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Al Cobine Big Band performs at Bear's Place


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By Makenzie Holland




The Al Cobine Big Band performed Thursday night at Bear’s Place on Third Street. The band — featuring jazz players Dominic Spera, Pat Harbison, Tom Meyer, Tom Walsh, among others — stirred the atmosphere with smooth notes.

“Every time they play, they are a tribute to Al Cobine’s legacy,” Jazz Fables Concert Series Director David Miller said. “It’s my pleasure to have them come and play as a concert band and to hear the extraordinary arrangements.”

Jazz legend Al Cobine formed the band in 1955 while he was a student at IU.
Miller said big bands, a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz, were still functioning in the 1950s as they had done during the big-band era as dance bands.
Cobine was one of the preeminent band leaders in the country in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The Al Cobine Big Band was pretty much the band that played at a lot of various functions, especially on campus, as a dance band,” Miller said.

The musicians played Al Cobine arrangements such as “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” and “East of the Sun.” Sarah Stivers was the only vocalist. Director Michael Lucas was not present due to recent health complications.

“Al Cobine was a great arranger of big band music,” Walsh, also an associate professor of music, said. “He had a distinctive style and his band was one of the busiest big bands in the Midwest.”

Cobine organized orchestras using local musicians to back prominent artists such as Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams.

“We are playing the music that he wrote,” Walsh said. “He took pre-existing tunes and arranged them for big bands.”

Miller said Cobine took music composed by men like Duke Ellington and put his own stamp on it.

“One of the things Al Cobine did was he was a great arranger,” Miller said. “People may not appreciate what that means, considering the kinds of music that are popular right now, but it takes a talented individual to do what Al did. This band sounds the way it does because it’s his style.”

Though also known for performing as a dance band, the Al Cobine Big Band played solely as a concert band.

“In a lot of ways, musical arrangements that Al put together for this band were designed for people to dance to,” Miller said. “The beauty of this particular band is, it’s not stock arrangements, it’s not someone’s arrangements that wrote them forty years ago and has no connection with the band at all, these were written by Al for the band.”

While audience members chatted, sipped coffee or munched on burgers, the band played Al Cobine’s arrangements late into the evening.

“The beauty of it is that these arrangements are strong,” Miller said. “They’re still strong enough that when the band plays you can tell, if you’re an aficionado at all, that they have his personal stamp on it.”

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Members of the Al Cobine Big Band perform Thursday at Bear's Place. The band performed Cobine arrangements including “I’m Always Chasing Raindbows” and “East of the Sun.” Mark Felix Buy Photos

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