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Big Band Ottawa plays to keep big band music alive

Big Band Ottawa leader Robert Vogelsang (trombone): 'We're all here because we love to play'  ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Big Band Ottawa
Canadian Tulip Festival
Commissioner's Park, Dow's Lake, Ottawa
Saturday, May 16, 2015

This year, the Tulip Festival showcased big band jazz in honour of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945.

The energy and enthusiasm of Big Band Ottawa – and the interest they created in their audience – showed that this music was far more than a historical artifact.

The big band attracted listeners who stayed – and grew in number – during its two, hour-long sets, and not just people who danced to that music back in the 40s and 50s, either. It included everyone from toddlers to teenagers to 20-somethings to seniors, and of a wide range range of ethnicities.

Big Band Ottawa's leader and trombonist Robert Vogelsang told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the group has been together for four years. Many of the members had played in other, now-defunct big bands, such as Big Band Caravane, and missed playing the music, he said. They rehearse every week and play 10 to 12 shows a year, some private, some for veterans, and some huge shows – for example last year's New Year's show at the National Arts Centre, which sold out with 1000 attendees.

The band's 18 instrumentalists include both professional and amateur musicians, with ages ranging from late teens/early 20s to much later.

“It's very easy for a generation to pass away,” Vogelsang said, “if you don't keep it going. We're all here because we love to play before an audience. We like to be out to talk to people – it keeps the music alive!”

With Doreen Smith on vocals, the band played a mix of pieces in their two sets: modern arrangements of big band numbers from the 30s and 40s, neo-swing from the 50s and 60s, and pieces by modern swing groups and writers. They opened their first set with the World War II-era hit "In the Mood", and continued with the swinging “The Lady is a Tramp”, the Latin number "Closely Dancing" by Arturo Sandoval, and a medley of Stevie Wonder hits. And Smith brought down the house with her fast and furious rendition of “Mustang Sally”.

If you missed Big Band Ottawa at Tulipfest, they'll be playing another show at Westfest, on a free stage at Athlone Avenue and Richmond Road in Westboro, on Sunday, June 14 at noon.

    – Alayne McGregor

All photos Copyright ©Brett Delmage, 2015    [license a photo]