Event pairs big-band swing music and wine to benefit United Way

They don’t rehearse and they’ll look different every time you see them, but the Swing Notes has a long history of making music in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

On Friday they’ll perform at “Sip, Swing and Support for our Community,” a benefit for Twin County United Way at Lindsay Creek Vineyards in Lewiston.

The 18-piece swing band began in 1999, said founder Doug McIntosh, but it has its roots in Gentlemen of Note, a local swing band that was popular during the 1960s. During that time, there was a strong jazz music presence in the valley and the group would play 10 to 15 times a year. McIntosh joined them occasionally; he filled in on trumpet for the first time when he was in junior high. Over time, however, the band’s popularity faded and its numbers dwindled.

Then in 1999, McIntosh received a collection of sheet music that had belonged to Kenny Howell, owner of Howell’s Music Center in Lewiston. With the new resource, McIntosh started the band back up using both former members of Gentlemen of Note and new members, largely recruited through local music teachers. The band plays a couple times a year, typically for community events or benefits.

While its sound and songs may be familiar to swing aficionados, the band has its fair share of unusual characteristics, including the ever-changing lineup of its members.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a gig with the same people,” McIntosh said.

With 18 spots to fill and no one’s livelihood at stake, it’s inevitable that even the regulars have missed a performance or more over the past 16 years. So far, that’s not been a problem. Inevitably someone knows someone who has both the musical chops and inclination to play. Friday’s show will include musicians from Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Seattle.

Besides, the revolving members are part of the fun, McIntosh said, noting the network of musicians has turned up some surprising talent with an impressive past, including those who have played in nationally recognized orchestras and touring groups.

“The talent that’s there is just amazing,” McIntosh said.

And it has to be, because the musicians have to show up ready to play -- that’s another of the band’s secrets.

“In the last 10 years, we haven’t really had a rehearsal,” McIntosh said.

That means band members have to read the music that’s put in front of them, which McIntosh selects based on who is playing. The average show includes jazz standards like “In the Mood” and “String of Pearls,” along with newer songs. With sheet music for more than 500 songs, there are plenty of options.

So when McIntosh, co-owner of Lindsay Creek Vineyards, was asked to be an honorary co-chair for the United Way’s campaign this year with his wife, Brenda, and brother Art McIntosh and his wife, Michelle, pairing swing music and wine seemed only natural.

The event includes light hors d’oeuvres, wine and dancing, with the Swing Notes playing from 7 to 9 p.m. and a DJ stepping in until 11 p.m.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Sip, Swing and Support for our Community:

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Lindsay Creek Vineyards, 3107 Powers Ave., Lewiston

COST: $35/person, must be 21 or older, ticket includes one complimentary drink. Tickets are available at Twin County United Way or Lindsay Creek Vineyards or online at www.tcuw.org/sip-swing-and-support-for-our-community/

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