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Swing's Roots and '90s Revival Will Have You Jumping, Jiving, Wailing in Covington

Swing music bops into the Northern Kentucky Convention Center Event Hall at 7:30 pm. Nov. 18 as the Kentucky Symphony chronicles two swing eras – the original swing sound (1931-1943) and the late 1990s swing revival.
 
And you can get up and dance (!) to the sound of the KSO’s 19-piece swing band, with local vocalist Troy Hitch crooning. The jump tunes of the 1990s revival will feature the 10-piece Devou-Doo Daddies in the program’s second half.
 
“Dancing is why I wanted to do this outside of a concert hall,” J.R. Cassidy, KSO music director explains. “My parents were WWII vets (Navy/Marines) and truly amazing dancers.   I grew up on Glenn Miller. In fact a 45 of In the Mood was my wake-up call as a kid. I had to be up and dressed and my bed made by the trumpet solo.”
 
There will be a higher tier of tickets for this concert that offers table seating. Dancing will be near the middle of the hall to either side, so audiences can enjoy watching the dancing without having a blocked view of the stage and the band.
 
Dancers and listeners will swing along with the great bandleaders including Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Duke Ellington then flash-forward a couple of generations to Big Bad Vodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and Squirrel Nut Zippers.
 
The concert will also offer some background on the original Swing Era (1931-1943) provided by KSO’s go-to guy (musician, writer, assistant conductor) Tom Consolo. He says the officially accepted date of the birth of the swing era is Aug. 2, 1935, the date Benny Goodman’s band began a three-week engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles.
 
Consolo had written a brief but fascinating history of the Swing era when more than 300 bands were playing. And he points out Swing’s long development goes all the way back to the music of the freed slaves. Consolo says, “What would become the dance bands of the Swing era got their start soon after World War I.
 
“The advent of commercial recording and radio meant that new — i.e., white — audiences heard jazz for the first time…. Jazz changed, too, as it incorporated characteristics of traditional popular songs. Improvisational polyphony became balanced by written-out arrangements.”
 
The KSO will feature authentic arrangements and, along with veteran KSO musicians, Cassidy reached to Louisville and beyond to “put together a stellar band.”
 
With the arrangements, “The guys get to play a real piece of history. Keeping music of many genres alive is what the KSO does.”
 
Cassidy says there is “sleuthing involved” in searching out original charts. “With both Charlie Barnet’s Scotch and Soda and Cab Calloway’s Hep Hep the Jumpin’ Jive arrangements were not available commercially, but I found them in archives at the Library of Congress and Western Ontario University (Canada). I had to get permission from a surviving relative to have them copy the chart. In Charlie Barnet’s case, I went looking for his only son Charles D., who I found passed in 2008 leaving two
children Darren and Jennifer Barnet.  
 
“I sifted through seven years of a Darren Barnet’s Facebook wall and found a 2010 reference to his big band-leading grandfather. Darren happens to be a Hollywood actor, whose agent I sought out to forward an email asking his permission. He called the next day and sent the email, which I forwarded to the Library of Congress. After paying for copy services, I was sent a misnamed chart for Scotch and Soda. So after all of that detective work — I got nuttin’.”  
 
Then Cassidy thought of a save. In late October he called KSO trombone player Dominic Marino, “who happens to be a great arranger and take down artist, meaning he can listen to a recording and write it down verbatim.”
 
That checked Scotch and Soda in its original 1939 recorded form. “I did the same talking with Cab Calloway’s daughter, who I found via a school named after her father in Delaware and actually got hold of the Van Alexander arrangement from the Canadian archive.”
 
Cassidy assures, “Musical archeology is never boring.”
 
In the Swing, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18. Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Northern Kentucky Convention Center Events Hall, 1 W. Rivercenter Blvd., Covington. Reserved table and standard seating tickets are $35, $27, $19, students (ages 6-18) half-price. Cash bar. Tickets: 859.431.6216, website, and at the door.
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts