The BILL ELLIOTT SWING ORCHESTRA, fifteen musicians and four singers strong, plays exciting swing music in the styles of the '30s, '40s, and '50s, with a twist: much of the band's repertoire has been written in the '90s and 2000 by leader Bill Elliott, a composer and arranger whose songs have been prominently featured in many feature films and TV shows, including the recent HBO film INTRODUCING DOROTHY DANDRIDGE and the current Disney Channel film ALLEY CATS STRIKE.
Elliott began his career as a rock'n'roll piano player, touring and recording with such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, and many others, before finding his calling as a swingmeister while writing and arranging songs for the 1989 film DICK TRACY. The Swing Orchestra, formed in 1993, was an outgrowth of Elliott's continuing success in writing original, vintage-sounding swing music for film, television, and commercials. He has assembled many of L.A.'s hottest musicians for his mission of recreating the authentic fire and style of big bands at their peak in the late '30s. The band also features BILL'S LUCKY STARS, a vocal quartet who sing in the close-harmony style of the Pied Pipers and the Modernaires, and glamorous lead singer Cassie Miller in featured solos as well.
Playing a dominant role in southern California's current swing revival, Elliott's band is a favorite among the young jitterbug and Lindy Hop dancers whose vibrant new counterculture has been growing rapidly. Elliott's music is in the style of the great swing bands of the late '30s and early '40s - as hard-swinging as they come, with an emphasis on colorful arrangements, sophisticated and light-hearted lyrics, and danceability.
The BESO has repeatedly drawn crowds of over 1100 dancers at the Hollywood Palladium and the Satin Ballroom in Los Angeles. The band has appeared often at Merv Griffin's Coconut Club in Beverly Hills, and has played to large crowds at the Avalon Casino Ballroom on Catalina Island and at ballrooms in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, OR. In July '99 the BESO made its first east coast appearances, headlining at Lincoln Center Midsummer Night Swing in Manhattan, the Mann Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia, and at swing dance events in Boston and Washington, DC. The band is also in demand for private and corporate events, and its resume includes Emmy Award balls, the Jonathan Club Centennial, America's Cup Ball, Junior Philharmonic Ball, and parties for most of the major Hollywood studios.
The band's three CDs, SWING FEVER, CALLING ALL JITTERBUGS!, and SWINGIN' THE CENTURY, have made the band well-known at swing clubs and dances from Seattle to London, and also receive enthusiastic airplay on jazz and swing radio programs around the world. Elliott's arrangements and his band's recordings were featured both in the HBO film and the RCA soundtrack album for INTRODUCING DOROTHY DANDRIDGE, and on John Lithgow's Sony-Wonder CD SINGING IN THE BATHTUB. Elliott's association with Mr. Lithgow also resulted in the recent Carnegie Hall premiere of a fifteen-minute piece for symphony orchestra, THE REMARKABLE FARKLE MCBRIDE, composed by Elliott as a setting of Lithgow's children's story which will also be released as a book by Simon & Shuster in the fall of 2000.
Elliott's career as a bandleader complements his activities in film and television. He and the band recently recorded both the orchestral score and the big band music for the Disney Channel film ALLEY CATS STRIKE which began airing in March 2000, and he has used his band as the core of a large orchestra when arranging the songs for Disney's sequels to ALADDIN, THE RETURN OF JAFAR and ALADDIN AND THE KING OF THIEVES, which make use of his distinctive swing style. Four of Elliott's songs appeared in the Oliver Stone film NIXON, and eight of his songs are in the film KILLER starring James Woods. Elliott's swing music also appears in the films CONTACT, INDEPENDENCE DAY, Disney's remake of THAT DARN CAT, and the animated feature CATS DON'T DANCE. Bill and the band appeared as themselves (in 1939!) in the Disney TV movie TOWER OF TERROR. Bill also used his band in composing music for episodes of the TV shows ELLEN and DREW CAREY.
Besides playing the original music of its leader, the band performs authentic arrangements from the golden years of swing, including music by Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb, and Duke Ellington. Such classics as "King Porter Stomp", "Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe", "Carioca", "Blues In The Night", and many others come to life with a suave polish and authentic style that no other contemporary band can match. The Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra seems to have leaped out of a time machine, and performs with all the excitement, sophistication, and enthusiasm of the best bands of the first swing era.