Article by: Lee Fraser
Swing Shift Big Band creates a unique scene on Saturday afternoons at The Rex.
The Rex in Toronto, ON
Saturdays - May 26, June 23, more dates TBD
3:30 pm to 6:30 pm, all ages, no cover (music appreciation jar)
Several times a year, always on a Saturday afternoon, The Rex does some time travelling and takes all of its patrons with it. The Swing Shift Big Band plays classics of the 30's and 40's to a full house every time.
The stage at The Rex holds a quartet quite comfortably. With the previous show ending only 30 minutes earlier, the staff quickly move into action, moving tables around, setting out a long row of extra seats across the front of the stage. After about 15 minutes of organized chaos, the stage is ready for the onslaught of 18 musicians. A row of trumpet players stand across the back, with a row of trombone players sitting in front of them. The sax players (playing combinations of soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone) take up the seats in front of the stage. Buried behind the horns are the pianist and drummer. Off to the sides are the guitar and stand-up bass players.
The group is led with humour and humility by Jim John, one of the sax players. While the repertoire of Swing Shift consists mainly of big band and swing classics by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and the like, the band is frequently putting a big band twist on television theme songs or movie music.
Since this is a band that gets booked for large corporate events, society weddings and Valentine's Day dances at the exquisite Palais Royale, it's a treat to see them at a Pay What You Can event like their Rex dates. Frequently seen at these gigs are vocalists (Larissa Renée and Dave Statham play alternate gigs), swing dancers, and one bald man with a very loud cheering voice. With so much audio power emanating from the stage, it's easy to see why everyone of every age has a memorable time.