COURTESY ELISSA JOSEPHSON
Bud Forrest's nostalgic 1940s musical revue "In the Mood" will bring 13 musicians and six vocalists to the isles.
In the mood
The "big band" period of swing certainly has legs. It defined an era, but what a vivid time! It was the beat of the "Greatest Generation" and came to define American classic-pop music around the world.
'In The Mood'
A musical revue of swing music of the 1940s commemorates Military Appreciation Month:
» Place: Hawaii Theatre
» Time: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
» Tickets: $30, $37.50, $45 ($5 discount for theater members, youths, seniors, military and groups of 10 or more)
» Call: 528-0506 or visit www.hawaiitheatre.com
In the late 1980s, Washington, D.C., pianist Bud Forrest -- former Juilliard student and accompanist to the Air Force's "Singing Sergeants" -- added three female singers to his cabaret act for nostalgia. "I just wanted to form some sort of singing group and I sort of decided on the music of the Andrews Sisters," said Forrest, yelling into a cell phone as his tour bus approached a gig in Barstow, Calif.
If you're going to go Andrews Sisters, you have to do "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," and so he added a trumpet player, then another, and another -- and the current edition of the revue, now called "In The Mood," often features 35 to 45 performers. The edition coming to Hawaii has 13 musicians and six vocalists, plus support crew. It's a full bus.
This weekend, the troupe takes over the Hawaii Theatre, an appropriate venue, as thousands of troops were entertained there during World War II.
"I just felt as a musician felt that the big bands were something that was a unique time in American history," said Forrest. "As I got into it, I came across the idea that it was the spirit that held the nation together, 'cause everybody was listening to the same kind of music at that particular time."
That's in his head. What was in his heart was that the music was fun to play: "Classical, popular showtunes and jazz were all part of this period, and had some of the best musicians playing (the music). I often wonder what would happen if some of these guys were still around today in terms of what impact they would have had."
COURTESY ELISSA JOSEPHSON
Bud Forrest is pictured at his keyboard.
What to expect? The music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw -- a regular in the islands during the war -- Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, jazz royalty Duke Ellington and Count Basie. "In the Mood" is a combination concert and revue, using sound, costuming and performance to recreate the time when swing ruled.
As the first "national" music, thanks to the invention of radio, swing has become the de facto official melody of the nation. Even the National Archives hired "In the Mood" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of World War II, and saxophone player/President Bill Clinton used the revue to highlight his Inaugural Ball. The turn-away National Archives performances led to repeat engagements there and in the houses of Congress, and the USO drafted "In the Mood" to tour the United States. The group has played more than 40 states.
"We started this leg of our tour up in New Brunswick, Canada, and we're ending up in Hawaii. In this fall tour we'd done 15,000 miles on the bus. If it wasn't for the interstate highway system I don't think we could do what we're doing. What makes us roll is the fact that we are reliving memories from those who lived through it, their children, who want to hear what their parents were all excited about. ... I think this music will be with us for a long time."
The average band member is 50, explained Forrest. "These are guys who have 30, 40 years of experience playing this kind of music and so they understand it, not a bunch of young kids out of college who think they know what it is. This is the real deal. We brought in six singers and dancers and dressed then up in the period and choreographed them to make this music come alive to an audience that's more accustomed to theater than concerts."
The revue was arranged and scored by the late Vic Schoen, conductor for the Andrews Sisters, who also worked with artists such as Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald.
As for Bud Forrest, born in 1948, he's a keyboardist who's been in demand at many of Washington's official functions for the last three decades. His legacy, however, will likely be "In the Mood," preserving music popular before he was born.