The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra Swings Into The Smith

One of musical history’s best all-around dance bands — The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra — performs at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 26 at the Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. Tickets are $17 general admission and $10 for senior citizens. Doors open at 6:00.Now under the direction of trombonist Buddy Morrow and featuring vocalist Walt Andrus, the legacy of this musical genius comes to The Smith for one extraordinary performance saluting those who recall the historic Geneva landmark when Tommy Dorsey was originally a headliner – the region’s senior citizens.The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra could swing with the best of them, and no other band came close to Tommy’s when it came to playing ballads. Tommy Dorsey, “The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing,” was a master at creating warm, sentimental and always musical moods – at superb dancing and listening tempos. Tommy sustained these moods through the arrangements of the likes of Paul Weston, Axel Stordahl, and Sy Oliver, and he showcased singers who could project them brilliantly.Jack Leonard sang with the band for almost four years, recording such fine sides as “For Sentimental Reasons,” “Dedicated to You,” “If It’s the Last thing I Do,” “Little White Lies,” “You Taught Me To Love Again,” “Once In A While,” and probably the most famous of all, “Marie.” With the band singing vocal riffs as Jack sang the straight lyric, “Marie” was so successful that he recorded several more standard tunes with the same formula including “Who,” “Yearning,” and “East of the Sun.” “Song of India,” the other side of “Marie,” was also a huge Dorsey hit.Frank Sinatra’ career blossomed with Dorsey. And with Sinatra’s vocals, the band became more successful than ever. Frank often admitted that listening to Tommy helped him develop his phrasing, his breathing, along with his musical taste and knowledge. Dick Jones, once a Dorsey arranger and later a close friend of Sinatra’s, said, “Frank’s musical taste was developed at Tommy’s elbow.”Sy Oliver infused the band with a new musical spirit. It was a gentler version of the rocking, rhythmic sounds that he had created for Jimmy Lunceford, toned down somewhat and played with more precision by the Dorsey Band. These original tunes included “Easy Does It,” “Quiet Please,” “Sing High,” “Yes, Indeed,” “Swingin’ On Nothing,” “Well, Git It,” and “Opus No. 1.” Oliver also had a unique way of approaching a straight pop tune, injecting a soft, two-beat feeling into it. He did this with resounding success in such arrangements as “What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry,” “For You,” “Swanee River,” “Mandy,” “Make Up Your Mind,” “Chicago,” and “On The Sunny Side of the Street.”The vocalists worked both individually and together, turning out several hits of superior quality. There was Sinatra’s “This Love of Mine,” Jo Stafford’s “Embraceable You,” the Pied Pipers and Sinatra’s “There Are Such Things,” “Just as Though You Were Here,” “Street of Dreams” and “Oh, Look at Me Now.” Their biggest hit, the one that established vocal groups forever, was “I’ll Never Smile Again.”This was the era when the band was at its best. In the summer of 1941, it outranked every other band to finish first in one of the most indicative of all popularity polls, Martin Block’s Make Believe Ballroom contest.By late 1946, it was becoming apparent that the band business was having problems. In December 1946, eight top bandleaders announced they were calling it quits – Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Les Brown, Jack Teagarden, Benny Carter, Ina Ray Hutton, and Tommy Dorsey. Essentially, this was the official end of the Big Band Era. However it was Tommy Dorsey who, in the years immediately following, fought the case of the Big Bands with words and action. Less than two years later, he was fronting a formidable new group.”It’s about time somebody things going again.” Tommy said at the time. “You can’t expect to have, any real interest in dance bands if the bands don’t go around the country and play for the kids.”As the band’s current conductor, Buddy Morrow insists that it retain the authentic sound and style of the late Tommy Dorsey and still have the elasticity to meet every musical situation. They play dances and concerts with the same high level of expertise.The band’s repertoire embraces not only the classics of the original Dorsey Orchestra, but also the spectrum of popular music from Dixieland, rhythm and blues and intricate ballads to progressive jazz and contemporary tunes. Its library also has a nostalgic representation of those familiar tunes of the 40s, so irreplaceable to the many that loved and still remember Big Bands.Buddy Morrow is one of the rare and original Big Band leaders of today; a man whose skill on his horn is both inspiration to his band and a thrill to audiences wherever they appear. The Tommy Dorsey orchestra led by Buddy Morrow represents explosive and swinging Big Band entertainment its best.Tickets are available at The Smith box office, by calling 315-781-LIVE or toll-free 866-355-LIVE, and online at www.TheSmith.org.The Smith Opera House is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.

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