Swingtime Big Band

Swingtime Big Band performs at the Mayborn Center in Temple. The group will play at the Temple VA hospital Thursday.

Courtesy/Robbie Pettit

Killeen’s community-based jazz orchestra, Swingtime Big Band, will return to the Temple VA Hospital to perform Thursday.

It’s a gig the band’s musicians rank as one of the most worthwhile they’ll play this year.

“The audience is very appreciative,” said trumpeter Ed Hernandez of Harker Heights, referring to Swingtime’s Memorial Day 2011 concert at the hospital. “They really loved us and we had to play an encore.”

The large, multipurpose hall called the Domiciliary on the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center’s sprawling campus will again host the 17-piece ensemble. With ample floor space for the band and 150-plus patients, Swingtime’s musicians predict a memorable concert, and not only for audience members.

“I think we’re as moved by the whole experience as the patients are,” said bassist Ben Goodloe of Liberty Hill. “These men and women have given so much, and we’re honoring their sacrifices.”

Embarking on its fourth year, Swingtime Big Band rehearses weekly at Hillside Ministries in Killeen and performs twice each month at The Crescent Lounge. The group is made up of music educators as well as part- and full-time professional musicians from all over Central Texas. They’ve appeared at Sun City, Georgetown; In The Mood Ballroom, Temple; Lions Den, Waco; Wildflower Country Club, Temple; Killeen Community Center and other area venues.

One of the band’s continuing projects is to perform pro bono for worthwhile causes. Harker Heights High School Band Director Christopher Amsler booked Swingtime to headline the band program’s fundraiser “A Knight of Jazz” for the last two years.

“I just love to play,” said Joe Hines of Killeen, another member of the trumpet section. “This is great American music composed and arranged by the masters. It’s exciting and in a live performance, you can’t help responding to it.”

Vocalists Ashley Hill and Jillian Malone, both from Killeen, will perform numbers such as “Hit The Road Jack,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” and “Unforgettable.”

Swingtime’s show includes ’60s-era hits from Blood, Sweat & Tears, R&B icon Eddie Floyd and Etta James in addition to straight-ahead jazz.

According to pianist Les Young of Austin, “Yes, there will be a lot of improvisation.”

Swingtime’s Memorial Day 2011 concert at the hospital was a poignant moment for Young. His mother had just died and during the band’s traditional closing number, a heartfelt performance of Tower of Power’s “So Very Hard To Go,” he noticed a woman in the audience.

“She had tears streaming down her cheeks,” Young remembered. “I was very emotional myself and I started crying too. That’s when you know you’ve connected with the audience.”

Herald/Steve Pettit

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