There is nothing like a night with masterful jazz musicians harmonizing while making music. That was exactly what happened at the Holland Center last Saturday with Doc Severinsen’s Big Band concert.
Doc entered on stage wearing red leather pants, a purple shirt, and a sequenced white jacket which were definitely reminiscent of his Tonight Show days with the band playing the theme song from the show. (I almost expected to find Ed McMahon in the audience.) Although a youthful 84-years of age, Doc quickly informed this audience in “the land of Carson” that he is “not ready to go yet.” By the way he played that trumpet, interacted with the band, dressed, and strutted, his advice to the audience was “do not go quietly into the night”. He definitely took his own advice on this particular night.
The concert began with “September Song” being played by this multi-generational and accomplished band. This upbeat arrangement featured the expertise of the tenor saxophone played by Ernie Watts who actually was part of the band on the Tonight Show and still is a well-sought after musician who has recorded numerous albums.
With “The St. Louis Blues” , Severinsen beautifully soared his high-notes while also featuring the jazz pianist, Mary Louise Knutson, who is also an accomplished and recorded jazz musician.
Belting out the songs was Vanessa Thomas who Doc discovered in Clay Center, Kansas. This talented singer showed her versatility in style and range with “Singin’ in the Rain”, “Smile", and “When You’re Smiling”, as well as Duke Wellington’s “Mood Indigo”.
Two ballads showed the true musicianship of all the members of the band. With “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” you could feel the expression and the warmth of this song. Unquestionably, the highlight of the show was when Doc led the band with the tune “Georgia on My Mind” with his trumpet soaring in this melodic and soulful rendition.
Naturally as a tribute, Johnny Carson’s favorite, “Here’s that Rainy Day” was part of this program featuring Doc’s mellow tones. Other songs included were “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”, “Caravan”, “Sax Alley” with Ernie Watts and Chip McNeill being featured, “Sing,Sing,Sing” with drummer Stockton Helbing, “Stardust”, and “One O’Clock Jump”.
Doc Severinsen ended with asking the audience to come back next year for our reunion as he youthfully strutted from the stage.