Every generation has its underground music, buoyed along by a subculture of anti-pop music fans. In the 1940s, Akira Sato says, while the GIs got their girlfriends' skirts twirling to the popular big band sounds of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, the fanatical fringe was hanging out where orchestras led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie or Stan Kenton played jazz. "There were hard-core jazz types even then," says Sato, adjunct professor of music at Southern Methodist University. "Jazz didn't appeal to the masses, but it appealed to these renegades."
Sato directs the Meadows Jazz Orchestra at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts, and he still teaches a bit at the University of North Texas, where he directed the Three O'Clock Lab Band and played in and composed for the One O'Clock Lab Band. "That was great," Sato says. "I got to go to Europe with the One O'Clock Lab Band." Now, Sato's directing a group of 18 eager and talented jazz musicians at SMU. "They auditioned, so we found the best," he says. Not all members are music majors, either. "One guy is pre-med," Sato says, "and we have a couple of business majors and one engineering student.
"This is a great program because the pieces are classics and recognizable, for the most part," Sato says. "Plus, this program is pretty fun to listen to, and I try to keep it that way." Count Basie's versions of "Blue Five Jive," "Rompin' at the Reno" and "Cute" will be featured. Bill Holman's "No Heat" and "You Go to My Head" are on the program, and Sato says Holman, a tenor saxophonist in his late 70s, rehearses every week near his home in Los Angeles and still composes. The jazz orchestra will also play Stan Kenton favorites, including "Lullaby of Broadway," a tender version of "All the Things You Are" and "A Foggy Day."