Jump, jive and wail

'Battle of the Bands' pairs University jazz musicians and dancers

Claire Joseph

It might be the 21st century, but it’ll feel like the 1930s tonight and Friday in Ted Mann Concert Hall.

The University music department is joining forces with the dance department to create “Battle of the Bands.” Historically, these “battles” were a popular gimmick club owners used to draw crowds by booking two bands on the same night.

Dean Sorenson, the School of Music jazz director, explained that on these double-booked nights, bands went back and forth, competing to see which could play the loudest, fastest and best.

“It was probably a promotional idea,” Sorenson said of the tradition.

But this weekend, the competition won’t be quite as impromptu.

The two bands will be Jazz I and Jazz II, two of the three jazz ensembles at the University.

The bands are set up as standard big bands, consisting of five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, a piano, a bass and drums.

“I chose music of different, prominent bands of the ’30s and ’40s,” Sorenson said.

The ensembles will play tunes by Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and others.

They’ll be playing toward the back of the stage, leaving the front for some of the dance department’s dancers to do the jive, the jitterbug and other dances from the swing era.

This collaboration between the music and dance departments can be fun, said Scott Gilbert, a University dance graduate and guest artist in the show.

Not only is it a good opportunity to get performance credits, but it’s a chance to “get out of your small dance studio and work with others,” Gilbert said.

After the performance, audience members can go on stage to dance with the bands and members of the dance department.

Polka-dot dresses and snazzy suspenders will fill the stage, bringing a taste of pop-music history to the West Bank Arts Quarter.