My first Big Band Gospel CD was released in 1994. The album was called Strike Up The Band and, to my surprise, it won a Dove Award from The Gospel Music Association. For the past 12 years we have presented Big Band Gospel Concerts in over 50 cities across the United States, in churches large and small.
I first heard the term "Big Band" in the early 1940's. It was used to distinguish between the small combos, which only used two or three horns, and the innovative sound of a larger instrumental group called "A BIG BAND". The Big Band arrangers employed a full brass section of 4 trumpets and 4 trombones. They also used a 5 man reed section made up of 2 alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes, and a baritone sax. The sax section also doubled on a variety of wind instruments; such as, flutes and clarinets. All of these horns were driven by a 3 or 4 man rhythm section: keyboard, bass, drums and, sometimes, guitar.
I remember the very first time I heard a live "Big Band". It was a local group of professionals, and they played for an assembly program in the quad of San Jose High School. I was a freshman and I thought, "Wow! That would be great in my dad's church!" So that is where my quest started. I graduated from high school at age 17 and went directly to summer school at Southern California Bible College (Vanguard University). While in college I organized my first Big Band, made up of students studying for the ministry. I'm afraid I spent more time writing arrangements for the band than I did on my studies. We would do recruitment tours up and down the West Coast, with equal portions of approval and disapproval!
In the late 40's we went on television with a program called "The Campus Christian Hour". We were on for 76 weeks and won an Emmy Award. The 50's and 60's were wonderful years of adventurous opportunities for me in the field of gospel music. I remember writing new songs for the Billy Graham films and dreaming that someday I would like to do "Big Band" arrangements of these gospel songs.
Well, as you know, my dream came true, and today we can come to your area and present the gospel in a Big Band format. You can use the occasion to reach out to your community. People will come to hear a Big Band, but they also will hear the gospel message loud and clear!