Coronation of a king, a tribute to Benny Goodman, starring Bob DeAngelis, John MacLeod, and the Champagne Symphony Orchestra featuring some of Canada’s top musicians. "I think the band I had at Carnegie Hall . . . was the best . . . I ever had." A Benny Goodman statement, that he made in regards to his big band performance January 16, 1938 at Carnegie Hall. The night Benny Goodman claimed the title "The King Of Swing."
The dream for Bob DeAngelis and company, "Today Roy Thomson Hall, Tomorrow Carnegie Hall" an ideal, an ambition or aspiration, define the word dream and why not dream, after all, some dreams are meant to come true.
Bob DeAngelis and his Champagne Symphony Orchestra will present an encore performance of The Coronation of a King: A Tribute to Benny Goodman at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on New Year’s Eve 2007. On the heels of the Toronto concert, the Champagne Symphony will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Benny Goodman’s acclaimed 1938 concert at the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York City on January 16, 2008.
The Coronation of a King features Goodman’s most popular tunes, including "Let’s Dance," "Memories of You," "Stompin’ at the Savoy," "After You’ve Gone" and "Sing Sing Sing." At the helm of the 50-piece Champagne Symphony is Juno award winning clarinetist Bob DeAngelis alongside Grammy award-winning trumpeter and arranger John MacLeod. Guests will include the sultry-voiced Melissa Stylianou, Frank Wright on mesmerizing vibes and the dazzling Swing Dance Divas.
Take Five with award winning clarinetist Bob DeAngelis and his wife and manager Joni. An interview conducted by Paul J. Youngman, KJA - Jazz Advocate, Dec. 2007.
Jazz Review: Nice to be with you Bob on this cold winters day, how are you doing?
Bob DeAngelis: Good, very good and it’s nice to be here with you Paul.
Jazz Review: And we're with wife Joni as well, who is also Bob’s manager. Hi Joni how you doing today?
Joni DeAngelis: Hi Paul, nice to be with you as well, I’m doing great thanks.
Jazz Review: So this years Benny Goodman tribute would seem to be a big project, even bigger than last years?
Bob DeAngelis: Well yes, yes this is a big project. We started this idea about three or four years ago. John MacLeod set out to write a medley for me, to perform with different symphony orchestras, seven or so songs, that medley was a Benny Goodman medley. When we tried to sell that program to the sponsors they felt they would rather have a complete program, not just a ten minute medley. So John MacLeod, with that idea in mind went about creating this whole show for me and it’s a tribute to Benny Goodman. We go out there and we sell it to various symphony orchestras and it is very well received.
Jazz Review: Oh yea, I was at last years New Years Eve performance, I actually reviewed the show. I had nothing but good things to say, it was a very enjoyable show. My wife was with me and she enjoyed it immensely as well. The full house at the theatre seemed to enjoy the performance, there were people actually dancing in the aisles. It was a really nice show, I think the music has a lot to do with that, but the players were great too, they were really into it. The show just had a great feel to it.
Joni DeAngelis: You know when John wrote the show and we started traveling with it, I can tell you honestly every single show, not ninety nine percent but one hundred percent of the outings we’ve had people just jump to their feet with excitement. If we’ve had any criticism about the show, it’s like sit down, too many people getting in the way.
Jazz Review: Distractions, that’s right, people doing the Lindy Hop or something like that in the aisles. Sit down, I can’t see the band. (All laughing.)
Joni DeAngelis: It just gets people really excited. You know it feels like were charting a new way, in this day and age, taking something old and making it new once again. The symphony players don’t like doing pops programs all the time and John MacLeod wrote the arrangements, as you heard last year, with full utilization of the symphony orchestra. He wrote these charts to satisfy the classical players, they love the challenge of the music. As well as the jazz players, we’ve got enough jazz in there to keep them happy. More than that, it really captures the audience. I didn’t just call Roy Thompson Hall (Toronto Concert Hall) for one reason; I have a passion that Canadian music have a footprint here in Canada. We might have done ten shows south of the border, to one show in Canada. I said to Bob, before this thing takes off, I’m American, but I’ve lived here most of my adult life, here in Toronto with Bob. I really wanted to maintain a Canadian presence, so I thought we would book Roy Thompson Hall. We have this wonderful eclectic gathering, you know, the musicianship we have in Toronto, the talent of the Champagne Symphony Orchestra, we would have a fantastic vehicle to perform it, this wonderful jazz orchestra to debut all of our programs. Of course with the 70th anniversary of the Benny Goodman Carnegie hall concert coming up now in 2008, it just all seemed to come together.
Jazz Review: Yes, so the dream comes true. That’s excellent. Bob what goes through a band leaders mind before mounting a show as grand as this one?
Bob DeAngelis: Well I have a lot of anticipation before hand, you know, a lot of butterflies going through my stomach, but once I set foot on that stage, and I play the first number, everything just calms down. I get into the music and I just start playing.
