Swing Shift


This Sunday, you can enjoy two different eras of history at an open-air concert in Agoura Hills' Chumash Park. Beginning at 6 p.m., the Zoot Suit Revue, a high-energy swing era ensemble--trumpet, sax, bass, guitar, drums and vocalist--will transport listeners between the 1940s and today.

Dale Summersille, concert coordinator for the Agoura Hills Department of Community Services, said she expects a multi-generational audience, some who heard the music when it was first played and some who have heard it only in its reincarnated 1990s form.

To provide something for each generation, the band will offer a mixture of old favorites, tunes "tweaked" electronically for modern listeners and a few new compositions in the swing style.

"At our outdoor concerts so far this summer, we started with [people] toe-tapping, but it's turned into dancing in the aisles between the picnic blankets on the grass," Summersille said recently. "We expect lots of people will want room for swing-dancing, so we're sectioning off the whole area on the grass in front of the stage."


Organized less than two years ago to perform classic swing standards, "Zoot Suit Revue" quickly developed a club and concert following in Southern California with its innovative approach to the music. As with their costumes, some of their music is modernized.

Drummer Ivan Knight reorchestrated a selection of swing classics, including electronic instrumentation, that turned concert-going audiences into dancing audiences.

This has made the group something of a black sheep among swing bands because it offends some swing purists, said organizer David Hewitt.

"We're like the movie 'The Mask,' " he said with a grin, referring to the visual and musical style of the flamboyant Jim Carrey production.

To assure the high level of musicianship needed to perform the swing classics, Hewitt and drummer Knight auditioned hundreds of musicians when they were forming the band. They finally selected a group in their 20s and 30s--Ed Maxwell, Frank Brown, Phil Norris, Richard Tyznik and Irby Gascon.

To get to Agoura Hills' Chumash Park, drive north on Kanan Road from Highway 101, turn right on Thousand Oaks Boulevard and make another right on Argos Street until you get to the park, which is at 5550 Medea Valley Drive. Parking is available on the street and in the nearby Agoura High School lot. Call (818) 597-7361.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World