Sunday, June 09, 2013

What's Up? Doc at 85!

Last night we had the pleasure of hearing Doc Severinsen perform with the CSO and his Latin quartet (Doc has lived in Mexico since 2006). Doc was a huge influence on me musically, I probably saw him first on THE TONIGHT SHOW not long after I took up the trumpet as a kid, and after Maynard Ferguson, he was probably the trumpet player I most emulated through junior high and high school, and a motivator for me to want to be a better lead trumpet player. In fact, at one point I thought my career would be as a lead trumpet player, only to find that in the 1980s there were not that many big band jobs.

I've seen him play live a few times, most memorably  the first time I saw him, which was only days after I moved to California in 1986. The Tonight Show Band played at the NAJE conference in Anaheim, and I remember my first time driving California freeways to hear him. He and the band were fantastic as always. About that time the band released two great CDs as well.

I had assumed Doc was in his 70s when we got the tickets for last night, and when he took the stage  he was full of life and played extremely well; I was surprised to discover that his is 85! He still has a huge, fat sound on the instrument, and hit plenty of high notes, although probably not as consistently as he did 30 - 40 years ago, but at age 85 he is still very impressive.

Also impressive is his backup band, including Charlie Bisharat on electric fiddle, Latin guitarist and musical director Gil Gutiérrez, bassist Kevin Thomas, and  Cuban drummer Jimmy Branly, who played both trap set and cajon at the same time. The band had a blast.

The range of musical choices was a little limited. I most enjoyed the two Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli pieces, which were the ones most outside the Latin idiom of the night. Otherwise I got tired of the Spanish phrygian mode pretty quickly. However the playing was all outstanding and clearly the crowd enjoyed it.

Last week we saw the Bugs Bunny at the Symphony Concert for the third time in five years. (We had subscriber tickets that we needed to use by the end of the season, and this was one of the last concerts.) It's definitely getting a little old and could use some new material. (They made significant changes between the first and second time we saw it, and have announced that there will be more changes next year.) But it did give me a nice title for the Doc review above.

That's it for the CSO's regular season this year. We will probably try to catch a summer concert.

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