The George Gee Swing Orchestra style in a nutshell: Happy music played by happy musicians for happy people!
George and his musicians are not only technically skilled, but they all exude positive creative energy, too. The band’s group dynamic is supportive and encouraging onstage and off. George says one of his hiring philosophies is, “How can we play happy music if we’re not a happy bunch of folks to start with?”
“Our enthusiasm onstage is obvious and infectious. Swing music generally is upbeat and cheerful – it was created during a challenging era expressly to uplift audiences. And it continues to uplift us today!”
The George Gee Swing Orchestra deeply enjoys its hard-earned reputation as the swingin’-est, blowin’-est, heppest classic big band in New York City. In more than 30 years of playing for dancing feet, the George Gee Swing Orchestra band has developed a special bond with lindy hoppers all around the world.
First of all, the George Gee Swing Orchestra packs a lot of swing into compact songs and tight, well-organized sets. Long enough to catch a groove, and short enough to catch your breath!
“Dancers and musicians feed off each other to create a magical experience. Playing for lindy hoppers is a specific art and any bandleader worth his salt realizes that the moment he plays his first dancing event. Swing music is unlike pop, house or disco music styles, which are powered by electronics and drum machines. But human beings breathe, and swing music breathes. When you play for dancers, the art is trying to breathe in sync with the dancers. It’s a fine line. I tell my rhythm section: ‘Watch the dancers; your interaction is with those dancers.’ George says.
He recalls the words of his all-time idol and mentor, Count Basie: “ ‘If they are dancing, that’s the highest compliment they can give you.’ But if they are not dancing, I look for that single cat snapping his fingers, tapping his toes. Then I know we’re OK!’ ” Read more about George’s long relationship with Count Basie.
A George Gee Swing Orchestra show puts a priority on fun for everyone, offering versatile appeal. For example, audiences may be surprised when during a duet with Hillary Gardner, fellow vocalist John Dokes steps off the bandstand and onto the dance floor and swings out. And bandleader George always fires up the crowds with his onstage persona. Audiences laugh along with the hilarious call-and-response patter on gems like “Every Day I Have the Blues,” or dance along with the called-out steps of the Shim Sham routine during our rendition of “Tain’t Whatcha Do.”
George has the utmost respect for jazz and swing elders. In addition to Count Basie, he has developed gratifying relationships with many “old-timers” such as Dawn Hampton (who appears regularly in his audiences and sometimes also on stage!), Norma Miller, Jean Veloz, Frank Foster and the late, great dance pioneers Frankie Manning and Fayard Nicholas.
30 Years of Swingin’ – and still going!
The George Gee Swing Orchestra was the first big band to play on MTV. The band was featured in an NBC-TV movie and has been spotlighted on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee,” “Cake Boss,” “Live from Lincoln Center,” and in appearances on CNN and MSNBC. The band also provided specially scored music and made an “animated” appearance on an episode of the Fantastic Four cartoon for Marvel Comics.
GGSO has dazzled audiences from Boston to Beverly Hills and from Zurich to Tokyo. The highlight of Summer 2012 was touring Brazil (Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro) as part of the “I Love Jazz” festival, with crowds of up to 10,000 new fans! Other exciting recent experiences include annual headliner spots at Lincoln Center’s prestigious Midsummer Night Swing festival, a two-week engagement of the full-scale supper club show called “Sleigh Bells Swing!” at the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan, and a memorable corporate show at Disney World with the legendary comedian (and noted jazz aficionado) Bill Cosby.
The full-scale Orchestra experience includes around 17 world-class musicians. For those gigs that are better served by a smaller band, a smaller version of the GGSO is available. The 10-piece unit is fondly known unofficially as the “Economy Big Band.” But there’s never any compromising on the swing!
Whenever possible, when the George Gee Swing Orchestra hits the road, all the band’s core NYC-based members travel together. This adds greatly to the band’s musical unity and camaraderie and helps maintain the signature George Gee style. Learn more about the players.
The band has a mammoth tour resume – including top swing clubs, swing dance societies, and “lindy exchanges” across the US, numerous tours of top concert halls, and powerful “Battles of the Bands” in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Quebec. Check out the current tour schedule.