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An odyssey of swing

August 26th

You’ll be able to travel back to the ‘30s and move all the way to present day this Saturday with a one-night only performance by the World Class City Band at Over The Ledge Theatre Co. The 12-piece group is led by local big band music staple, John Dale Smith.

Smith said that this performance is a way for the group to head back to its roots.

“In 2000, we did a show, a musical revue, called ‘Sophisticated Ladies,’ featuring four singers and we had a 14-piece 'little' Big Band,” Smith said.

That 14-piece group was similar to today’s incarnation of the World Class City Band, but Smith wouldn’t lead a group by that name for some time. First, he’d go an alternate route.

“Several people in the audience who were at this show said, ‘You know, that ought to be something that the Lansing Symphony should incorporate,’” Smith said.

Incorporate them they did, and for a decade, Smith would lead the Lansing Symphony Big Band. Even after that stint, his love for the genre didn’t waver.

“Evan Pinsonnault and others decided to form a variety show,” Smith said, referring to a former local TV broadcaster active in theater. “Evan and I were good friends, so we sort of modeled it after David Letterman. I had an eight-piece band, and we called that band, for the purpose of the show, the World Class City Band.”

Though Pinsonnault’s show didn’t last, Smith’s chosen moniker did. Smith said he actually got the name from Mayor Virg Bernero, who always wanted Lansing to be a “world class city.”

Fast forward a few years to 2017, and the World Class City Band has grown from eight members to 12. Smith said he’s stuck with groups that play Big Band and swing music because of his love for it.

“You don’t get to hear it much,” Smith said. “So now we’re going to go back to Over The Ledge’s now. Joe Dickson is now in charge, and he wanted something different to present up there, rather than just theater.”

The upcoming show almost didn’t happen. It was originally booked for July, but delays pushed it back to the end of August. Now however, Smith is confident about his lineup and set list.

“The first set will be your traditional big band tunes; the second set evolves into another group. It’s the same people performing but it’s more of what I call J&J Sounds, Jerry Krause, who is the bass player and vocals, and I are co-leaders of this other group called J&J Sounds. We do Blues Brothers, Chicago, Detroit kind of music,” Smith said. “So, what we are doing is Big Band, take an intermission, and we all come back and we do those charts but it’s with seven horns rather than the normal three. It’s a huge sound, it’s really rather exciting.”

That second set will include such tunes as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Pretty Woman” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

"World Class City Band"

Saturday, Aug. 26 8 p.m.

$12/$10 Seniors/$7 Students The Ledges Playhouse 137 Fitzgerald Park Drive, Grand Ledge (517) 230-9593 overtheledge.org


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