John MacLeod, conductor for the evening and credited with arranging these timeless standards, is a name that must be mentioned not only for the tremendous job he does, but for guiding these wonderful musicians through his arrangements. Arrangements that push these standards from the American song book into fresh territory and allow the songs to breathe a new life in such a pleasing manner. Mr. MacLeod would take a break from his conducting duties on a few occasions to fire off some blazing statements on coronet, his horn of choice and one in which he always performs masterly upon.
And there were guest artists as well, Frank Wright on vibraphone and the sultry voiced Melissa Stylianou lending her talents to the evening with spirited vocal renderings of classics such as, "You Turned The Tables On Me," "It had To Be You" and "East of the Sun," sung to perfection, a fantastic performance with a superb arrangement that also featured Frank Wright on vibes, his playing is so smooth and in the groove that you are immediately reminded of the great Milt Jackson. Ms. Stylianou sang this song with such passion that you could just about envision the steam rising from the stage, combined with her red hot evening gown and her classical elegance, this was a hot song. The guest artists added magic, elegance, sophistication and tonal splendor.
The string section was inspired to swing hard, especially so during "Bugle Call Rag," violins led by Lenny Solomon and cello’s led by Wendy Solomon kicked it up in support of trumpeter Brian O’Kane who blew without reserve and was threatening to raise everybody from their seats, a high energy auditory assault of delight.
The show featured some of the all-stars in small group settings with wonderful interaction. Bob DeAngelis’s smooth clarinet playing, John MacLeod’s exceptional trumpet work, Lenny Solomon’s burning string attacks and the ever tasteful Frank Wright a masterful vibraphonist. The rhythm section with Danny McErlain’s piano playing and Lorne Nehring on drums, along side Scott Irvine, playing tuba and holding down the bottom end and also featuring Bob Livingston on trombone, this was a great band all on their own and they were just starting to cook when the song came to a dramatic climax.
Other hi-light moments, of which there were many, included swing dancers that took to the stage in both the first and second sets, the A2D2 Swing Dance Divas, a professional group of dancers that added a nice touch to the party atmosphere, they tapped up a storm during the finale of the first set and caused the audience to applaud with intense excitement. A classical meets jazz type of song "When Bach Goes To Town" with a tremendous performance from violinist Moshe Hammer who played with such passion that he proceeded to produce the most thunderous applause heard during the entire evening. A rhythm section that could do no wrong, led by the most solid of foundations jazz bassist, Jack McFadden, big band drummer Lorne Nehring and pianist Danny McErlain who never let the swing go out of the orchestra.
The show continued to build and gathered momentum to the final song of the evening "Auld Lang Syne," to usher in the New Year, to send off the old year in style. Ms. Stylianou sang the tune to the audience, who remained standing in appreciation after a couple of ovations for a great show, with a delightful, upbeat and reassuring manner, that seemed to say - 2008 will be a great year and we’ll see you all at Carnegie Hall January 16th. Happy New Year!