The big band sound is unmistakable. It is both slow and smooth and quick and snappy. It is a type of music that will entice people to sway to one tune and snap their fingers to another.

A precursor to rock ’n’ roll, the height of its popularity was in the 1930s and 1940s.

One of the bands that helped make the musical style famous was the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.

The band is known for such hits as “Amapola,” “Green Eyes,” So Rare,” “June Night,” and “Tangerine.”

Its founder, Jimmy Dorsey, who played both trumpet and saxophone, died in 1957, but the band’s music lives on.

The band, under the direction of Bill Tole, is set to perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Plaza Theatre. It is the second big band to play at the theater.

“We had a great response to the Glenn Miller Orchestra so we wanted to bring in another big band this year,” said Steve Jones, theater director. “We get lots of requests every year for this type of music. There are quite a few of these bands out there still: Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, Cab Holloway Orchestra, etc.

“We thought the Dorsey name was the best known after Glenn Miller,” Jones said.

Tole began leading the band in January 2002. They perform at venues across America, as well as internationally.

“We do boat cruises and we’ve been to England and we’ve been down to Peru in the past seven years,” he said, adding most of the band’s concerts are in the United States.

Tole believes there is still a following for the big band sound.

“Unfortunately it’s an older audience, basically those who grew up with the big band, but there are a lot of young people who are interested in the band,” he said, adding younger people have taken an interest due to recent recordings of big band era songs by Harry Connick Jr. and Barry Manilow.

Connick performs a Dorsey hit, “Tangerine,” on his latest album: “Harry Connick Jr.: Your Songs.”

While there are still a lot of big band orchestra touring, one thing that sets them apart from each other is their hits.

“Each band of the era had their own hits and that set each band apart from each other,” Tole said.

Helen O’Connell performed with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in the 1940s. Taking her place tomorrow night will be Nancy Knorr.

Tickets are $25 and $15 and can be purchased at the box office, online at or over the phone by calling 361-2101.


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