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Philharmonic’s Benny Goodman tribute is just like good old days

By Alexander Choman, Times-Tribune Music Critic 04/14/2007

WILKES-BARRE — The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic joined forces with Canadian clarinetist Bob DeAngelis on Friday night at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for a sumptuous tribute to the King of Swing, Benny Goodman, in the final Pops concert of the season.

The concert, “The Coronation of the King — A Tribute to Benny Goodman,” will be repeated tonight beginning at 8 at the Scranton Cultural Center.

To borrow a phrase from the era, “the joint was jumpin’ ” as Mr. DeAngelis resurrected some of the genre’s finest work by one of its pioneers. The sold-out house of 1,800 people was treated to many of Mr. Goodman’s signature songs, such as “It Had To Be You,” “Moon Glow,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “Goodbye” and, of course, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

Swing jazz enjoyed its glory days in the 1930s when Big Band music dominated the musical scene. Mr. DeAngelis’ playing reflected this form accurately, with its explicit beat patterns and rhythmic organization.

Mr. DeAngelis certainly paid appropriate homage to the king of the swing era with a play list that was fluently snappy yet cool as a Miles Davis performance.

The orchestra added superb accompaniment under the direction of Maestro Lawrence Loh. It was another in a season of outstanding performances.

Benny Goodman’s importance to American music cannot be underestimated. His transition to swing made it plausible to actually get up and dance while the music played and not just sit passively and listen. For reasons like that, Mr. Goodman was viewed as much a rebel as Elvis Presley.

One of Mr. Goodman’s most memorable performances occurred at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1938, displaying all of the invigorating rhythms, fluid orchestration and style of the players.

Friday night’s concert at the Kirby Center did all of that and maybe even more. It proved that the talent and technical execution of this orchestra and its conductor also have the versatility to excel on a variety of different musical levels.

Concert notes
Magic 93 radio personality Frankie Warren led the orchestra in John Phillip Sousa’s “Thunderer March” in the annual Conductor’s Challenge. WNEP TV’s Jill Garrett will assume the podium for the same cause tonight at the Scranton Cultural Center ... Friday night’s concert received corporate sponsorship from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fortinsky.


Symphony orchestra's swing concert provides an energetic end to the year

By Samuel Black, For The News Tribune, Posted on 01-02-06

For those who thrive on the swing music of Benny Goodman, New Year's Eve with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra could not have been better.

Two Canadians, clarinetist Bob DeAngelis and vocalist Carol McCartney, came to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center to celebrate the occasion and warmed the frosty evening with their renditions of Goodman's favorites. These Toronto artists perform together frequently and make this music come alive.

At full speed, DeAngelis and the orchestra, led by music director Markand Thakar, offered the invitation, "Let's Dance," though everyone stayed seated and merely listened to the enthusiasm from the stage. Twenty-two Goodman hits were featured, enough to make every toe in the house keep pace.

McCartney offered her sultry voice on seven tunes, sampling the world of Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee. Her singing of "East of the Sun" was particularly sensitive, and probably relaxed any anxiety in the Auditorium.

At the end of the evening, her scat rendition of "SING SING SING" added increased excitement to the enthusiastic audience.

DSSO drummer Paul Hill and bass player Vince Osborn were joined several times by jazz pianist Ryan Frane from UMD to create a special quartet. With gusto, they chased away the blues with "Shine," then offered a rich interpretation of George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good," that included Charlie Leibfried and his gentle trumpet touch.

In these pieces, clarinetist DeAngelis explored the wide range of his versatility. He energetically caressed tunes and offered rhythmically vibrant variations on swing-era music.

The DSSO was praised by DeAngelis and McCartney for their flexibility in this world of swing. Part of the credit goes to Canadian arranger John MacLeod, whose use of individual instruments was quite satisfying. In "Frenesi" the orchestra had a chance to share woodwind, brass and string finesse, even as DeAngelis sparkled in imitation of Goodman's technical prowess.

When the quartet burst into Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," it seemed as though the floorboards loosened. Paul Hill's drumming kept the pace crisp while DeAngelis and Frane offered energetic jazz riffs. For a change of pace, DSSO clarinetists Jennifer Gerth and Kris Peterson added Bach-like imitations to DeAngelis in a piece called "When Bach Goes to Town."

McCartney came out to share two final tunes. Both "And the Angels Sing" and "After You've Gone" left warm feelings in the audience. Earl Salemink put a mute in his trumpet for subtlety, though DeAngelis used his clarinet like a trumpet in final flourishes. His high and low notes were filled with tremendous momentum, and the audience clearly felt it.

The encore featured a radio-style overvoice, recalling a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938, when Goodman made his brand of swing an American classic. "SING SING SING" characterizes the times and the mood. Much of that was vibrant Saturday night as 2005 drifted away. Only the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" remained. The audience joined in, and all left renewed.