Big band magic

Big bands and their music helped America and its allies through the Great Depression, World War II and beyond. As taste in popular music has evolved through multiple generations and styles, somehow this infectious music remains popular, still entertaining us, tugging at our hearts and urging us to our feet to grab a partner and dance.

My Baltimore high school of the 1950s emphasized the arts and humanities, and its bands, orchestra and choral groups were the envy of the city. That environment spawned several youthful dance bands, including mine, called The Cavaliers, which played for sock hops at churches and public recreation centers, weekly dances at the large downtown YMCA and occasional wedding receptions. Sunday afternoons, the USO bused us to several military installations and hospitals surrounding Baltimore and Washington, DC, to perform for the troops and veterans.

Our big-time heroes were the likes of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Dorsey brothers, Ray Anthony, Harry James, Woody Herman and many others of their era, and we played arrangements of their great hits for our eager jitterbugging audiences.

These days, I am privileged to sing with The Ambassadors Big Band, a 17-piece aggregation of four trumpets, four trombones, five saxes, piano, bass, guitar, drums and two vocalists, one male, one female. Our music book bulges with the charts that these great bands of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s played.

It’s fun to watch our audiences smile, tap their feet, dance, and yes, jitterbug when we perform. Among certain audiences, we see an occasional nostalgic tear in an eye. But the best news for lovers of this kind of music is that today it continues to attract the young as well as those of us of, well, more mature years. The Ambassadors have enjoyed several gigs among university students and audiences of folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

The future looks bright for big band music.

Today’s word: every day or everyday? We use everyday as an adjective to describe commonplace activities that take place daily. Drinking coffee first thing in the morning is an everyday activity. Advertisers point to “everyday low prices.” The adjective everyday modifies activity and low prices. But in the two-word version, we use the adjective every to modify the noun day. I drink that coffee every day. I walk the dog every day. Both are everyday activities. It’s incorrect to write that we walk the dog everyday.

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