Prescott’s Big Band Dance

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By Taylor Brown, Correspondent

On Saturday, Jan. 15, the Northern Arizona Big Band hosted a night of brass and boogie at the Rowle P. Simmons Community Center. From 5:00-8:00 p.m., people came to enjoy dancing, refreshments, and well loved tracks from the Big Band swing era.

The Northern Arizona Big Band is a 17-piece ensemble accompanied by a female vocalist, Lia Bomar. The band performed a number of well-loved, classic swing charts. Some of the most popular tunes of the night included “Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima, “In the Mood by Joe Garland and Bart Howard’s famous “Fly Me To the Moon.

As each song ended, the floor was cleared and the vocalist gave a brief historical description of the chart. The band accredited the original artist/writer of each track before giving their own rendition of a wildly loved tune.

Chairs and tables lined the perimeter of the venue, leaving a large open space for dancing lit by the glow of a disco ball. As the night progressed, the number of partners on the floor for each chart increased, creating a lively ambience. By the end of the night, the entire room was alive with music and movement, the dance floor packed with couples and partners dancing.

The stage band attracted a crowd of swing dancers, skills ranging from beginners to life-long partners. Classic swung dances were seen throughout the night and across the floor. Partners performed the Fox Trot, Charleston, and the Lindy Hop. Some partnerships cared less for traditional dances, and rather swayed with each other in time to classic jazz music.

Most came to the event dressed in the classic fashions of the forties. Women wore pin curls in their hair, vintage cocktail dresses and Aris Allen styled shoes. Many men wore classic suits and ties, and even fedoras. The atmosphere of the room was reminiscent of many generations ago, uniting the past and present through the sound of music.

One woman, Jan Bardin, is married to Northern Arizona’s Big Band’s organizer and drummer Steven Bardin. They’ve been together for forty years, and she always attends his performances.

“Wherever he goes, I go,” Jan told Horizons, “He’s just a musician deep down.” Jan’s favorite song of the night was Doc Pomus’ “Save the Last Dance for Me”, as she knows her husband will always return to her after a night of dance and music.

The band ended their set with reprises of John Kander’s “New York, New York”, and “Sway” by P. B. Ruiz, L. Dementrio, and N. Gimbel.

The band’s tenor saxophone, Don Grise, is also a part of a quartet known as Mood Swing. He says Big Band and jazz performances are “all over the place in the summer”, and musicians are hoping to reawaken the swing scene after a covid-induced hiatus. The Northern Arizona Big Band, Mood Swings and many other ensembles are hoping to continue performing and keeping the passion for jazz and swing alive in the new year.

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