderly lady. In a heavy Scottish accent (roll your "R"s), she said: "Rrrrrumba! Foxtrrot! But what the hell was that??!!"

    Seems that right in the middle of the tune was a 5/4 measure, completely throwing off some of the dancers. Never did that again, LOL.
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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Sounds like a great outfit...I see there are many big bands in the MSP area but are any looking for reed players? Or perhaps rehearsal bands meeting to read down charts?

    I too love the old style dance music but perhaps older than people dance to - 1920s and 30s.

    Quote Originally Posted by pitsen3 View Post
    What! No Polkas?
    I have been playing in the same big band since 1991. This band has been playing 2 hangar dances a year since the mid 70’s. These dances are held in an authentic WWII hangar that houses a B 25 and several trainers. These events include Swing dance lessons, approx 5 numbers with bagpipes (they use orchestral chanters), and then they run-up the B 25. We get 750 to 1000 dancers each time. We play a mixture of all the dance styles you mentioned plus 3 Polkas (This is in Minnesota don’t you know). These dances are the highlight of our season.
    We also play for a winter ball at one of the local colleges and these kids crowd the floor. When you consider the average age of the band members is now close to 60 this is quite a hoot. We have played this dance for about 25 years.
    We also play about 10 concerts a year and host 2 sit- in nights a year. I feel very fortunate to be able to play in such an organization.
    Have fun playing for the dance.
    "80 years passed before we heard the tenor...in the hands of cads with centre partings & co-respondent's shoes. They squeezed syrupy, farting, oleaginous sounds from their cavernous chambers & microscopic tip openings." –Captain Beeflat, 2013

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Quote Originally Posted by gary View Post
    Regarding tempo, as band leader on competitions, I always had the tempo markings on the music and a metronome on the music stand.
    Our band leader does do exactly the same!

    Quote Originally Posted by gary View Post
    Had a funny experience in Scotland. During a huge dance at Aberdeen Airport, I played a Woody Herman arrangement of some classical standby. After the tune, I felt a tug on my pant leg, (which I hate), and looked down at an irate elderly lady. In a heavy Scottish accent (roll your "R"s), she said: "Rrrrrumba! Foxtrrot! But what the hell was that??!!"

    Seems that right in the middle of the tune was a 5/4 measure, completely throwing off some of the dancers. Never did that again, LOL.
    LOL!

    +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

    By the way, this is our set list for our this evening gig (total of three sets, songs in red are including our female singer):
    2017_09_15_setlist_QBB_Dansschool_Gast.pdf

    And here are two recent pictures of the band (from our last week gig):
    QBB FB 2017-09-08 - Band 1.jpg
    QBB FB 2017-09-08 - Band 5.jpg

    T : Selmer SBA serial 50xxx (1953) - Otto Link Florida no USA 10* - Rico Plasticover 2
    A : Klingsor serial 016xx (early 60's) - Otto Link STM 9* - Rico Royal 2.5
    SoundClick | SoundClip Index | YouTube | SOTW Blues (Round 8) | Mouthpiece/Sax Pictures

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Sounds like fun!

    Plenty of good reasons to get out on the floor and start stompin'.

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    Default Re: Playing old style dance music with a Big Band

    Quote Originally Posted by hakukani View Post
    Those tangos, foxtrots, and old swing tunes aren't easy arrangements. They can trip you up pronto.
    No kiddin' Hak! some of the charts are so busy-it's a pleasure to play a Basie for 'light relief'! but, there is a lot to be said for a dancing crowd it certainly inspires any band.

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