Stan Rubin ’55’s performance this year for the Class of ’54’s reunion marked his 58th appearance with his jazz band, The Tigertown Five.
Clad in his plaid class jacket, pristine white pants, and a straw hat, Rubin directed his band of a bass, piano, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, drums, and cornet. Couples lined the dance floor, and members of the swing club at Princeton danced among the reuners.
While a freshman, Rubin put together a Dixieland band with some of the musicians he met in marching band. By his senior year, they were playing at Carnegie Hall and traveling on weekends to play on other campuses. “I still have nightmares about getting my thesis done,” he said. “Could you imagine traveling every weekend as a senior?”
While in law school, Rubin received a call to play at the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco. After that, he said, “I started getting calls from around the world to play. I never practiced law. I stayed with music.”
Ivory Jim and the Headhunters formed in true rock ’n’ roll tradition — in a college dorm room.
In the fall of 1959, Jim Hunter ’62 was playing guitar in his room when two freshmen came up to him and said, “We should start a band together!”
After that, Hunter joined up with Tom Broadie ’63, Marty Edelman ’63, and Dennis Page ’63, performing at the eating clubs and then at colleges across the United States. They kept the band going after graduation. In 2000, Hunter and two others played at Celine Dion’s 30th-birthday celebration: “We finally got her to sing the Titanic song — she was the best lead singer I’ve ever had,” said Hunter.
Ivory Jim and the Headhunters have performed 12 times at Reunions and are “legends by our own measures,” said Hunter, who worked as a chemical engineer until his retirement.
“This isn’t doo-wop,” he said. “This is a hard-driving rock ’n’ roll band with good, fast, solid music.” His favorite song? Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Hunter’s musical recipe was just fine for those attending the Class of ’69’s 45th reunion: The dance floor was packed.
This year, Alex Donner ’75 did what he had done several times before: play for his father’s class at Reunions. “He loves it,” Donner said of his father, Joseph Donner ’49. “But he sometimes leaves the party early when we get into our more contemporary music.”
Alex Donner leads the Alex Donner Orchestra. While his orchestra plays everything from “Gershwin to Gaga,” Donner said, he most enjoys playing the American standards, such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis.
“We’re a mix of expert musicians in different genres and each one of us inspires the others in the other genres,” he said. “We try to do seamless transitions.”
An American history major at Princeton, Donner was in the Nassoons for a year before starting his own band, Harbor Lights, which played at Reunions. Thirty-nine years later, he is a professional musician and has performed at Reunions 20 times.
His favorite Reunions moments? “Every time that I can see three generations out on the dance floor all having a great time,” Donner said.
“It’s about remembering the wonderful music that you loved back at Princeton,” he said.
When Jim Freund ’56 first heard Annette Sanders sing 12 years ago at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, he had one thought: “I want to play piano with that woman singing!”
Freund and Sanders met the next day. Since then, they and bassist Dmitri Kolesnik, who has performed with Freund for more than 20 years, have made three albums together.
This year, their second performance at Reunions, the trio played for the 60th-reunion class and picked selections from the 1950s — songs by artists like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
“We’re playing songs from your years at Princeton,” Freund called to the audience. “We want you to sing along with us!” Alumni and their guests grabbed lyric sheets and many migrated to the dance floor, swaying to “Unforgettable” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
While Freund plays music from the Great American Songbook, his personal anthem is from another decade entirely. “It’s ‘Forever Young’ by Bob Dylan,” said Freund, a history major who became a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. “I’m trying to stay forever young, too.”