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A swinging week ahead in Troy

A performer from "Post Modern Jukebox"
Marvin Contessi
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
"Post Modern Jukebox" at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

Without question, pop music plays an important part in the psyche of every individual’s life.

It’s doubtful there is a person who doesn’t have a memory triggered by a certain song. Whether it be a marriage or other special life event – or just a special vacation – there is a song that will bring that moment back in vivid detail.

There are also entire genres of music that act the same way. One of those is swing music. It’s a form associated with the big band era of the 1930’s and 40’s.

It was special music for a special time. Through the magic of vivid musical harmony – which for the time was audacious – it comforted people through both the Great Depression and World War II.

Some say it was an escape from the reality of the times. Others insist it plugged into the optimism of the human spirit.

Local audiences will get a chance to decide for themselves this week. Swing music is not only alive and well, it is thriving at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

On Thursday, October 28, Post Modern Jukebox, a group that takes contemporary songs and orchestrates them to sound as if they were being produced in mid-20th century, plays the Hall at 7:30 p.m. Two days later, The Glenn Miller Orchestra performs there at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

It’s more than just an interesting pairing – it’s a tribute both to the durability of the music and the significance it has had on American culture. Should you attend both concerts it will be like examining a coin from both sides.

Erik Stabnau, the musical director of the Glenn Miller Band, says his group is tightly bound to authenticity. What you hear at their concert will be as close as possible to what attending an actual concert would have been like 80 years ago.

He admits that many orchestrations of the 1200 songs available to them were created after Miller’s disappearance. His plane mysterious vanished while crossing the English Channel in 1944. But he insists they have been painfully honest to create orchestrations that are true to the original style.

He also says it’s a moot point, as at every concert the band performs what he calls the classics – or more definitively the songs people come expecting to hear. They include “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serendade” “String of Pearls,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and a dozen others. “They are as authentic as one can expect,” he says.

Adam Kubota, the music director of Post Modern Jukebox, is just as reverential to the musical form as Stabnau is to the specific style of Glenn Miller. He’s been associated with the group since it was formed in 2011. It started in the apartment of musical arranger Scott Bradlee who so loved swing he and friends would redefine current pop hits as if performed by swing, jazz or even ragtime bands.

Some of the artists they’ve covered are Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Talking Heads and David Bowie. Kubota says Beyonce so loves a cover of theirs, with permission, she introduced it into her act.

The idea grew and developed a following among performers – they still consider themselves a collaborative that began to perform in public. But Post Modern also means contemporary promotional tools. They have had 1.4 billion views on You Tube and try to post a new song weekly.

Obviously, this means they need a lot of talent who love and understand swing - to draw upon. PMJ, as they are popularly known, think of themselves as a musical collaborative with a constantly changing cast of performers. However, Kubota– who plays bass for the group - says the tour is a solid unit that stays intact.

As might be expected, PMJ draws a younger crowd, but they also attract the mature audience who love the idea of modern pop being presented as swing.

The same is true in reverse for the Glenn Miller Band. Their demographic is older, but Stabnau insists younger audiences are coming too. He adds, “And they love it.”

The visuals are as authentic as is the music with the performers – especially the vocalists capturing the era of the times.

What both audience types have in common is the audience wants to dance. Stabmau points out the frequent venues for Glenn Miller were in places like Roseland Ballroom. “The music was created for dancing and I still see people in the back of halls, dancing when we perform.”

Kubota is more direct. “Come expecting a party. We want people shouting, dancing and moving their bodies.”

Indeed, with his closing comment he sums up the durability of the art form. “Swing is fun,” he says.

For tickets to either show contact Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second Street, Troy. Troymusichall.com. Post Modern Jukebox is 7:30 p.m., Glenn Miller Orchestra 3 p.m. Proof of vaccination is manditory and masks must be worn in the theater.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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