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Author: Jill Kimball

CU Concert Jazz Ensemble performs big band classics

Annual Spring Swing concert features award-winning vocalist Everett Greene

On April 17, the University of Colorado Boulder’s 18-piece Concert Jazz Ensemble presents an afternoon of big band hits at its sixth annual Spring Swing concert in Macky Auditorium.

Joining the student ensemble and conductor Brad Goode is world-class baritone Everett Greene, who once toured the country with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Together with the student musicians, he’ll perform a handful of beloved jazz standards, including “Satin Doll,” “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me,” “Every Day I Have The Blues” and more.

John Gunther, director of CU-Boulder’s Thompson Jazz Studies Program, says Greene is one of few living vocalists with pipes powerful enough to front a large, brassy jazz band. Like some of history’s greatest big band vocalists—Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway among them—Greene’s voice boasts equal parts bombast and beauty.

“You don’t get an opportunity to hear an artist like Everett Greene too often,” Gunther says. “He has a powerful, beautiful voice and just swings so hard.”

Big bands were born in the rowdy late-night jazz clubs of New Orleans, Chicago and Harlem. By 1935, the growing popularity of radio transported exciting, uptempo swing music to millions of young fans all over the U.S. and the world. The men and women who led big bands were household names.

“I like to joke that the great swing bands and singers were the Lady Gagas of the 1930s and 1940s,” Gunther says. “Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey—these were the celebrities the young people were listening to and dancing to. And after all this time, the music still has all this energy and excitement and passion. It’s really a thrill.”

What makes swing music so timelessly enjoyable? Without a doubt, Gunther says, it’s the genre’s toe-tapping rhythms.

“Every year at Spring Swing, there are people in the audience who just can’t keep still and start dancing in the aisles,” Gunther says. “We definitely encourage that.”

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