The 18-piece Portland-based big band The Fogcutters has been busier than Santa’s elves these past several weeks. The 13 horns players, five-piece rhythm section and two vocalists have not only released the five-song holiday EP “Jingle These Bells!”, they’ve been in big-time rehearsal mode for Big Band Syndrome, Volume 2, happening Friday night at the State Theatre in Portland.
Band leaders Brian Graham and John Maclaine hand-picked eight local musicians who will each perform two of their originals songs, rearranged to work with big-band accompaniment. This year’s line-up is Anna Lombard, Andi Fawcett, Kyle Gervais, Lady Zen, Eyenine, Adam Waxman, Dan Capaldi and Spencer Albee.
Graham said that because last year’s show was so sensational, they had to aim even higher this year.
“There are a ton of great artists in this town,” he said. “We arranged their songs, we’ve rehearsed, and the songs are going to blow the State Theatre up. It’s going to be amazing.”
Some of this year’s artists have many songs to choose from, but Graham said the formula for whittling it down to two was fairly straight-forward.
“In August and September, John Maclaine and I started listening to the whole catalog, and we chose songs that we felt would fit the band best and was also the artist’s best material,” he said.
Graham also pointed out that the artists themselves are working together more. “This year, everybody wants to be helping each other out, even more than last year.”
One of last year’s highlights, which you can hear on the live recording of the show, was the 1931 Cab Calloway classic “Minnie the Moocher.” Expect a revival of this.
“It’s such a classic song,” Graham said. “When you think of big bands and entertainment, that’s one of the top songs that everybody knows. It has eight verses, and we have eight guests.”
Lombard couldn’t be more excited about the show. “Rehearsals have been more exciting that I ever imagined they could be,” she said.
She’s also been impressed by the professionalism and preparation that The Fogcutters put into the show. “I didn’t know what to expect, and they’re just ready to go, they’re so good and so tight.”
Lombard said the first time she heard one of her songs after The Fogcutters had worked their magic was an unforgettable moment. “I felt extremely humbled,” she said. “You think you know your own songs so well, but you go in and it’s so big and powerful. Your original music sounds way bigger and better than you ever thought it could.”
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: