George Gee & His Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra

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b. 31 March 1960, New York City, New York, USA. Of Chinese and American parentage, Gee took an early interest in music and although he liked R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, he found a special affinity with…
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b. 31 March 1960, New York City, New York, USA. Of Chinese and American parentage, Gee took an early interest in music and although he liked R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, he found a special affinity with big band music of the 30s and 40s. While still attending high school, Gee played bass in the school’s jazz band. In his first year at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he began broadcasting as a disc jockey on the college radio station, basing and naming his show after Martin Block’s 30s Make-Believe Ballroom radio programme. An opportunity to interview Count Basie and to hear the band live led to his decision to form a big band, which he named the Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra. Playing mostly college and society dance dates, the band was popular in and around Pittsburgh and on graduating and his return to New York City in 1989, Gee formed a similar band but instead of fellow college students he now hired experienced New York jazz and session musicians. This new version of the Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra attracted attention and dates.

In 1998, Gee formed another band, a 10-piece group, the Jump, Jive And Wailers, that benefited from the current interest in New Swing. The two bands continued to thrive in the early 00s, and among engagements the big band has played are the annual New York Swing Dance Society (1987-2002), American Swing Dance Championships, NYC (1994-1997), the Boston Swing Dance Network (1994-2001), and the American Lindyhop Championships (1995, 1998-9). Gee has also appeared at the Mellon Jazz Festival, Pittsburgh (1985-1989), the 1995 JVC Jazz Festival in New York, and in 2001 at the Zurich Arts Festival and the Greater Connecticut Jazz Festival. The band has also played in Tokyo. Among musicians who have played in Gee’s bands are trombonist Eddie Bert, guitarist Joe Cohn, saxophonist Michael Hashim and trumpeter Walt Szymanski. In addition to performing, Gee has lectured at the New School University, and conducts clinics and master classes.