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.