Orlando group keeping big band sound alive

Crew Big Band rehearses at VFW Post 2093

ORLANDO, Fla. – They are known as the Crew Big Band. The group of five saxophone players, four trumpet players, four trombones and two vocalists was founded in 2008 by Don Lohr and the band's director, Wilbur Smith.

Both men said they wanted to preserve the sounds of big band music and continue its legacy for future generations. 

The big band style of music dominated the air waves and social gatherings almost 80 years ago. 

"At that time bands were very popular. The big bands were still on tour. Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Benny Goodman -- they came around to our town," Smith, 84, said.

Lohr and Smith are still bringing that sound to Orlando-area venues.

"A lot of areas where we play, they want to hear that memory from that period," Smith said.

Smith said Cat Anderson and Harry James are among the influences for the Crew Big Band.

The Crew Big Band rehearses every Monday night at the VFW Post 2093 in Orlando. It's a place that gives local players, like Chas Zito, one of the vocalists for the group, a chance to share their love for big band music.

"I've been wanting to do this all my life -- singing with a big band," Zito said. "When Don contacted me, we kind of, by mistake found each other, I came to the rehearsal and he says: 'Yeah, you wanna sing?' so I started to break into singing with them."

The Crew Big Band set list includes songs James, Frank Sinatra, and other popular artists from the 1940s.

The group performs at charity events, festivals and parties several times throughout the year.

To contact them, email Lohr at DWLohr@bellsouth.net or call 407-298-7885.

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