It’s impossible to single out just one show on WMSE 91.7 FM and call it the station’s “best.” But if you had to assemble, say, a top 5, Dewey Gill’s Big Band Program (Sundays from 9 a.m. – noon) would certainly be up there. Since the 1981 beginnings of WMSE, Gill has been taking listeners back to the era of big band swing and jazz, roughly covering the years between 1920 and 1950. Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, and Cab Calloway are just a few of the legendary, long-gone players that Gill bestows with rare radio time. What’s more, he does it all via 78- and 33-rpm vinyl records.

And now, Gill’s annual Big Band Grandstand is set to return (after a COVID-year off in 2020) to Turner Hall Ballroom on Sunday, December 12. The live event will kick off with Gill welcoming guests with a hand-selected DJ set. The Chicago Jazz Orchestra will take it from there, and the group’s set will include a salute to local jazz legend Woody Herman.

WMSE provides some info on Herman:

Over the course of a career that lasted half a century, Herman led a succession of ensembles—generally calling each one his “Thundering Herd”—in a wide spectrum of popular music from blues to bop to rock and beyond. The songs most closely associated with Herman include “Woodchoppers’ Ball,” “I’ve Got The World On A String,” “Apple Honey,” “Summer Sequence,” “Four Brothers,” “Caldonia” and the group’s theme song, “Blue Flame.” Herman conducted the band, played clarinet and saxophone, and sang in a light baritone voice that was warm and musical and slightly bluesy.

And there’s more! A silent online auction will go live two weeks prior to the event. Items will include a Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings package, and money raised from the auction will support “the upkeep of WMSE’s studios, and the digitization and streaming of the station’s jazz library, allowing music fans everywhere the ability to hear jazz 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“Big Band Grandstand is the visually and sonically stunning event of the year,” says Tom Crawford, WMSE station manager, in a press release. “We couldn’t be more excited to continue our mission especially by celebrating hometown legend Woody Herman. WMSE will continue to be your home for jazz in Milwaukee. With Tuesday morning’s ‘Free Jazz Barbeque’ with Dr. Sushi, ‘Sunday’s Big Band Show’ with Dewey Gill, and our 24/7 jazz stream, we’ve got you covered.”

Tickets are $36.25 and are on sale NOW. The show starts at 4 p.m. Oh, and fancy dress is encouraged!

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