The Hal McIntyre Band with vocalist Steve Marvin. Tom Ferrante is fourth from the left. / Photo courtesy of Don Pentleton.The Hal McIntyre Band with vocalist Steve Marvin. Tom Ferrante is fourth from the left. / Photo courtesy of Don Pentleton.

When the Hal McIntyre Band, featuring Arlington resident Tom Ferrante, performs at the historic Regent Theatre at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 19, it will be a Father’s Day gift to the whole community.

McIntyre, an original member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, was one of the founding fathers of the big-band sound. Having joined Miller’s band in 1937, he formed his own ensemble in 1941 with his mentor’s blessing. Now revived by veteran drummer Don Pentleton as a 16-member group, the Hal McIntyre Band, with Ferrante on alto sax, will arrive at the Medford Street venue ready to recreate the era when swing was king.

A musician and teacher as well as the first president of the Massachusetts Association of Jazz Educators, Ferrante was a fixture on the Boston musical-theater scene for many years. On Father’s Day, he’ll be performing parts once played by the band’s namesake, who was an alto sax virtuoso. "In this band, I am Hal McIntyre," he noted in an interview.

"Miller encouraged McIntyre to go out on his own," Ferrante said, "because McIntyre was such a good player, and Miller was getting so much work he couldn’t handle it all. In fact, Miller helped finance McIntyre and gave him some of his music." That’s why the current McIntyre band has the rights to such Miller tunes as "Serenade in Blue" and "In the Mood."

Ballroom background

"The McIntyre book [library of music] is basically a ballroom one," noted Ferrante, "with beautiful ballads and just enough swing and Latin. This was music people enjoyed dancing to. The difference between McIntyre’s band and that of Benny Goodman or Duke Ellington, for example, was that McIntyre didn’t feature as much improvisation. There are solos in the McIntyre book, but they’re part of the arrangement."

As Ferrante observed, many bands play the same songs, but they sound completely different because they have different arrangements. An example, he said, is "Begin the Beguine" by Cole Porter. "[Clarinetist] Artie Shaw made it famous," Ferrante said, “but McIntyre has an arrangement of it with no clarinet."

Tom Ferrante plays.Tom Ferrante plays.

In arranging two songs for the McIntyre Band -- "Tico Tico," popularized by Carmen Miranda, and "I Got Rhythm" by George Gershwin -- Ferrante used his own unique approach: "They’re not in Miller’s style, they’re not in McIntyre’s style; they’re in my style."

A graduate of the New England Conservatory (NEC), Ferrante knew he wanted to be a musician from a young age. His mother, who was born in this country, and his father, who emigrated from Abruzzi, Italy, both supported his ambition.

"My father was a very quiet, serious, loving man. He never objected to my becoming a musician. As a senior at NEC, I won the George Whitefield Chadwick Award [named for a distinguished 19th-century NEC director], and I knew he was proud," Ferrante recalled.

Hal McIntyre and his band. / Images of the Hal McIntyre OrchestraHal McIntyre and his band. / from 'Images of the Hal McIntyre Orchestra'

Musical father

With two sons and a daughter, Ferrante has had plenty of experience as a father. His older son works in the medical-supply field, and the younger one is a music technologist. His daughter is a psychology major at Boston University who is interested in gymnastics and musical theater.

At 82 years old, he is a grandfather five times over and recently became a great-grandfather, a fact he often shares with his audience, adding, "I’m still playing!"

As a teacher, Ferrante is also the musical father of many children, and he is pleased to note that two of his former students are members of the McIntyre Band: Arthur Bakopolus on baritone sax and Louis Stamos on second alto sax. Having taught at Waltham High School for 20 years, at U. Mass. Lowell for 35 and as a private teacher in Arlington for decades, Ferrante often suggests that one or more of his former students sit in with the McIntyre Band when there’s a need for substitute musicians.

Sinatra tribute

In addition to instrumentals, the Father's Day concert will feature a tribute to Frank Sinatra, with vocalist Steve Marvin, performing songs associated with the "Chairman of the Board," including such classics as "Come Fly With Me," "I’ve Got the World on a String," "New York, New York" and "My Way."

Although big-band music certainly appeals most to those who remember World War II and the postwar years, it’s making a comeback with the younger generation. Ferrante said one reason for that is the interest young people have taken in swing dancing, otherwise known as the Lindy Hop (possibly named for Charles Lindbergh) or Jitterbug. As Ferrante noted, “TV shows like 'So You Think You Can Dance' are helping. This music is a change from rock ‘n’ roll."

So whether you’re a member of Generation X or the "Greatest Generation," the Hal McIntyre Band has something to offer. Their music is a blast from the past that’s "nostalgic, fun and entertaining," said Ferrante, a great-grandfather who is still, as "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself used to say, "Young at Heart."


Tickets for the Regent Show June 19 >>


This feature story was published Thursday, June 16, 2016.