Tribute to Dave Robbins
Alan Matheson, Conductor

Date 18 August 2006, 20.00 Venue Vancouver East Cultural Centre

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The last of Festival Vancouver's big band series was dedicated to Dave Robbins (1923-2005), a skilled bandleader, colleague, and mentor of Conductor Alan Matheson. The pieces that were played to an almost full house at the CULTCH were favourites of trombonist Robbins, including "Tuxedo Junction," an all-trombone piece originally popularized by Glen Miller; "Bein' Green" (comp Joe Raposo); and Cole Porter's "Stomp" (comp./arr. Bob Florence).

Unlike the previous two jazz concerts, the pieces played were not original compositions. Robbins was better known as a performer and a teacher; in fact, the Festival Jazz Orchestra was mostly composed of his students. In this event, only two pieces were arranged by him: "Tuxedo Junction" and "London by Night" (comp./lyricist Carroll Coates).

Robbins liked Duke Ellington a lot, and in the second set, three of Duke's popular pieces ("In A Sentimental Mood," "Mood Indigo," and "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing") were performed.

Born in Greensburg, Indiana, and raised in Texas, Robbins' professional career began at age 14. His parents were professional musicians: "Mother was a professional violinist and Dad a professional trumpeter...I'd practice my fiddle daily for the promise that when my arms grew long enough I'd be allowed to begin trombone lessons", he said in one of his interviews. He was the lead trombonist in Harry James' band for six years (1948-53), and then settled in Vancouver where he was principal trombone for the VSO and later, the VO Orchestra until 1992.

Festival Vancouver's 7th year has been another success. Before 1999, there was nothing in Vancouver in the summer except Bard on the Beach, and I'm glad the Festival's there to fill the void.

© 2006 Ed Farolan