Stan Rubin "The Crown Prince of Swing"
Stan declared, "I loved the swing era, the whole period with soldiers in uniform for a cause we supported, the atmosphere of innocence. People then knew musicians the way they knew baseball rosters. If I had been old enough at the time I would have skipped school to go to the Paramount Theatre in New York to see shows like Benny Goodman with Frank Sinatra."
As ruler of his particular kingdom, Stan has invested over many decades in a library of swing, a collection of the arrangements played by the likes of Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry James and a half-dozen others who swung America from the 1930s into the early 50s. And he continues to keep this brand of music on the menu, through live appearances by the Stan Rubin Orchestra.
Stan's route to his title began in New Rochelle where he first studied piano with his aunt, Rhoda, and then as a clarinet player at Daniel Webster elementary school. "We had a teacher, a wonderful man, Harry Haigh, who'd been on the road with big bands. He formed a swing band out of a bunch of precocious kids and by the time I was in the sixth grade I was playing the music of Goodman, Shaw, the Dorsey’s, all those orchestras everyone heard over the radio. "When you're an 11-year-old kid, if you love your instrument you have a idol and mine was Benny Goodman."
At a 1946 Yankee Stadium half time, Stan met his hero. "Benny was not a man who said much," Stan recalled of their brief encounter, "but his musicianship was so great that I loved him." "Dixieland was a very big thing in the early 1950s. Stan started "The Tigertown Five." Bookings blossomed as the leader enlisted friends from summer camp, high school and Blair Academy to obtain dates at colleges nationwide. He led The Tigertown Five to a gig in Bermuda, did a turn at the famous jazz joint Jimmy Ryan's and toured Europe, where Elsa Maxwell, the empress of expatriate society in Paris, sponsored them.
In his final two years of college Stan squeezed in a succession of appearances, brought his newly formed sextet to a Carnegie Hall concert, played at a party for Manny Sacks, then-president of Victor records, and vice-president of NBC color television. Present was Grace Kelly, recent winner of an Academy Award for Country Girl. "We alternated sets with Prez Prado. So I had a half hour on, a half hour off. I decided I was going to dance with her." To his surprise and delight she knew of him and they hit it off during their brief whirl about the floor. A few months later when he read of her imminent wedding to Prince Ranier and a rumor circulated that Louis Armstrong was to play for the guests, Stan wrote to ask if she would also consider his band. "It turned out he (Armstrong) wasn't hired. But she said, 'I'd love to have you. The Prince knows of you from when you played on the Riviera in the summer of '53.'" Stan postponed his entry into Fordham Law School in favor of the Monaco date. There was only one other Princetonian, Eddie Polcer, a cornet player in what was still The Tiger town Five, but the group garnered a huge amount of publicity as the only Americans to perform. During the stay in Monaco, Rubin's father, a lawyer who worked his way through school leading "Irving Rubin and His Moonlight Syncopaters" in the Borscht Belt, sat in at the piano for an impromptu party aboard Aristotle Onassis’s yacht.
The Dream, The Reality Even before he achieved international fame from the Monaco wedding, Stan had begun to pursue his dream of big-band swing. He created a 17-piece orchestra after graduation and in 1956, George Hamid, another Princetonian, whose family owned the Atlantic City Steel Pier, hired Stan. "I bought Bob Friedlander's book of arrangements - Bob and I have now worked together for 45 years - and started to build my library." The first song was "Begin the Beguine" (a Cole Porter tune rendered by Artie Shaw), then "Moonlight Serenade" (Glenn Miller), "Opus 1" (Goodman), "Sing, Sing, Sing" (Goodman), "I Can't Get Started" (Bunny Berrigan), "Cherokee" (Charlie Barnet), "A-Train" (Duke Ellington), "One O’clock Jump" (Count Basie) and so forth.
"My dream was to create the band, preserve the concept of music by virtue of note-for-note arrangements of the great classics and play in a large New York night club six nights a week with permanent band members who had steady jobs complete with benefits.
A benign tumor rendered Stan unable to play the clarinet. "I can't blow even a single note." Nevertheless, he persists in his efforts to preserve big-band swing. He has a vast library of swing, which he stores, in colored coded bags. A pink container holds female singers; Benny Goodman occupies a blue one, Harry James in a red. He has a Web site - www.stanrubinorchestra.com - with a CD, which introduces listeners to the music and also serves as an audition tape for anyone interested in contracting for a live show.
The king is long dead, the domain may be threatened, but this is one crown prince who does not plan to abdicate.