Latest incarnation of Al Welsh Orchestra swings in Perry PAC

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Sunday’s incarnation of the Al Welsh Orchestra featured, from left, Tiffany Wurth, Les Aldrich and Steve Nelson on saxophone, Steve Cook on trumpet, Jimmy Van Dorn on drums, April Cook on trumpet, Dale Menning on trombone and Steve Lawson on piano.

The Al Welsh Orchestra, a perennial Perry-area favorite, performed Sunday to about 40 receptive fans at the Perry Performing Arts Center.

Founded in the early 1950s by Al Welsh, a music store owner from Webster City and one of Iowa’s best-known band leaders and performers in his day, he led the orchestra until his death in 1989. Sherry Welsh, Al’s widow, continued the band until 2003, when she sold it to trombonist Denny Anderson of Rockwell City.

Steve Cook, who retired in 2014 after nearly 30 years as the band director at Perry High School, acquired the band in 2019. True to its roots, the band plays popular dance tunes from the 1920s through today, including many Great American Songbook classics by Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Woody Hermann, Benny Goodman and many others.

Sunday’s incarnation of the Al Welsh Orchestra featured Cook and his daughter, April Cook, on trumpet, saxophonists Tiffany Wurth, Les Aldrich and Steve Nelson, with Dale Menning on trombone, Steve Lawson on piano and Jimmy Van Dorn on drums.

Apart from the technical excellence of Sunday’s performance, which shone brightly in, for instance, the band’s cover of Count Basie’s “Cute” and Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” a high note of the show was hit with the vocal stylings of Jill Cook — the mother of April and wife of Steve and longtime Perry Public Library — whose rendition of Jo Stafford’s 1952 chart topper, “You Belong to Me,” was perhaps exceeded only be her treatment of the 1935 song, “Red Sails in the Sunset,” by Hugh Williams and Jimmy Kennedy.

Swift wings you must borrow.
Make straight for the shore.
We marry tomorrow,
And she goes sailing no more.

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