Austin’s big sound

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Austin Big Band. -- Photo provided

Austin’s Big Band steps listeners back in time

Austin residents may want to break out their zoot suits this Fourth of July.

The Austin Big Band will not only be playing hits like “Zoot Suit Riot” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” at the bandshell park on the Fourth, but it will be performing on a parade float for the first time.

Guitarist Jim Ruud plays with the Austin Big Band Friday in the commons of Albert Lea High School during the school's spring jazz concert. -- Herald file photo

Nathan Wradislavsky, tenor saxophone player and band manager, said the band is looking forward to being a part of the parade.

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“It’s an amazing experience to be able to perform these songs that have basically passed the test of time,” Wradislavsky said. “We’re looking forward to a sunny day on our 50-foot trailer. We’re excited about that.”

Wradislavsky said the band will be playing four songs in a loop during the parade but will switch to a longer setlist for an hour-long park performance at 2 p.m.

Keeping in tune with Independence Day, Austin Big Band will feature a few classic, patriotic songs; however, Wradislavsky is hoping to appeal to a larger audience by playing a few more popular, swinging songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

The band has made an effort in recent years to expand its audience reach and include songs people will recognize, enjoy and want to dance to.

This hasn’t ruffled the band at all, according to Wradislavsky.

“We have some people who have played with professional big bands,” he said.

“It’s truly amazing when I can pull out something like the Flintstones theme or a 1980s pop song and throw at these guys and nobody ever says, ‘I don’t play that.’

“It’s fun to see how it comes together.”

Musical artists like Neil Diamond and Wham are included in the band’s repertoire of more than 500 songs, which makes big band practice interesting at times.

“To get 17 people together and perform these songs … and play such a wide variety of music and enjoy it, I don’t think anybody’s ever gotten tired of being around each other,” Wradislavsky said.

“I would say each and every one of us in there is (passionate about music).”

Wradislavsky said the band members are excited to showcase patriotic tunes in honor of July Fourth while also getting the chance to play a few American favorites.

“One of our goals for the summer is to get it out there that we do a lot of really swingin’ tunes and it doesn’t matter what age you are, you can really get into it,” he said. “The bands from (the big band era) were of such a professional caliber and it’s great we have the chance to perform the same music they did.”

Upcoming shows for the Austin Big Band

July 4: Austin Parade, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.;
Freedom Fest Austin Bandshell, 2 to 3 p.m.
July 13: Concert in Bandshell park, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Aug. 7: Presbyterian corn feed, noon to 1 p.m.
Aug. 9: The Surf, 6 to 10 p.m.
Aug. 11: Mower County Fair, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 13: Mower County Fair, 4 to 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: El Parral, 7 to 10 p.m.
Nov. 19: Grafton, Ia
Nov. 23: Legion Thanksgiving Eve
Dec. 3: Holiday Cars