Cel­e­brat­ing a na­tive son

Les Brown Fes­ti­val set for next week­end

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - Front Page - BY DANIEL PROSICK COPY ED­I­TOR

S tep aside, Dorsey broth­ers, for it’s time to pay tribute to an­other jazz band leader and Schuylkill County na­tive. The 12th an­nual Les Brown Big Band-Week­end will be held next week­end in the area of Les’ home­town, Tower City, and will be salut­ing-Dean-Martin and Les’ Band of Renown, said Joel Guldin, Les Brown Big Band Fes­ti­val Com­mit­tee chair­man.

The­week­end will kick off with the Les Brown Dance from 7 to 10 p. m. April 13 at Tower City Amer­i­can Le­gion, 2 Clarks Val­ley Road. The fol­low­ing day The Les Brown Big Band Fes­ti­val will start at noon, with doors open­ing at 11: 30 a. m. at Wil­liams Val­ley High School, 10330 Route 209, Tower City. Then, on April 15, the­week­end will cul­mi­nate with a Cel­e­bra­tion of Mu­sic ser­vice at 3 p. m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 415 E. Grand Ave. Food will be avail­able at both the dance and fes­ti­val. Tick­ets for the dance and the fes­ti­val are $ 10 and are avail­able at the door; stu­dents, up to col­lege, can en­ter the fes­ti­val for free, Guldin said.

“We’ve done that all th­ese years be­cause we re­ally want to keep it for a younger gen­er­a­tion that may not be fa­mil­iar with big band mu­sic,” Guldin said. Abig rea­son they put on the fes­ti­val is “not just for the older folks to re­mem­ber who Les Brown is, but also to ed­u­cate ev­ery­body in the val­ley to find out who he was, his unique­ness to the val­ley and also to ex­pose them to that mu­sic.”

Ex­pos­ing them to that mu­sic at the dance will be the M & J Big Band, Pottsville, play­ing stan­dards from the ’ 40s and ’ 50s, aswell as Les’ No. 1 hit, “Sen­ti­men­tal Jour­ney,” which, like the Band of Renown, was pop­u­lar among mil­i­tary mem­bers.

“He ( Les) gained his fame with be­ing Bob Hope’s band, and they went on all the USO tours that Bob did in Korea and Viet­nam, so the ser­vice­men knew who he was,” Guldin said.

Spe­cial guests in­clude two in­stru­men­tal­ists fromthe time he toured for the troops, Hal Espinosa, for­mer lead trum­peter, and Jack Red­mond, for­mer trom­bon­ist. Andy DiMino will be in full get- up in or­der to honor Rat Pack mem­ber and the “King of Cool,” Dean Martin. Jas­mine Brooks, Chan­nel 21 news an­chor, will serve as mis­tress of cer­e­monies for the fes­ti­val, which is set to be a day full of non­stop en­ter­tain­ment.

The fes­ti­val, which in­cludes en­ter­tain­ers at both the­main stage and food court, leads in with a trivia ses­sion be­tween stu­dents and

for­mer mem­bers of the band, and will con­tinue with mu­si­cians rang­ing from area high school bands to Amer­ica’s Sweet­hearts, a ladies’ trio based in New York City, play­ing more jazz stan­dards.

“Be­tween bands, we have times where our em­cee will sit down and in­ter­view. It gives a lit­tle break while bands are set­ting up be­hind stage. Peo­ple like to hear the lit­tle rem­i­nisces from back then,” Guldin said, adding they could add more in­sight about who Les was.

“He wasn’t out there as muchas the Dorseys, Duke ( Elling­ton), Count( Basie) or Glenn Miller. But he was around a lot longer than they were. All of their bands did fold even­tu­ally an­dre or­ga­nized, but Les’ kept go­ing con­tin­u­ously for about 60,65 years un­til Les died,” Guldin said. “He was a gi­ant in the big band­field, al­though, I think he was kind of un­der­rated. All of the mu­si­cians from the band said Les was a very niceguy and treated his band mem­bers sow­ell, which a lot of big­band lead­ers didn’t. Alot of his guys played with him 30, 40, 50 years.”

Or­ga­niz­ers will also set up a Les mem­o­ra­bilia ex­hibit in the hall­way, show­ing al­bums, pic­tures, videos, records and more.

Then, on the day of rest, the non- de­nom­i­na­tional ser­vice will fea­ture Heart& Soul, aswell as or­gan­ist David Min­nich, Les’ cousin.

De­spite the amount of ef­fort by both or­ga­niz­ers and per­form­ers dur­ing the­week­end, Guldin said none of it could be done with­out the help of lo­cal spon­sors.

“With­out the area busi­nesses, this­would not be pos­si­ble. They’re very gen­er­ous. The busi­nesses are re­ally the back­bone of what keep this fes­ti­val go­ing.”

For­more in­for­ma­tion about the­week­end, visit www.les­brown­fest.org.

JAC­QUE­LINE DORMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Amer­ica’s Sweet­hearts, New York City, will per­form as part of the 12th an­nual Les Brown Big Band Week­end, sched­uled for April 13- 15. The fes­ti­val will be­gin at noon April 14 at Wil­liams Val­ley High School, Tower City. Mem­bers of the group in­clude,...

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