It was the worst of times – war and cold war – yet it was the best of times in the music business.
The Big Band Days, says author and former musician Jack Behrens about his new memoir and source book of the same name, were a wonderful chunk of Americana that continues to live today in different formats.
The swing era, Behrens and others believe, was simply too short.
"Jack recognizes . . . that music cannot survive as a museum piece and his nostalgic documentation of big band leaders, movies and ballrooms segue into a detailed listing on current jazz festivals, swing organizations, web sites and educational resources . . . As fond as I am of rock’n’roll, I wish the garage bands I played in had been struggling to play stock arrangements on ‘In the Mood’ or ‘Take the A Train’ instead of the top ten of 1965. I fantasize at times about growing up when my father did, when swing was the thing," says Monk Rowe, composer/arranger/bandleader and director of the popular Hamilton College (NY) Jazz Archive.
"Jack writes from a double perspective, as a fan and as a swing musician himself. He weaves stories and anecdotes from his extensive interview that illuminate the role of the well known and the hardly known. His own experiences as a young drummer were shared by countless sidemen whose names never made it to the back of the album cover."
Big Band Days gives you an up-close-and-personal look at the musicians of another day and their lives on the road but it also offers you an interactive way to connect with the music because it really didn’t go away. The book includes a complete listing of monthly jazz and swing festivals throughout the country and how to contact them, where to turn your radio dial to hear swing and big band sounds, where to study big bad, jazz and swing, internet sources about people instruments and events and a myriad of other information about the era.
And, says Monk Rowe, you just have to take the fifty-question big band trivia test at the end of the book. "It’s a hoot."