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Big bands and fireworks

David Rosen Orchestra offers both classic big band works and patriotic numbers.


BIG BAND BOOM: On the Fourth.
  • BIG BAND BOOM: On the Fourth.

The David Rosen
When and Where: 3 p.m. July 2, Woolly Auditorium, Arkansas School for the Blind, 2600 W. Markham St., and 7 p.m. July 4, Riverfest Amphitheatre, along with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in the 23rd annual “Pops on the River”
Admission: Both shows are free.

The David Rosen Orchestra will bring some big band sound to the Fourth’s big bangs when it opens the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Independence Day Pops on the River performance at Riverfest Amphitheatre on Tuesday. Rosen’s band lights the musical sparklers at 7 p.m.; fireworks will rain over the Main Street bridge sometime after 9 p.m. Admission is free.

The show will include a Steve Allen rendition of “Happy Fourth of July/Jumpy Blues,” to be loosely interpreted as a metaphor for fireworks, Rosen said, and the orchestra will pay its annual tribute to Duke Ellington with “Caravan,” as well as Les Brown and Maynard Ferguson pieces.

Look also for such patriotic songs as “American Patrol March,” popularized by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in the 1940s. “That tune eludes to the spirit and can-do nature of the United States when it gets confronted with a mighty big conflict,” Rosen said. The orchestra will finish with the traditional “America the Beautiful,” moving into “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag.”

The David Rosen Orchestra has been going strong for 20 years, following in the musical footsteps of the orchestra assembled by Rosen’s father, the late Marty Rosen.

David Rosen is capitalizing on the renewed popularity in big band music. The sound of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s is being featured in movies and in auditoriums around the country. Fans likely won’t find it nightly or even weekly, but jazz musicians from longtime veterans to college students and younger are enjoying an occasional foray into what was the mid-20th century’s hottest music.

“There are a number of bands, some regional bands, that have gotten quite good,” Rosen said. “A friend of mine in Dallas, Galen Jeter, started the Dallas Jazz Orchestra 23 or 24 years ago and now they are world renowned.”

Others, such as Tom Kubis’ band in Southern California, employ some of the best musicians around. In Arkansas, Hot Springs big band fans enjoy the sounds of the Stardust Big Band and its monthly performance in the Arlington Resort Hotel, and there are others around the state getting notice.

Rosen, who led the Solid Brass band for several years before deciding to focus on what he liked best, the American big band, will also lead the orchestra in a performance Sunday, July 2, at Woolly Auditorium at the Arkansas School for the Blind (2600 W. Markham St.). The show starts at 3 p.m. and is free. Sunday’s show will include tributes to Woody Herman and the Les Brown Band, along with modern music from such bandleaders as Kubis and Bob Mintzer. “We’ll give a little preview or warmup for the Fourth of July, a couple of patriotic tunes,” Rosen added. “The whole band is capable of soloing, so it should be an interesting afternoon. At some point in the concert, everybody will be featured.”

The DRO lineup is Earl Hesse, first alto saxophone; Andy Peak, second alto sax; Matt Dixon, first tenor sax; David Williams, second tenor sax; David Murphy, baritone sax; Michael Underwood, first trombone; Carl Mouton, second trombone; Harvey Haley, third trombone; David Carter, bass trombone; and a trumpet section of Michael Copeland, Jeff Robbins, Steve Cohen and Mike Scott; Bryan Withers on drums, Billy Hoover on piano, Perry Israel on guitar and David Higginbotham on bass. Rosen conducts and plays trumpet.

“All the guys enjoy playing. We rehearse each Monday. It’s just a lot of fun,” said Rosen, who added that donations are always welcome. “We have a kitty, and our kitty will eat anything. If someone is so disposed, we’d appreciate anything.”

A second DRO summer performance is set for Aug. 20 and two more are planned for the fall.


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