Out and About: Big band sound comes to the Social monthly

Looking for something fun to do in southeastern Connecticut in the winter? How about seeing the New London Big Band?

They are a 16-piece instrumental group that plays big band music from our parents’ or grandparents’ era.

I went on Valentine’s Day to the Social on Bank Street in New London, where they play their usual gig once a month. And I have to say I was impressed with them.

Just the logistics alone of coordinating 16 people at the same time at the same place and playing well together is something.

But then I spoke to Sean Nelson, the 35-year-old director of the New London Big Band, and I found out he’s the one that puts it all together. This includes four trombones, five saxophones, four trumpets, a bass player, a drummer, a keyboardist and a guitar player.

Nelson, from Quaker HiIl, plays the trombone and is the master of ceremonies and arranges some of the songs.

I really liked the band’s version of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and Sean said he put his own spin on it and reharmonized it. It sounded great.

Sean said they usually don’t have a singer, but Valentine’s Day was special so they included a vocalist, Megan Weikleenget.

The band launched in 2016 with Sean handpicking all the musicians. He chose players who were skilled, loved this style of music and would make great team players. Half of the group is from the Coast Guard Band and the other half were musicians he knew from around the state.

He also has a list of subs to choose from. Sean said that there is incredible local talent here.

He had a dream of putting together a big band and began collecting songs from the Count Basie Songbook. And the last song in the second set on Valentine’s Day was “Corner Pocket” by Count Basie.

Sean remembers peeking in through the window before the Social opened, looking for a venue big enough to house his band. He remembers asking the manager and the owner of the Social if they would be supportive, and luckily they were.

On this night, they opened with “Social Hour,” the band’s theme song written by Sean. He said the band has attracted a dance club from UConn and swing dancers from a local Fred Astaire dance studio to regularly join in on the fun.

There is a joy that reverberates from the band to the audience and the dancers and back. It’s one of the reasons that they are so fun to watch.

Sean has a new studio album coming out this summer and a live CD being mixed as we speak.

For more information, visit newlondonbigband.com.

Shari Lynne Rosenthal lives in Stonington. To suggest a review of a regular entertainment venue, email times@theday.com.

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