[Dixielandjazz] Big Bands

Rob McCallum rakmccallum at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 27 03:03:49 PST 2003

Hello all,

I've found that, at least in my area, big bands and the "big band sound" are
in a much healthier state than Traditional Jazz.  Almost every high school
in the Detroit metropolitan area has a repertoire big band that plays
selections from classic swing standards through to contemporary arrangements
by people like Toshiko Akiyoshi, Maria Schneider and Matt Catingub (even Don
Ellis and Hank Levy).  As well, all the community colleges have repertoire
big bands and there's even a community college concert hosted at Schoolcraft
College (That features solely comm college big bands).  Our major university
(Wayne State) has 3 big bands, and there are even a handful of professional
working big bands (Johnny Trudell and Ed Nuccilli come to mind - but there
are others).  There are always big band concerts that these schools host
(from shopping malls to Orchestra Hall).  I've played in big bands at Henry
Ford Community College (and we toured Europe twice playing at North Sea and
Edinburgh and Carnegie Hall in NYC) and Schoolcraft College (which hosts the
Michigan Jazz Festival that has a stage that features only local big bands
all day long) and then there's the University of Michigan which has a
classic big band and several more contemporary groups.  Nationally, there
are several prominent big bands such as the Vanguard Orchestra and the
Lincoln Center group, as well as the Brian Setzer Orchestra which plays
straight up swing with a slight rockabilly twang (Setzer is a guitarist).
There are also several ghost bands touring nationally.  There have also been
several Louis Prima style swing bands working sporadically around Detroit
recently that run about 9 or 10 pieces.

To my knowledge, none of the schools around here have any kind of program
devoted to Traditional Jazz or even mention Dixieland jazz except perhaps in
History of Jazz 1A.  When I was in high school and we went to state combo
festivals (of which I played in several combos in various jazz styles) there
were no Dixieland groups except for one that I put together for the

All the best,
Rob McCallum

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