By Mimi Beck Knudsen, Reno Gazette-Journal
Allow me to don my Carnac the Magnificent turban and give my answer first: Wow! The question? Well, there are several. Whatever happened to Johnny Carson’s bandleader, Doc Severinsen, since the legendary late-night show “retired” in 1992? Does an 84-year-old Severinsen still have the lips and lungs to let loose on the trumpet? In its 16th season, does Artown still have the ability to bring in acts that surprise and delight audiences?
Doc Severinsen and the four other members of the San Miguel Five played the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater in Bartley Ranch Regional Park on Sunday night, punctuating the mid-point of the month- long Artown festival with a giant exclamation point. Looking tan, fit and colorful in bright green leather pants, a neon pink shirt and sparkly white jacket trimmed in gold, the only thing hotter than Severinsen’s ensemble on his back was the ensemble on the stage, the amazing musicians who comprise the San Miguel Five. Guitarist Gil Gutiérrez is founder and musical director of the group. In 2006 Severinsen happened upon Gutiérrez, who was performing in a San Miguel, Mexico, restaurant. They soon forged a friendship and musical partnership that has taken the group to venues from Mexico City to Carnegie Hall. Along with Gutiérrez and Severinsen, the San Miguel Five includes violinist Charlie Bisharat, percussionist Jimmy Branly and Kevin Thomas on bass. While Thomas and Branly provide the heartbeat, Bisharat, Gutiérrez and Severinsen get most of the show-stopping glory, although Branly’s solos, including hand-drumming on Gutiérrez’s guitar, provided some of the evening’s most memorable moments. For two hours, the audience got to savor the band’s delicious fusion of tango, f lamenco, classical, swing and Gypsy jazz, Advertisement ala the great Django Reinhardt. Mild, clear weather, a nearly full, cream- colored moon and a chorus of crickets were the perfect accoutrements for the very enthusiastic — and quite lucky — Bartley Ranch audience. On a personal note, seeing Severinsen allowed me to complete the quadfecta of live trumpet performances. Along with Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione and Herb Alpert, Severinsen certainly is seated first chair among the greatest trumpet