May 3, 2007

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The kids get jazz
Compaq Big Band leads a night of high school swing
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

The big band era has come and gone (ditto its revival) but that hasn’t stopped the Compaq Big Band from performing.

“Everybody thinks that jazz died out a long time ago, but that didn’t happen. Southern New Hampshire has a very large number of jazz programs in the schools and a surprising number of big bands in the area,” said Al Saloky, director of the Compaq Big Band.

For the past four years, the Compaq Big Band has hosted the “Night of Big Bands” with Manchester high school big bands. This year Central, Memorial and West high schools will perform at the Palace Theatre sponsored by the Compaq Big Band.

“We’ve latched onto Manchester because they have three good jazz programs going on. We do this to get all the groups together on a neutral site. It’s not a contest, just an exhibit. It’s fun for our band to work with the kids,” Saloky said.

The Compaq Big Band has been around for more than 30 years. It’s a no-profit production, which means it makes just enough money to make ends meet — to pay for gas and sheet music.

The typical lineup for a big band would include five saxophone players (two altos, two tenors and a baritone), four trombones, four trumpets, and a standard four-piece jazz rhythm section including drums, bass, guitar and piano. If vocals are included they’ll have at least one singer. It all adds up to a lot of members to pay at the end of the night.

“My joke is we’re a for-loss enterprise. It’s just impossible to pay the guys a going musician’s rate. But we do it because we love it,” Saloky said.

The Compaq Big Band and the local high schools will perform big band standards, such as Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra, as well as more complex pieces like Gordon Goodwin.

“For the students, this is a highlight of their year. They throw very challenging pieces at the students. Which, in turn, challenges us to do more exciting stuff every year just to keep on top of the game,” Saloky said.

Sing sing sing
What: The Fourth Annual Night of Big Bands
When: Thursday, May 3, 7 p.m. $20 general admission; $10 for students.
Where: Palace Theatre, 82 Hanover St., Manchester
For more information: Go to compaqbigbands.com; get tickets at palacetheatre.org or 668-5588.