What could be better than an outdoor summer concert with the big band hits of the Dorsey Brothers and vocals made famous by the Pied Pipers? And it’s not just nostalgia for another time. This music swings. The smooth sounds of clarinets, saxes, trumpets and trombones in recognizable ’40s harmony, driven by a walking bass line and feather-light drumming – perfect summer concert fare.
And for Idyllwild’s dancers, this is as good as it gets. Many pop music historians lionize the ’30s and ’40s big band era as the coolest, swinging-est and most optimistic time in American music. In any list of the top ten big bands of the swing era, with luminaries Glenn Miller, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers consistently rank in the top tier.
Ken Dahleen’s Idyllwild Summer Concert Series scored a coup in booking trombonist Bill Tole, current leader of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and singer Nancy Knorr, female lead of the Pipers, for the Thursday, July 16 date.
Tole is not only a gifted musician, with a trombone style reminiscent of Tommy Dorsey, he also played Dorsey in Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film “New York, New York.” Tole joined the Tommy Dorsey Band just after graduating with a degree in music from Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University. After his stint with the Tommy Dorsey Band, Tole played lead trombone for the Air Force’s Airmen of Note, the orchestra once headed by trombonist Glenn Miller (Miller had been a member of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in the 1930s.) Tole was a player in the New York studio scene before moving to Los Angeles in 1967 where he became a much in demand first-call studio session musician.
While part of the L.A. live music and recording scene, Tole worked with Louis Bellson, Les Brown, Bob Crosby and Harry James, and with singers Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones and Pearl Bailey. He also recorded for film scores and played in television variety show bands.
Tole imports a Dorsey group of 15 plus singer, Nancy Knorr, who in addition to being a standout vocalist, is Tole’s sister. Knorr will cover hits of the Pied Pipers and other big band female vocalists including “Dream,” “Green Eyes,” “Tangerine,” and “Embraceable You.” Tole said the band would sample not just Dorsey standards, but also hits of other big bands.
Tole is the perfect band leader to celebrate the Dorsey Brothers’ musical lexicon, having joined the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1959 and having headed the Jimmy Dorsey Band for over a decade. “The Dorsey bands were as important as any in the big band era,” said Tole.
“Tommy was the forerunner of the pretty ballad trombone style, and both brothers were intelligent businessman who hired the best musicians and singers.”
So dust off your swing moves and dance down memory lane to big band standards “Johnson Rag,” “Besame Mucho,” “Amapola,” “One O’Clock Jump,” and “Pennies from Heaven.”
The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra takes the stage for the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 on the grounds of the Idyllwild Community Center. There is no opening act for this headliner.
This event is free to the public, as are all of the ISCS productions. The opening concert of the season, Lisa Haley on July 2, was packed. Attendees started placing chairs in favorite spots early in the day and parking was at a premium. So plan your arrival time accordingly and remember to bring a flashlight to find your way to your car after the concert.
The budget for this season is over $30,000 and to date only half has been raised. Donation jars will be passed during the concert. Proceeds from ice cream and water sales by the Coopersmiths are donated to ISCS.
For more information about Bill Tole see www.billtole.com and about ISCS see www.idyllwildsummerconcerts.com.