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Jeff Solon’s big band performs a benefit

Pop music of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s was way hipper than the pop music of the ’90s, aughts and ’10s. Backstreet Boys, Faith Hill and Pitbull take a far, back seat to Duke Ellington, Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra, and it’s likely that in 70 years, music critics or fans won’t be talking about Nick Carter (I had to look up at least one name of a Backstreet Boy) and company as they speak about Sinatra now, some 70 years after the Chairman of the Board was recording hits.

Pop music from those decades continues to be celebrated in 2022, as it was a timeless and special brand of music that left an indelible mark, so much that bands like Jeff Solon’s Swingin’ Big Band continue to celebrate a canon of tunes familiar to many. This is the stuff that was hip way before the word was ruined by hipsters.

Solon’s eight-piece ensemble will perform at Saturday's Swingin’ Solstice for Open Space, a fundraiser at Destination Ranch (located at the end of County Road 207) benefiting the La Plata Open Space Conservancy.

This is a band Solon has been directing off and on for 30 years, with some of the musicians coming in from the Southeast and Midwest. They’ll be digging into some of the original, first wave of popular “hits.”

“This is the band that plays traditional swing music from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glen Miller. All universally known tunes, and danceable,” Solon said. “It’s the pop music, and the icon and pop stars of those days. Sinatra was one of the greatest pop stars, he dethroned Bing Crosby in that whole era. These were the tunes that maybe your parents, your grandparents or your great-grandparents if you’re that young grew up listening to and dancing to. These were the tunes, and they’re still great.”

If you go

WHAT: Jeff Solon’s Swingin’ Big Band plays a benefit for La Plata Open Space Conservancy.

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Destination Ranch, located at the end of County Road 207/Lightner Creek Road.

TICKETS: $60, available online at https://bit.ly/3QFjSXG.

MORE INFORMATION: Call 259-3415 or visit https://bit.ly/3xCf1hm.

If you’ve ever enjoyed hiking, biking or wandering around Overend Mountain Park, Horse Gulch or Oxbow Park and Preserve, you’ve done so because of the work of La Plata Open Space Conservancy. This is a group doing what it can to keep one less housing development or one less commercial business going up on a piece of land that should remain vacant save for the animals that live there and the people passing through for recreational purposes. This is the organization’s 30th anniversary, and in those 30 years, it has worked with more than 200 regional landowners, protecting more than 25,000 acres of land. Twenty-five thousand acres may seem like a small amount given the girth of the area, but imagine if there was another 25,000-acre neighborhood in La Plata County. That could equate to 50,000 homes.

An event like this raises money that allows the organization to keep doing the work it does, work that remains near and dear to Solon’s heart.

“The land, especially in our area, seems to be getting chopped up and disappearing,” he said. “To me, the beautiful thing about where we live is the land. It needs to be preserved, so I think this organization basically tries to capture the land and hold it.”

This band is also near and dear to Solon’s heart, dropping high-energy tunes that swing and groove. It’s a resurrection of familiar tunes from the early American canon.

“It’s a blast. You harness eight musicians together, and that’s a lot of energy, and they’re all good players. There’s a lot of spontaneity to it, and a lot of harmonies with the horns,” he said. “It’s moving, and it’s big and I appreciate it a lot.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.