by Tom Ineck
Lincoln Journal Star | Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:15 am
Contrary to some advance publicity, Doc Severinsen’s appearance Monday night at the Lied Center for Performing Arts was not a program of classical Spanish, movie music or gypsy jazz.
As expected from the 84-year-old trumpeter and his 16-piece big band, the “Once More with Feeling” tour, his first with the big band in five years, is firmly grounded in the grand Swing Era tradition.
Severinsen’s band no longer is comprised largely of “Tonight Show” veterans, but he did have one ace up his sequined sleeve. Longtime band member and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts was the go-to guy on many occasions during the two-hour concert, attended by 1,600. He was brought to the microphone on the swinging opener and seldom sat down long enough to warm his seat.
Featured singer Vanessa Thomas exhibited impressive pipes on “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Smile,” “When You’re Smiling,” “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and “Mood Indigo,” and young drummer Stockton Helbing did an admirable job on the classic rave-up “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
But it was the big band that delivered the goods on such swingers as “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “Flying Home,” “Caravan,” “One O’Clock Jump” and “Sax Alley,” a furious tenor sax blowing contest between Watts and Chip McNeill.
Amazingly, Severinsen proved that he still has the lip and the technique to play with power, precision and stamina, frequently stating the melodies and hitting the high notes on trumpet. He used a plunger-muted horn on “St. Louis Blues,” took the lead on “Georgia on My Mind,” and inserted some well-controlled trumpet blasts on “Here’s That Rainy Day,” which he announced as Johnny Carson’s favorite tune.
Severinsen’s playing and bandleading certainly quashed any doubts that at 84 he might have lost some of his famous panache.