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“The Last Big Band Holiday Show”

“The Last Big Band Holiday Show”

Featuring legendary Philly Saxophonist Larry McKenna and versatile Singer/Saxophonist and Berks resident Erich Cawalla

On Monday, December 23, 2019, The Last Big Band will present its yearly holiday show at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom from 7:00 PM – 9:30 featuring legendary Philly Saxophonist Larry McKenna and Berks County’s own Erich Cawalla on Vocals and Saxophone. The Last Big Band performs monthly each 2nd Tuesday of the month at the Crowne Plaza’s Goodnites Lounge, but this special holiday show will take place in the Crowne Plaza Ballroom.

In 2002, trombonist Jim Zoller and trumpeter Roger Morgan assembled 17 of Eastern PA’s top musicians to form this first-rate jazz orchestra. Spanning seven decades, the band’s roster claims the cream of West Chester University’s renowned Criterions Jazz Ensemble alumni, plus some of the great players from Berks County’s legendary jazz lineage. The group’s musical director is H. Lee Southall. A perennial favorite at the former Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base in Reading (Goodnites Lounge), The Last Big Band has performed at festivals, jazz clubs, ballrooms, and private celebrations throughout the region. Along with some old chestnuts from the classic swing era, the band’s repertoire includes the best literature from the contemporary big band libraries, plus outstanding original charts from the band’s own talented arrangers. Particular mention goes to the band’s deceased pianist Dave Heck whose devoted effort and considerable skills have provided the organization with countless great charts, and the band’s latest album, “HECK, YEAH! The Last Big Band Plays the Arrangements of Dave Heck” enjoys airplay on Philadelphia’s WRTI 90.1.

Larry McKenna is quite simply – A MUSICAL LEGEND. He is a perfect example of a jazz musician who isn’t well known nationally but is considered a master of his instrument in his hometown. The majority of jazz lovers in New York or Boston may not be familiar with him, but mention McKenna’s name to many jazzmen in Philadelphia, and they’ll tell you that he’s one of the city’s best tenor sax players. After joining a high school jazz band at age 14 and playing small gigs around Philly as a young adult, McKenna got his first significant break when, in 1959, he spent six months on the road as a member of Woody Herman’s Big Band. McKenna was with George Young in 1962 and Al Raymond in 1970, and it was in the early 1970s that he started teaching at Temple University, West Chester University and Philadelphia Community College. Over the years, the saxman recorded with Herman, Buddy DeFranco, and Dr. Bruce Klauber as a sideman and played countless local gigs as a leader, but he didn’t record a CD of his own until 1997, when he provided “My Shining Hour: Larry McKenna Plays Harold Arlen” on the tiny, Pittsburgh-based Alanna Records. McKenna continues to perform around Philadelphia as a featured soloist and serves as a mentor to many of the area’s top musicians.

Erich Cawalla is no stranger to the Berks Co. music scene. He got his start performing throughout the United States as a member of The Bobby Mercer Road Show at the age of 19, and formed The Uptown Band in 2006. As leader and featured vocalist/saxophonist with The Uptown Band, Cawalla has had the opportunity to open for comedy sensation Jeff Dunham, Martha and the Vandellas, the Happenings, Sonny Turner’s Platters, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, and has performed as a sideman in the bands of Marie Osmond, the Skyliners, Bill Haley’s Comets, The Coasters, The Earls, and many others. His original songs have received significant airplay throughout the US and the world with releases peaking at #9 on the Groove Jazz Music Chart, #27 on USA Today’s Contemporary Jazz Chart, and #41 on the nationally-syndicated Smooth Jazz Network. He has appeared on recordings and collaborations with Rick Braun, Brian Bromberg, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Doc Gibbs, and Greg Adams. Currently, Cawalla is set to release his solo debut CD “Erich Cawalla – The Great American Songbook” as part of a Berks Jazz Fest Preview on March 25, 2020 at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom in Reading. The CD is produced by Bennie Sims and features a traditional 17-Piece Big Band with strings that includes legendary Special Guests, including Grammy-Winning Trumpet Player Randy Brecker as well as McKenna.

Admission for this event is $15.00 at the door or $5.00 for students (no advanced tickets sold), with food and drink available from the Crowne Plaza. Doors open at 6:00 PM with the show starting at 7:00 PM.