Jazz Review: Do you have any concerns when you get out on stage? You look so cool on stage; you look like you don’t have a care in the world.
Bob DeAngelis: I try to block out as much as I can, although sometimes you know I’m playing away and sometimes your mind starts to wander. You try to block that off; I’m thinking about what I’m going to say next or some silly things like that, I try to shut that off, this music needs total concentration, especially when I’m blowing.
Jazz Review: I ask some artists what they’re thinking about, how they produce their sound or solo’s and they say they don’t know, they have no concept of what they’re doing. Do you ever have that feeling when you perform.
Bob DeAngelis: Oh yea, sometimes I get lost in the music I just immerse myself in the music I just start playing, especially the solos.
Joni DeAngelis: John and Bob have been close friends for years, this goes back to Humber College they were both music students at Humber, so this goes back about thirty years. For them it’s their language, you know this may sound cliché but both these guys, they are really humble, down to earth guys but they are passionate about their music. When they play through their horns they are communicating, it’s their music. When Bob says he get distracted it’s not the music.
Jazz Review: Yea it’s the personal part, right? (Laughing.)
Joni DeAngelis: As long as Bob has the horn in his mouth there is absolutely not one care in the world. Between the two of them, Bob and John, when they’re up on that stage, it’s pure magic, it’s their language. But when it comes to making the announcements, that’s when his mind may start to wander and when he has to do other things like that. He knows he has to do that as well, I try to facilitate that as much as I can, with guidelines and things like that, that he takes up on stage with him. He’s pretty masterful at that as well. I tend to think, and you might agree with me, the audience loves how honestly that comes off. We’ve never, not had a multiple standing ovation with this program. I think they like how honest Bob is, they like how he’s talking through the music and when he is at the microphone he’s not all hype and fake, that’s not it, that’s not him. This is the real thing. I venture to say that if we were alive during the days of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, I think Bob would have been one of the clarinetists fronting one of these big bands that toured around the country and he would have been filling dance halls all over the place. It’s a natural for him.
Jazz Review: There is a sincerity that comes through in his performance and it is definitely endearing to the audience. The same with John, John is funny, he is humble to the point of ridiculous. He’s a Grammy award winner as well, right?
Bob DeAngelis: Yea that’s right.
Joni DeAngelis: Sounds like you have John summed up pretty good.
Jazz Review: I saw him a while ago, he was leading the Art of Jazz Orchestra and the first thing he says to the audience, I’ve never done this before, so bare with me. He was amazing, it was obvious that he had put together some seriously good stuff, he led that band and it didn’t matter who was in the band, he just did a great job. I could see the same thing with the Champagne Symphony Orchestra, that it didn’t matter who was in the orchestra, he was going to get the best out of those players.
Joni DeAngelis: What a great feeling. We’ve played with some great orchestras and some weak orchestras as well, but nothing like having your friends and your peers with you. You know that concert last year, in particular, and when we work with the Champagne gang, you know they’ve got Bob and John’s back, they come out and they play from the heart. What a wonderful, wonderful feeling.
Jazz Review: Your band or should I say orchestra, was made up of some top notch players, many crossover musicians, some musicians whom are normally only associated with classical and a core of excellent jazz musicians. Was this a planned orchestra, were these all folks you wanted to work with?
Bob DeAngelis: This was our planned orchestra John and myself, I know some of the classical people but John knows a lot more because John’s wife is a classical violinist, so he is much more aware of the classical players. We have the talent these are all great soloists in there own right. All those musicians, all those people up on stage are first rate players.
Jazz Review: The small groups that you put together were wonderful as well, I could have listened to the small groups for a couple of hours on their own. Will many of the original members be back for this years show?
Bob DeAngelis: Oh yes, we should have almost all of the original members back. Only two of last years members can’t make it. There are some steady theatre jobs going on right now, so we have a couple of fill-ins but these are all great musicians.
Jazz Review: What about the gig at Carnegie Hall, will the complete orchestra be attending?
Bob DeAngelis: Will be filling in many of the strings, but the core of the band will be coming with us to New York.
Jazz Review: New York is considered by many as jazz central, have you any indication of the acceptance of the gig there?
Joni DeAngelis: What I sense is we are selling the event, they are not that excited about Bob DeAngelis and a Canadian entourage, Bob DeAngelis and the Champagne Symphony. We’re bringing a pretty good contingent of the Champagne Symphony with us and filling in the rest, mostly the string section, with the New York crowd. The event garners a lot of excitement. The 70th anniversary of the famed Benny Goodman concert and such, having said that though we’re booked for a Wednesday night. The middle of the week in the coldest month of the year in New York City. Goodman himself did it on a Sunday night.
Jazz Review: He also oversold the place, people were lined up to get in, standing room only. Hopefully you have that problem.
