By RA Monaco
ELMHURST – A warm nostalgia carried on a perfect summer breeze to the unqualified embrace of an audience who, from their living rooms mostly, shared the 30 years that Doc Severinsen led the NBC Orchestra on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
Saturday night’s June Jazz: A Summer Extravaganza, at the Elmhurst College Mall, was anything but a one man show with trumpeter Byron Stripling bringing his own playful personality and easy swing to the performance.
The genuinely shared and entertaining camaraderie between these two famed trumpeters is sure to have made the event memorable for the hundreds of jazz fans that spread their blankets, chairs and coolers across the mall lawn to picnic and enjoy live music.
Elmhurst College Director of Jazz Studies Doug Beach, who can now claim 19 consecutive years of avoiding a Chicago rainout, is likely to be getting calls from local weather forecasters —the weather for this year’s June Jazz: A Summer Extravaganza was, in a word, “perfect.”
As if they’d rehearsed Minnie The Moocher, the audience enthusiastically stepped right in to sing the Cab Calloway lyrics, “Hidee hidee hide hi; Hode hode, hode, ho; Hee dee hee dee hee dee hee; A hide hide hide ho…” to the echo of Byron Stripling’s prompts.
Chosen to star in the lead role of the Broadway bound musical, “Satchmo,” Byron Stripling is also an accomplished singer whose infectious personality generated spontaneous grins of amusement throughout the audience as well as Elmhurst College band members accompanying the celebrity performers.
A quality of authenticity permeated the lyrics of Louis Armstrong’s composition Basin Street Blues as Stripling sang “They’ll be huggin’ and a kissin’; That’s what I been missin’; And all that music, Lord, if you just listen’; New Orleans, I got them Basin Street Blues.” To the delight of everyone, Doc Severinsen joined the romp with a little vocal fun and a couple improvised courses on his horn.
The flamboyant Severinsen, has yet to retire his colorful wardrobe —apparently the envy of most women in the audience. The inspiringly active musician, who will turn 87 come July 7th, released his newest CD, Oblivion, in January.
Severinsen, the headline trumpeter, flashed his torchy trumpet styling for the audience on Georgia On My Mind—a Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell composition. Then, Doc stretched out on the well traveled jazz standard Caravan, which included a solo from Elmhurst College tenor player Shelly Bishop, who really knew her way around the changes, raising eyebrows.
Also featured, the big voice of Vanessa Thomas tempted the weather gods with her performance of “Singing In The Rain.” She followed with a crowd-pleasing arrangement of “Every Day I have the Blues,” that included a solo from guitarist Kenny Thompson.
Throughout the evening, featured performers repeatedly gushed at the solid journeyman support from the Elmhurst College Jazz Band. The internationally acclaimed jazz ensemble has earned positive reviews during their performance tours around the world, including the Montreux Jazz festival.
Under the direction of Doug Beach, the Elmhurst College Jazz Band will begin touring next week with approximately eight performances in 10 days at venues and festivals across Croatia.
The band warmed up the large 2014 Summer Extravaganza crowd with an arrangement of the Charlie Parker tune Yardbird Suite, which included a solo from alto saxophonist Sam Horn.
The ensemble followed with a Bill Holman arrangement of the jazz standard Lover Man, which featured their baritone saxophonist Tom Zimny. There was nothing bashful about this young man’s playing. He gave a standout performance in February at the 47th Annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival trading courses with Downbeat Critics Poll Winner for Baritone Saxophone Gary Smulyan –Zimny should be getting calls from ghost band leaders in the near future.
A performance of Get Out of Town (Before It’s Too Late), from the late Bobby Brookmeyer, followed. The superb arrangement featured their vocalist Jenna Hesslan which included a solo from a mature sounding Shelly Bishop on tenor saxophone.
In their last number before the evening’s celebrity performances, the Elmhurst College Band sunk their teeth into an arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing),” ironically with a Latin—not swing—feel. The chart included a vocal scat and trumpet soli, before opening solos to tenor saxophonist Sam Simpson, trombonist Kevin Kim and drummer Matt Kellan, who was solid all night.
If you missed this year’s June Jazz: A Summer Extravaganza, you’ll want to mark your calendar for six days of great jazz that will be coming up at the 48th Annual College Elmhurst College Jazz Festival in February 2015. Tickets will go on sale December, 1, 2014.