While his high-school classmates were scouring music store shelves for cassettes of R.E.M. and The Cure, Bob Wagner was hunting for the vinyl recordings his grandparents danced to.
After picking up the trumpet in elementary school, Wagner discovered the explosive sounds of Maynard Ferguson, and his passion for that big-band sound eventually led him to Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton. “To hear the energy and excitement a big band created — that held a special place for me,” says Wagner. “There’s nothing like that sound for me.”
Twenty years later, Wagner is the artistic director of Jump City Orchestra, one of the few professional big bands in the Philadelphia area. Next week, they promise a holiday spin to the genre, as all 20 members squeeze onto the tiny stage at Chris’ Jazz Cafe for festive melodies as interpreted by Glenn Miller, Oliver Nelson and Shorty Rogers. Wagner even envisions a few more recent swinging tunes from Tom Kubis and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
“We get a good variety of age ranges at Chris’,” he says. “We’ve got kids in their 20s alongside folks that are in the — I guess you could say — more experienced generations.”