Joni DeAngelis: I look at my two guys, Bob and John, and I asked them, what do you guys want? I told them be very careful what you wish for. Both the guys said they wanted the Carnegie Hall gig so I went after it. I made the phone call, I started the process and we went after it. I contacted the Goodman estate and after a half dozen conversations they said we’ve listened to Bobs CD and brought the material forward to the trustees and they liked what they heard they though Bob was an excellent clarinetist and were happy to have him doing this.
Bob DeAngelis: We got the Goodman estate blessing.
Joni DeAngelis: Ticket sales are trickling in. We are just starting are main campaign now, and will see if we catch the attention of the people based on the event itself. You say acceptance, a lot of people put labels on the music, and that somehow takes it out of the mainstream. Like playing traditional or a nostalgic kind of jazz makes it less glamorous to some people. You were there last New Years did you think it was un-glamorous what those guys were doing up there.
Jazz Review: No it was hip jazz, it was happening, it wasn’t nostalgia. Even though the songs are nostalgic, but you guys played them in a fresh manner, it was a great show. Bob when you're not making your dreams come true what are you doing?
Bob DeAngelis: I love skiing, I put on my ski suit as the weather permits and off I go. Joni’s not letting me go right now, I’ll have to wait for the Carnegie Hall gig to be over. My summertime passion is boating. It has to be power boating though, I don’t have time for the other type, you know I’ll be out on Lake Ontario and a call will come in for a gig and I have to rush back to prepare for the gig. I love cooking, another one of my passions, I don’t do it enough but I like to dabble. I make a good tomato sauce.
Jazz Review: With fresh tomatoes?
Bob DeAngelis: Oh yea, of course, we only did ten bushels this past year, right Joni.
Joni DeAngelis: Well this is funny, during my oldest daughters wedding this last fall, I was so concerned with getting back to the house and getting to the tomatoes. I don’t care, - all the success of Carnegie Hall or Roy Thompson Hall will mean nothing if I don’t have tomato sauce for the winter.
Jazz Review: That’s it, the Italian way, good for you guys. Bob do you have any advice for young people getting into the business of music, jazz in particular?
Bob DeAngelis: Ok, it doesn’t matter how good you are or what great musical product you have, you have to get out there and tell people that you have this great musical product. For me this came in the form of Joni, she gets the message out there. Basically I would’ve been happy coming back after a gig, satisfied with that gig and looking forward to, or waiting for the next gig to come along. At some point in time though I think I would have become frustrated with that. What’s wrong with this business, everything is ok when I’m doing the gig but why am I still in the same place, doing the same thing, what’s wrong with this picture. I don’t like saying this but you have to tell people how good you are. You have to get that message out there. You can’t get frustrated with it, you have to persevere. You also have to love what you’re doing, that just about goes without saying. If you don’t really love this stuff, .well you have to really have a love for this stuff and that will help you carry through with it.
Jazz Review: I think that’s good advice, so we need more Joni’s out there if we want to hear more of these music graduates, we also need your orchestra to feature some of these great Canadian musicians.
Joni DeAngelis: This is why I’m so thankful that Somerset Records has put some backing behind this project. I knew the potential was great, this is so good for the music business and it has generated a lot of excitement. You have fifty wonderful musicians all in the same spot on New years Eve, bringing in a New Year with hope and the excitement of what the year will bring. We're very hopeful this will give us the launching pad to continue to showcase the wealth of talent in Canada.
Bob DeAngelis: Do you have a copy of our new CD?
Jazz Review: I don’t. I have Jive For Joni. (2004 Independent) I picked that up at the last New Years Eve concert.
Bob DeAngelis: Oh, we’ll get you a copy, our most recent CD was put together with the help of Somerset Records, it called Champagne Memories (2007 Somerset Records) we recorded the Champagne Symphony in the studio. The way we did it was interesting, we went into the studio and recorded the bed tracks with our rhythm section then we had our horns come in, our brass section. Next we had some of the woodwinds come in and record their parts. Then Somerset decided to record all of the strings in Russia, they sent the recording to Russia and put about seventy string players on it, a wonderful Moscow string section. The recording was brought back here and we mixed and mastered it and wa-lah, we have a great CD.
Jazz Review: You produced the CD Bob?
Bob DeAngelis: John MacLeod and I produced it with the backing of Somerset Records.
Jazz Review: That’s wonderful, I’m really looking forward to hear that Bob. Thanks for taking the time with us today Bob and Joni, we really appreciate it. And here’s wishing you all the best for the coming New Year. I'm looking forward to the Toronto show at Roy Thompson Hall on December 31st, 2007. I will be reporting on the show for our Jazz Review.com readers. I also wish you a wonderful show at Carnegie Hall on January 16, 2008. I wish I could get to that show too, I think it will be an amazing show.