Get Ready To Swing

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Some places are said to rock -- this weekend, Green Valley Park will swing.

The June 26 Concert Under the Stars features the Terry McFee Orchestra, a 10-piece swing band that performs a variety of musical selections including: swing music, big band music, ballads, and boogie woogie dance tunes.

The band's musical style ranges from polkas and fox trots to rumbas, tangos, bossa novas and mambos. Even 50s rock 'n roll and boogie woogie dance music, can be heard at their shows.

The orchestra includes Terry McFee, Therese Kerbey, Simon Hutchings, Barry Black, Mike Warner, Ken Taylor, Bill Abbott, Bob Willers, Eric Stockton and Pat Riley.

McFee plays trumpet and trombone, and performs some of the vocals for the group. He is a multifaceted musician and arranger. He also plays flugelhorn and keyboards, as well as doing the musical arrangements for his orchestra.

McFee graduated from North Texas State University and served in the Strategic Air Command Band and the Southern Command Band. During this time, he played throughout the United States, Canada, and Central and South America.

McFee has performed with the Les Elgart Orchestra, Tiny Hill Orchestra, Ted Weems Orchestra, Claude Gordon Orchestra, Russ Carlyle Orchestra and Guy Lombardo Orchestra. He also has worked in the backing orchestras for such performers as Diahann Carroll, Jim Neighbors, Robert Goulet, Jerry Vale and Dick Dale.

Kerbey is a very accomplished saxophone player and outstanding vocalist. Besides playing with the band, she teaches band to students in the Phoenix metro area.

Hutchings, a native of London, England, now studies at Arizona State University on his doctoral degree and teaches privately. He also tells good stories about pubs.

Black is a semi-retired band director from the Phoenix school district. He taught at Camelback for many years, and now teaches part-time at Central High.

Warner is the longest-standing member of the band. He teaches privately, and also leads his own saxophone quartet.

Taylor is an educator in Carefree and also plays in jazz groups throughout Scottsdale.

Abbott is a band teacher in the Creighton school district.He also leads church bands, and has played in jazz festivals throughout Europe.

Willers plays both piano and trombone. He has played in jazz festivals throughout Europe, including Montreaux.

Stockton is an accomplished guitar and bass player. He teaches privately and leads his own duo.

Riley plays in many professional bands, and has studied with Peter Erskin. He also teaches privately.

The big band sound is most often associated with the 1930s and 1940s, but the style was not really new to American society during the 1930s. Its origins go back to black folk music of the 1800s.

Back in the 1800s, this kind of music was referred to as ragtime. Ragtime was also known as the blues. The term "blues" stems from the fact that the lyrics of the songs were often sad, or were generally on the down side.

Music gave the African American population of the time a means of escape from the pressure and stress of everyday life. Most music was either rooted in the blues style or religiously based.

During the early 1900s, white artists trying to imitate this style of music started to incorporate it into their own music and came to call it jazz.

Blues and jazz are often hard to distinguish and are considered closely related. Jazz was slow to catch on at first, but within a few years, its popularity was astounding.

Big bands were present during the 1920s and the early 1930s, but not much attention was given to them. These bands included future legends like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. At the time, the public was generally interested in sweet pop music.

Fletcher Henderson was the first major figure in big band jazz. In 1923, he became the first leader to organize a jazz band into sections of brass, reed and rhythm instruments. His arranger, Don Redman, was the first to master the technique of scoring music for big bands.

Various Henderson bands of the 1920s and 1930s included such great jazz instrumentalists as Louis Armstrong and saxophonists Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins.

The first person to actually revitalize and at the same time reintroduce jazz/ragtime to the public was jazz great, the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Goodman was on a national tour with his band in the fall of 1935 and had nearly given up hope about the band's future when on one of his supposed last stops in Los Angeles, he was received by a more than enthusiastic crowd at the Palomar Ballroom. This led to a national craze and within a matter of a few weeks, Goodman went to the top of the charts.

This also led to an increased interest in the already good bands led by Count Basie, Fats Weller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.

The swing era flourished from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. In 1932, Duke Ellington recorded his composition "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing."

"Swing" was soon adopted as the name of the newest style of jazz. Swing emphasizes four beats to the bar.

During this resurgence of jazz, many artists who were part of larger bands under great jazz musicians, soon made a name for themselves. Among the most prominent of these people were Frank Sinatra -- then a 20-something crooner who took young women's hearts in a snap with his boyish, handsome looks and hopeless love songs -- Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Of the three, Frank Sinatra went on to enjoy much success during the 1940s through today as a solo artist.

Big band music was everywhere during the late 1930s -- radio shows of the time would especially devote time to big band music -- most of the time, the music would be broadcast live instead of through records.

Big band music continued its popularity reign until the late 1940s when more pop-oriented music once again starting to gain a large audience. The original great band leaders, however, did not diminish in their popularity and they remain popular to this day.

Big band music or jazz evolved into a genre referred to as "bebop" or simply "bop." Leaders in this kind of music were Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. This shift marked the end of what has since been termed the Big Band Era.

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