Ken’s Big Band Staff played the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series in 2017. The band returns to the stage Aug. 15.    File Photo

Ken’s Big Band Staff returns to Idyllwild Thursday, Aug. 15. Led by Ken Dahleen, the creator and producer of the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series, the Big Band Staff will sweep you off your feet with luxurious harmonies and rhythms beyond 3/4.

The heyday of big bands was the 1930s and 1940s. But they are neither extinct nor relegated to museums. Ken’s Big Band Staff was formed and has been performing since 1991.

“We were popular throughout Southern California. Organizers always invited a big band to their summer concerts,” Dahleen said. Consequently, they kept wanting to perform in Idyllwild, but there was no venue.

Finally, in 2000, Ken met with some local people and secured funding to offer a summer concert series. Big Band highlighted the first year of the ISCS, when only four concerts were performed. 

They easily draw some of the biggest attendance to the ISCS. ”I suspect there will be dancing and lot of high energy,” he promised.

Big bands with trumpets, trombones, saxophones and rhythm are smaller than an orchestra, but they offer much more sound and harmony than rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock or metallic rock from guitars and drums.

Ken’s Big Band Staff, while a completely different sound from country, offers the audience the same finger snappin’ foot stompin’ feelings to get up and dance with a partner.

Besides organizing the ISCS and directing the Big Band Staff, Dahleen also plays the saxophone in the band. He grew up playing the saxophone.

Dahleen also played in the Marine Corps Band, but that is not why he enlisted. After seeing his talent, the Corps assigned him to the band. However, living in the desert and raising a family left little time for practice, rehearsals or performances, so he quit playing for nearly two decades.

Friends eventually persuaded him to unretire and play again. “I was never back to where I was,” he admitted. The Big Band Staff is a supreme example of that period when jazz was the dominant American music genre and the audience loved to listen and to dance with the music.

Fortunately for the Idyllwild audience, Dahleen and the Big Band Staff are not cemented to the last century. While he has not compiled his play list yet, Dahleen promised “recognizable tunes from the big band era and many recognizable jazz tunes — older and newer.”

“The ISCS original concept was as selection of different genres,” he said. “That way everybody would have at least one night of their favorite music.”

At 7 p.m. on Aug. 15, the Big Band Staff will fill Strawberry Creek with flowing sounds of harmony and rhythms.

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