Band comes out swingin'

MOVIN' GROOVIN': Seattle musicians travel to Olympia to play at weekly dance night

March 25, 2011 

Band comes out swingin'

Get ready to dance when Solomon Douglas and his 10-piece big band Swingtet play a weekly dance night at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Eagles Hall Ballroom.

COURTESY OF LARRY COLEN

  • SWINGTET CD RELEASE PARTY

    What: Solomon Douglas of Seattle brings his 10-piece big band to Olympia’s weekly swing-dance night for a CD release party, concert and dance

    When: Dance lesson at 7 p.m. Tuesday, dancing to live music 7:30-10:30 p.m.

    Where: Eagles Hall Ballroom, 805 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

    Tickets: $8

    More information: olyswing.com or solomondouglas.com

    Also: The dance is a weekly event, with a regular admission charge of $5

You might - if you were fond of bad puns - say that Solomon Douglas is a real swinging guy.

Douglas of Seattle, who’ll play Tuesday in Olympia with his 10-piece big band Swingtet, isn’t just a swing bandleader and pianist. He also is a swing dancer, swing-dance teacher and swing-dance DJ.

The event is not simply a concert: It’s a weekly swing dance with the added draw of live music.

“To have a 10-piece swing band on a Tuesday night in Olympia is awesome,” said Christine Corey, the swing-dance teacher who organizes the dance. She said Douglas has played for the dance before, but with a three-piece combo.

“We play about 90 percent dance events,” he said. “On this tour, we’re playing at a bar in Boise, and we’re playing at a bar in Portland, and we’re playing at a bar in Eugene. The rest of the tour is all dance events – and even at those three, I’m expecting and hoping that some dancers will show up and dance.”

Asked if he’d rather dance or play, he paused. “I feel like they are just different ways of expressing the same thing, so I can’t even say which one I like more,” he said. “They are both ways of getting inside the music.”

And although playing the piano wouldn’t seem to leave much room for movement, Douglas does sneak in a few steps every now and again.

“My 10-piece band can play whether I’m sitting there or not,” he said. “I can sometimes stand up and dance while the band is playing, as long as I can get back on the bandstand in time to finish the song.”

The Swingtet is touring in support of its new CD, “Ain’t No School Like the Old School,” featuring music from 1927 to 1942. It will be officially released April 1, but it will be available for purchase at the show.

“Most of it is our versions of big-band stuff from that era,” Douglas said. “It’s all arrangements that I’ve written.

“I tried to stay very close to the original arrangements. I did not base my versions on any published scores. I spent a lot of time listening to the recordings and writing arrangements that were the most faithful that I could do to re-create the sound of the recordings.”

While the music is old, it also is new.

“The guys in the band are all very creative modern musicians,” he said. “They enjoy playing this old-time music, but each one brings his own feeling to it and his own experiences and his own musical aesthetic, so none of the recordings sound exactly like the originals. The way the band swings is a little bit different.”

Among the swing crowd, the Swingtet’s third album has already garnered plenty of praise, shared at www.solomondouglas.com.

“You’ve captured the spirit of the ’30s and early ’40s just sensationally,” said Larry O’Brien, musical director of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. “Man, you’ve got a winner there, you know?”

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