On Saturday, March 18, the Silver Tones Swing Band will host an evening of “sip and swing” at the Blue Valley Winery in Delaplane, featuring the wines of the establishment and live music by the powerful 17-piece Silver Tones Swing Band.
Four years ago, a group of musicians got together in a garage and founded the band. Led by trumpeter Dave Shuma, the group gave its first public performance in October 2012 and has been entertaining a growing number of supporters, nostalgic for the bygone days of big band swing, ever since.
In the 1930s and ’40s swing bands dominated the musical scene. American in origin, the bands featured a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums and included brass, woodwinds and occasionally stringed instruments. The name “swing” derives from the “swing feel,” in which the emphasis is on the off-beat or weaker pulse in the music. Most bands boasted featured soloists. Because the music was eminently danceable, it became enormously popular and the new sensation created such musical icons as Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller.
White teenagers and young adults were the principal fans of the Big Bands in the late 1930s and early 1940s. They danced to recordings and to the radio and attended live concerts whenever they could. Many bands toured the country in grueling one-night stands to reach out to their fans. Traveling conditions and lodging were often difficult for the bands, in part due to segregation in most parts of the United States; the personnel often had to perform on little sleep and food. Apart from the star soloists, many received low wages and would abandon the tour and go home if bookings fell through. Turnover was frequent in many bands, and top soloists were often lured away to better contracts. Sometimes bandstands were too small, public address systems inadequate, and pianos out of tune. Successful bandleaders dealt with all these hazards of touring in order to hold their bands together: some with rigid discipline (Glenn Miller), and some with canny psychology (Duke Ellington).
During World War II, big bands played a major role in lifting morale. Many band members served in the military and toured with USO troupes at the front. Glenn Miller was killed while traveling between troop shows. But many bands suffered from the loss of personnel and quality declined at home during the war years. A recording ban from an ill-timed recording strike in 1942 worsened the situation. Vocalists began to strike out on their own, and by the end of the war, swing was giving way to less danceable music, including bebop.
With the advent of traditional pop music in the 1940s, swing gradually faded into the background. In the 1950s and ’60s, the advent of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole ignited a resurgence of popularity.
“This promises to be an unforgettable night of dancing, fine wine, and live music by the high-energy Silver Tones,” said vocalist Wendy Martin-Shuma. “Our electric agenda will feature swing dance lessons throughout the night (starting at 6:45 p.m.), one complimentary glass of wine, and three sets of big band swing by the Silver Tones.” A dance partner is not required; there will be skilled swing dancers on-site to help the uninitiated “get in the swing.” Nor is dancing compulsory; the more sedentary can simply relax, enjoy the music and bask in the spectacular views at the winery.
Dress for the event is casual. Appetizers will be available for order, and one free glass of Blue Valley wine is included in admission. The winery is at 9402 Justice Lane in Delaplane.