Big Band of the Week – Crabtowne Big Band

Founded in 1981 by baritone saxophonist Mike Mileski, Crabtowne Big Band has been led since 2012 by sax and clarinet player Bill Yakaitis, the only member left from the band’s inception. That’s not the only tribute to Yakaitis’s staying power: he also taught elementary band in Anne Arundel County for 47 years! Crabtowne also has a business manager, Doug Hart.

Yakaitis proudly cites the following highlights from the band’s career: a weekly stint at the King of France Tavern, where they backed Ethel Ennis and John Pizzarelli; opening for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra several times at Anne Arundel Community College’s July 4 concert; almost 30 years of playing outdoor summer concerts for the Women’s Club of Linthicum; playing the Holly Ball at Severn Town Club of Annapolis for over 10 years; playing several years on cruises of the World War II liberty ship John Brown; steady weekly gigs at the Surfside Seven club and Jason’s in Eastport.

True to its motto, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If it Ain’t Got That Swing,” the band mainly plays Swing Era classics made popular by the bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. They also play some arrangements of pop tunes, such as Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.” In 2000 the band released the CD Steamin’ on Crustacean Records.

Yakaitis says that the band’s professionalism has been greatly aided over the years by members who were veterans of either the Naval Academy band or Country Currents. Asked about the band’s challenges, he cites the need to hustle for gigs these days, as opposed to the days when they were frequently called by people requesting their services. They still play occasional concerts and dances, most recently a Friday night swing dance at the Towson American Legion.

At the band’s Facebook page you may view videos of their 2012 concert in Linthicum Park, with Ruth Capobianco singing “Tangerine,” and a 2016 performance at the same venue, with the band playing “Jump, Jive and Wail.”

This article continues our series on area big bands — if you missed the last one, you can catch it here at Big Band of the Week – Columbia Jazz Band.