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Big Band Theory brings rich music of simpler times to Tennessee Williams celebration

 

Gill Harris and the Big Band Theory

Gill Harris and the Big Band Theory Photo by: Provided

 

Garthia Elena Burnett

 

Do you long for the robust sound of the old-school big band?  

 

Or perhaps you''ve never heard the rich textures, strong melodies and varying dynamics of a large dance or jazz band. 

 

Either way, organizers say, you''re in for a treat with the performance of a big band, led by local conductor Gill Harris and highlighted with the vocals of Denise Reid of the duo Two Jazzy.  

 

Thursday night at 8 at the Trotter Convention Center in downtown Columbus, Harris brings together five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, piano, bass, drums and a singer, for a a big band concert in honor of Tennessee Williams. Columbus, Williams'' birthplace, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the playwright''s birth (Saturday) with a week of events. 

 

Thursday''s concert features about one-third local talent; remaining band members are professional musicians making the rounds on the national circuit. 

 

Among other selections, The Big Band Theory will perform two of Williams'' favorite songs -- "Danny Boy" and "If I Didn''t Care." 

 

Upon visits to a favorite spot in New Orleans, Williams would put a coin in the juke box and hit "If I Didn''t Care." 

 

"That was his favorite song," said Harris. "We were told that "Danny Boy" was another one of his favorites." 

 

Harris, a structural engineer by trade, has been putting together big bands since the 1970s. He says the popular music performed by the big band is more meaningful than what he hears on the radio today. 

 

"We''ve raised a generation or two of people who''ve never been exposed to meaningful, popular music," Harris said, noting elements like lyrics, melody, harmony, dynamics, textures of sound and rhythm make the music more powerful, offering a story rather than just a few repetitious lines. 

 

Reid performed last year with a big band organized by Harris. She, along with Tony Derrico, performs big-bad era jazz and swing. 

 

Dr. Rick Montalto, a music professor at Mississippi University for Women, who also is playing with the big band this week, sometimes accompanies the singing duo on bass. 

 

"That''s just what I really love," Reid said of jazz and swing music. "And Tony, he''s from New York and he played in several venues and all over the world and that''s what his background is in, big band jazz." 

 

The lyrics and chords set jazz apart from pop, country or rock, Reid said. 

 

"The rich chords of jazz is just a different thing than what we hear in most pop, rock or country music," she said. "The lyrics are fun, romantic. They remind us of the more simple times, the days in the past. And they''re really timeless songs." 

 

"If I Didn''t Care" falls into the romantic category with such lines as, "If I didn''t care would it be the same? Would my ev''ry prayer begin and end with just your name? And would I be sure that this is love beyond compare? Would all this be true if I didn''t care for you?" 

 

Reid also said jazz has never gone out of style, citing such popular artists as Grammy-Award winner Michael Buble, whose songs include "Haven''t Met You Yet" and "You''re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You." 

 

"If you have not experienced the sound of a big band with all the horns, it''s great, even if you are not a big fan of jazz ... you will enjoy it," Reid said. 

 

"Hopefully, they would gain the experience of hearing music that has all of these five or six ingredients that have been lost because, one by one, each one of those properties of music has been dropped out," Harris said. "So we''re putting it back in." 

 

Tickets are $10 per person, $100 for a reserved table for 10 and $5 for balcony seating. For tickets and other info, contact the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center at 662-328-0222, 300 Main St.

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment eugenius commented at 3/22/2011 8:54:00 PM:

i went to the big band theory concert last year. My first time hearing a live big band. Totally awesome. I will be back this year.Don't miss it.

 

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