Trail-based big band searching for a bit more brass

The Swingsations are in need of two trombone players to apprentice with some of the best in the game.

Call it raiders of the lost art.

The shout has been put out for those who have the brass to bring their lungs and musical wherewithal to the stage and strut their stuff with the Swingsations.

The Trail-based big band is in need of two trombone players to apprentice with some of the best in the game, to learn the vanishing technique of the telescoping instrument from them before they disappear.

The musicianship in the Swingsations is becoming a lost art form, said Swingsations trumpet player Martin David, and with some of those players set to retire, that knowledge of trombone, saxophone and trumpet could be lost forever.

“There has to be something we can pass on to a younger generation. I mean, we need to take advantage of what we got with them right now,” he said recently.

“But we need to create another generation of big band lovers and swing lovers to do that kind of thing.”

David pointed to veteran players such as Jackie Vellutini, 94, and Lorne De Paolis, who played with virtuoso solo trumpeter Rafael Mendez when he played in Trail years ago — and was offered a touring gig with the best trumpet player in the world — as some of the band’s musical mentors.

“That is some of the caliber of the guys who are actually playing in there,” said David. “These guys can really play, they have it with them.”

There’s a wealth of talent on the 16-piece outfit led by band leader Clark White, said David, but with school band programs being curtailed and cut at many West Kootenay schools, there aren’t as many musicians filtering about to fill the void.

That fact has significantly hampered the band’s ability to keep filling positions in the four-person trombone section, as well as a four-person trumpet section and a similar complement in the saxophone section.

In addition to a keyboardist, vocalist, bass player, drummer and guitar player, the Swingsations offer a full sound, one that has filled the aural passageways of people as far away as Calgary since the band first formed in the 1960s.

Playing the same music as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Guy Lombardo and Glenn Miller the band was once known as the Novatones, changing the name to Swingsations under the leadership of White in the late 1990s.

The Swingsations came into being during the rebirth of the big band and swing sound in the 1990s and into the 2000s, sporting swing, jazz, rock, polka, waltz, rumba and tango in their repertoire.

The Swingsations play around six gigs per year, and practice every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at the Legion Hall in Trail.

For a glimpse of what big band music is like, or to see if you have what it takes to play, you can check out the Swingsations on April 14 at K.P. Hall (above Shoppers Drug Mart). Tickets are available at Mallard’s Source for Sports in Castlegar and the Trail Coffee and Tea Company for $15.

For those interested in joining the band, contact Clark White at 367-6115.