Our executive producer John is a music man through and through. I’ve seen this son of the Motor City, a long time rock and blues guitarist himself, swoon with emotion over everything from Chinese zither to old time fiddling. He also loves jazz. So to explain what’s up I quote him:
“As a child, even before there were my beloved Beatles singles, I had my parents’ 45 rpm Big Band singles as my earliest musical diet. Miller, Dorsey, Ellington…my first concert was Count Basie. While it’s not “Americana” by definition, it is a wonderful part of the “roots” of American popular music history. It’s important to stoke this flame in our culture. In my opinion, this music was one of the strongest forces leading us toward better racial understanding. My hope is to find yet another point of unification between generations as younger music fans discover the sheer analog power and rich harmonic texture that only a large ensemble can provide. I thought the best way to do that would be to feature iconic artists in our “Roots” community that you wouldn’t normally hear in this context.”
So here’s what’s happening: On Feb. 11, the Saturday night before Valentine’s Day, we’ll present Music City Roots: Big Band Special at Nashville’s historic War Memorial Auditorium. Four of our favorite acts from Americana – Elizabeth Cook, Darrell Scott, John Cowan and the McCrary Sisters – will perform original and classic songs with the 20-piece Nashville Jazz Orchestra. Jim Lauderdale and Peter Cooper will co-host. A dance floor will be open all night, and our friends from Electric Western will warm you up with one of their signature dance parties in the hour before the show.
The NJO, Music City’s finest and most emblematic big band, is working up new arrangements and orchestrations for some of these artists’ familiar favorites. And in the spirit of Valentine’s Day there will be love songs to spare.
John Walker again: “I’ve been dreaming of this for seven years, and I still get chills just talking about it. We’re still drilling down on specific song selections, so you’ll just have to show up to find out. (The Vietti Chili jingle alone should be worth the price of admission.)”
The venue is one of the night’s stars, embodying the best of the old and the now. The hall was completed and dedicated in 1925, the same year that WSM radio went on the air from the fifth floor of the National Life & Accident Insurance Co. literally across the street. WSM aired concerts from War Memorial including numerous performances of the Nashville Symphony. And any hard core country music fan will know that War Memorial was the home of the Grand Ole Opry in the 30s and early 40s, just before it moved down the hill to the Ryman Auditorium. Today it’s an elegant space with fine acoustics and a dramatic balcony.
Besides this partnership with WMA, we want to salute Jim Williamson, Oscar Udderstrom and the Nashville Jazz Orchestra for coming to the table to make this idea work.
Sounds like a Date Night to us.