Swingin' to the beat

On the hottest day so far this year, hundreds of people sought relief and refrains from a 17-piece jazz band, when the city of Glendale kicked off its summer concert series Wednesday night at Verdugo Park.

It was the first act of "2010 Movies, Music, and More," with free entertainment for the entire family. As the band offered its renditions of "Fly Me to the Moon," "American Patrol," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and other gems from the big-band era, audience members picked their favorite spots under big leafy trees, or under building awnings, to feast on yummy picnic items they had brought from home, as well as to escape the heat.

A couple of dozen grabbed their partners for some swing dancing to the tunes of the Verdugo Swing Society. Band leader Eric Kulczycki, a trombonist, said the selections were chosen for an audience that knows what it wants — good, old fashioned, swing music.

"They've come to hear the classics," he said. "They've come to dance. We try to give them everything they can dance to."

Paul Rickey plays drums for the swing band, and also heads a family band called the Lime Rickeys. He says without the help of the city of Glendale, the Summer Concert Series would never have happened.

"They provide us with a hall to rehearse in Monday night, and we do free concerts for the public about four times a year," he said. "All of us are volunteers. We do this for fun."

Rickey's favorite musicians include Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Joe Williams.

As twilight brought a beautiful crescent moon, the band ended the evening with its version of "Moonlight Serenade." Glendale residents Richard Shaw and partner Ruth McNevin were sorry to see it end, and they showed no signs of wear from dancing to nearly every selection on the musical menu.

"We do it because it's good exercise, and it's enjoyable," McNevin said.

Her grandson was playing baseball in an all-star league at the park, just a few hundred yards from the concert venue. The team came over after the game ended, and took care of the picnic leftovers.

Shaw and McNevin have been dancing together for eight years, and waltzed off with the top prize in a competition called "Yesterdays" in La Cañada Flintridge last year, showing off their skills in the foxtrot, tango and their favorite, western swing. The prize: more dance lessons.

The next installment in the Summer Concert Series features the Beatless, an evening of oldies on Wednesday. Then the group Chico will present rhythm and blues and dance music on July 28. The August concerts will include rock music and Cuban salsa. Bring a picnic dinner, and folding chairs or blankets to sit on. Admission and parking are free.

The city also sponsors free moonlight movies at various park locations, as well as live theater at Brand Park and Glenoaks Park. For information, go to the website for Glendale's Community Services and Parks Department: http://www.ci.glendale.ca.us/parks/default.asp.

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