Wall Street Journal
A Hiro’s Welcome for Spring Swing
Weinberg to Host Big-Band Parties
By PIA CATTON
MARCH 4, 2011
The Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel is about to launch an experiment: free big-band dancing on Monday nights in March.
Bandleader and drummer Max Weinberg, known for his years of service with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band as well as Conan O’Brien’s NBC late-night talk shows, is bringing the sounds of Count Basie and Buddy Rich to the stage with a 15-piece band.
‘What I tried to emulate,’ says Max Weinberg, ‘is the music that I heard in the ’50 and ’60s watching television.’
The three-week gig came about after Mr. Weinberg played a private birthday party in December at the Hiro Ballroom, a venue that sees more in the way of DJs and hip-hop than big bands. “The management said, ‘You should play here more often. It’s a time-honored traditional to have long-term residencies,” said Mr. Weinberg, adding that the Monday night party could be extended according to demand.
At a recent preview, the band offered no shortage of tunes with powerful swing, including Steve Allen’s “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” Count Basie’s “Rat Race” and the theme from “The Mod Squad.”
“When I pick the music, I pick an eclectic range,” Mr. Weinberg, 59, said. “What I tried to emulate is the music that I heard in the ’50 and ’60s watching television.”
But he also throws in a few arrangements of rock songs by the Boss, such as “Born to Run” and “Kitty’s Back,” because, as he put it: “The band has a muscular sound. I’m not a jazz drummer—I’m a rock drummer.”
Mr. Weinberg, who has toured widely with his band, said he expects local friends and musicians to stop by and play. “Monday night is an off night for musicians in New York,” he said. “There will be a revolving cast of characters dropping in,” he said.
And, at the drummer’s request, entrance is free. Why’s that? “I’m just playing music that is not prevalent anymore,” he said.
“It’s not what you do to make money.”