3×3 Three Minutes, Three Questions Duncan Galloway, band leader

3×3  Three Minutes, Three Questions  Duncan Galloway, band leader

In its heyday, swing music was as revolutionary as the Beatles in the ’60s or hip hop in the ’80s.

“The style of music came at a time of great change in the world, the aftermath of the first World War, the new technologies, particularly radio and 78 rpm records, which enabled a spread of musical ideas,” says Duncan Galloway, leader of British swing band the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. “I think because of its quality that it will still be played and listened to in another 100 years or so, a new form of ‘classical’ music.”

To modern-day audiences, “this soothing musical massage sends you back to a time when the world was a simpler and gentler place,” writes critic Audrey Pointer. “It’s important for musical heritage that we keep alive the easy-going melodies of the inter-war years, and the Pasadena Roof Orchestra do it so well, they deserve to be in business for at least another forty-odd years.”

Founded in 1969, the orchestra got its name — and its repertoire — from a private collection of dance band music. The first tune on the stack of some 2,000 original arrangements from the 1920s and ’30s was Harry Warren’s “Home in Pasadena,” with a note, “the roof,” harkening to the days when hotels had roof gardens and roof orchestras.

The rest is musical history, recounted in a Q&A with Galloway:

Q. What is it about this style of music that drew you in as an artist?

A. I love the way it has regional identity, such as Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France, British dance bands, New Orleans, Chicago, West Coast swing. … I love the wealth of talent that emerged from this period, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, to name a few.

Q. What do you think are some judgments people make about this music or about the group that aren’t true?

A. I think people often think vintage jazz just sounds tinny and corny, which undoubtedly some of the tracks are, but like anything on this earth, when you study it a bit more, you discover new things about it. Sometimes the word “jazz” is taken as a broad description of something that people just don’t like; they have a misconception of it being modern and atonal or just old fashioned and irrelevant, neither of which is true.

Q. Tell me about filling the role of band leader for an orchestra with such an established history.

A. I often have to pinch myself to think that I have done this role for practically most of my professional life! Maybe it seems like it has gone so quickly because I can truthfully say it has been an absolute roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs, challenges, frustrations, merciless journeys by sea, plane and train and automobile. The upside is standing in a foyer of smiling faces with people genuinely telling me how much they enjoyed the concert, how much they have been cheered up, or how much they have been reminded of a bygone era. When I first led the band, I was immediately aware that I am only a caretaker of what has become an institution. I always liken it to driving a Rolls Royce car: You just have to give it a bit of tender loving care and the thing will purr.


Pasadena Roof Orchestra

WHEN — 7 p.m. Feb. 24

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10

INFO — 443-5600

Categories: Music