Gatsby Gala

ABBPS Presents: The Great Gatsby Gala

On November 15th, Memorial Hall in Melrose will be transported back to the Roaring 20s with an evening of dance (including free instruction), vintage fashion, haberdashers, libations, and live music from  Dan Gabel’s High Society Orchestra. Featuring vocalist Elise Roth and top musicians from the Boston area, they will be releasing their newest CD, Business in F.

WHERE: Soldiers and Sailors Building (a/k/a Memorial Hall), 590 Main St., Melrose, MA

WHEN: Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30)

WHAT: In a celebration of the irresistible music of the Gatsby era (and most recently Boardwalk Empire), you will be treated to:

  • Free dance instruction
  • Vintage fashion vendors
  • Memorabilia table
  • Charleston dance contest
  • Prizes for the best-dressed gent and lady
  • Raffles and Prizes
  • Complimentary hors d’oeuvres
  • Full cash bar w/ vintage cocktails

You are encouraged (but not required) to put on your best vintage garb, learn a few steps from our expert dancers or simply sit back and listen to this infectious sound.

The event is a fundraiser with proceeds benefiting the American Big Band Preservation Society, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and performing this great music, with a special emphasis on our youth and schools.


$25 General Admission

$50 General Table Seating

$450 Reserved Table of 10 (including 2 complimentary CDs)

$15 Student w/ ID (general admission seat)

Buying your tickets online is the easiest way (see below), but you can also call 877-340-2263 or in-person at Miter Biter, 479 Main Street, Melrose. (If you’re having any issues ordering online, please click here.)

Proceeds will fund the Society’s efforts to bring Big Band music back into our schools through master classes, clinics, seminars and live performance.

Artie Shaw

And Down By the Shore An Orchestra’s Playing

Written by Arnie Koch

To say Artie Shaw had “an eye for talent” is an understatement. Just look at the band’s alumni: Georgie Auld, Ray Conniff, Buddy Rich, Davey Tough, Maxie Kaminsky, Cliff Leeman, Hot Lips Page, Lee Castle, Ray Conniff, Dodo Marmarosa, Barney Kessel, Claude Thornhill, Roy Eldridge, Sam Donahue, Billy Butterfield, Jack Jenney, Tony Pastor, and Geoge Wettling.

Shaw preferred instrumental music over vocal. His 12 gold records had no vocals. “I don’t carry about opera,” he once said. “I’m very interested in what comes out of a series of instruments.” He may not have appreciated vocalists, but he knew how to pick ‘em including: Mel Torme, Kitty Kalen, Helen Forrest, Georgia Gibbs, and Billie Holiday.

Disgruntled with the Dorsey band, Frank Sinatra once asked Shaw if he would like to hire a male singer. Shaw replied that he had to have a girl singer. “I don’t like male singers”, he added. The turn down began a lifetime of antagonism between the two. As Shaw saw it, “Frank was jealous that I was there first with Lana and Ava.”
It was at the band’s home base at The Roseland-State in Boston in the late 30’s that “Begin the Bequine” was arranged by Jerry Gray. It had a hard intro that Shaw wanted “to get the attention of the dancers.” While there, the memorable “Any Old TIme” was recorded by Billie Holiday. Shaw was the first to hire a full time black singer. Billie was with the band for nine months and left because of problems with southern audiences. A young Helen Forest had shared the bandstand and remembered Billie telling Artie, “Why don’t you let that child sing some more ? Go ahead and make her some arrangements.”

When Shaw enlisted in 1942, he was able to form a band that included Davey Tough, Claude Thornhill, Max Kaminsky and Sam Donahue. He was allowed to play in several battle zones in the Pacific. The band survived seventeen Japanese bombing attacks that tried to hit the warships they were traveling on from island to island.
In 1954, Shaw stopped playing the clarinet and retired to run a dairy farm. Citing his own problem with perfectionism, which, he later said, would have killed him. He explained to a reporter, “In the world we live in, compulsive perfectionists finish last. You have to be Lawrence Welk, or, on another level, Irving Berlin, and write the same kind of music over and over again. I’m not able to do that. I have taken the clarinet as far as anyone can possibly go. To continue playing would be a disservice.” He spent the rest of the 1950s living in Europe. Shaw himself guest conducted from time to time, ending his self-imposed retirement.

In 1981, he organized a new Artie Shaw Band with clarinetist Dick Johnson as bandleader and soloist. Amanda Carr, ABBPS founder, sang with the orchestra a number of times. Dick’s son, Gary, backed Amanda on drums at an engagement at Sculler’s near Boston. “He is on my very short list of tasteful drummers who can keep time, “ says Amanda.

On the evening of March 16, 1984, my wife and I were at the Boston Park Plaza to enjoy the music of the “new” Artie Shaw Orchestra led by Dick Johnson. Artie, at age 84, conducted the first set. He reminded the crowd that it was in Boston at the Roseland-State that he launched his first band in 1937.

In an interview with Boston Globe columnist, Ernie Santosuosso, Shaw commented: “There is nothing more useless than a band that’s not working. I’m always asked if big bands are coming back. Sure they are, next football season. Today, with tons of electrical gear on stage, three musicians can make the same noise that 100 used to, so why have a big band ? We recorded ‘Stardust’ in one take. I’d like to see Fleetwood Mac match that.”
Shaw was married eight times. Perhaps that’s why his theme song was called “Nightmare”.

References: “The Big Bands”, George T. Simon; “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz”; “Tommy Dorsey”, Peter J. Levinson; “Swing, Swing, Swing”, Ross Firestone. On YouTube, there are segments of the Academy Award winning documentary on Shaw called “Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got”.

Jazz at Sunset

ABBPS Sponsors Jazz at Sunset Concert Series

Starting June 20th, ABBPS, in conjunction with the Scandinavian Athletic Club Park, presents “Jazz at Sunset,” a premiere summer concert series. For six Friday nights this summer, you can enjoy the sounds of American music, with fantastic acts including The Four Freshmen,  A Tribute to Cab Calloway with Christopher Calloway Books, the Jeff Holmes Big Band, and Dan Gabel and the Abletones.

Jazz At Sunset has been a summer concert series in central New England for over 20 years. Until recently, the series was hosted by the EcoTarium, in Worcester, MA, but when they announced that it was ending, the American Big Band Preservation Society stepped in and agreed to keep the concerts alive. This year, ABBPS has teamed up with SAC park to bring jazz to the hot summer nights.

Bring a picnic meal, a chair and/or blanket and enjoy the sunset while listening to fantastic music. All concerts will be rain or shine.

For more information, visit the event’s website:
Buy tickets here: or call us to order tickets at (774) 280-1502