The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Virginia Ross
With the first note exploding across the auditorium, Doc Severinsen and his Big Band held the audience captive. The Johnny Carson "Tonight Show" era crowd enthusiastically embraced the music and the man. Doc, ever the showman, sported a sparkly jacket (much like one seen in Nashville) to go with his neon orange shirt and lime green pants while the rest of the band dressed in black.
A piano, a bass, percussion, five saxes, three trumpets and three trombones joined the sweet sounds of Doc's trumpet. They rocked the building and demanded each and every one of us join the beat.
Using the "Tonight Show" theme as an intro, Doc led the group into "September Song" saying while he might be older he was not going quietly into the night. Pianist Mary Louise Knutson drummed out a rousing "St. Louis Blues" backed up by the band and we all wished we were in a dark night club enjoying the haunting sounds. "Jumping at the Woodside," a Count Basie number, just seemed like it told you to get on the train and go down the tracks; for definitely, it was leaving the station in a whirl. Various times throughout the night members of the band were spotlighted and Ernie Watts was memorable on his hot sax.
Vocalist, Vanessa Thomas, whose buttery smooth voice, favored the crowd with "Singing in the Rain." This young lady is incredible in her range and presentation-such mellow and yet powerful notes mesmerized the audience. The lady sitting next to me kept repeating, "She is so good; she is so good."
Doc and the band can tone it down and they did with "I'm Accustomed to Her Face" from My Fair Lady-one of Doc's favorites. Soon they were back to rocking the place with "Well Kid," a Tommy Dorsey hit, featuring trombones, piano and trumpets whose sound raced through my blood.
After intermission, the band returned with "Stomp," a Cole Porter number that literally got the audience keeping time to the beat. When Doc introduced the Hogey Carmichael hit, "Stardust," the audience sighed with appreciation as the velvet horn caressed each note. Vocalist, Vanessa Thomas returned with an earthy version of "Every Day I Have the Blues"-what power and range!!
Unbelievable-best describes the drummer who blazed a hot trail through "Sing, Sing, Sing." Wild, pulsing, uncivilized-we all were caught in the moment and slammed with the beat.
I could go on and on about what a great concert it was and wow, how the big band sound rivets your pulse. If you were there, you won't ever forget it and will realize what a bargain your Civic Music ticket is!! The next program is on Oct. 16 "TAP-The Show,' featuring tap dance numbers from around the world with many styles from movies, Broadway, big band, soft shoe, flamenco, Irish step and more. It is followed by six others in the months to come. Not too late to buy a ticket. See you there.