Category Archives: Reviews

Doc Severinsen and San Miguel 5 mark highpoint so far for Artown 2011

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 […]

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‘Tonight Show’ band leader re-invented himself

By Jim Beal Jr. San Antonio Express-News For a quarter of a century, Doc Severinsen was likely the highest-profile trumpet player and band leader on the planet. From his spot on the “Tonight Show” stage, the sartorially out-there Severinsen kibitzed with storied host Johnny Carson and sidekick Ed McMahon while leading the Tonight Show Orchestra […]

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Doc Severinsen peforms with the RIC Concert Jazz Band

The RIC Concert Jazz Band will be accompanied by legendary trumpeter and former “Tonight Show” bandleader Doc Severinsen on Monday, May 2, at 8 p.m. in the Nazarian Center’s Sapinsley Hall. Joseph Foley, RIC associate professor of music, will direct the show. Severinsen, who toured with the Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman bands in the […]

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Doc Severinsen to Host a Big Band Tribute to Lawrence Welk

LAWRENCE WELK’S BIG BAND SPLASH  March 2011 (check local listings) LAWRENCE WELK’S BIG BAND SPLASH, hosted by bandleader and trumpeter Doc Severinsen, is a celebration of the Big Band Era’s classic hits, performed by the great Welk Band and the talented Musical Family on the popular “Lawrence Welk Show.” Broadcast on network television from 1955 […]

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Severinsen Says Practice Makes Perfect, MHS Students Listen

For more than an hour and a half Monday, Carl Hilding “Doc” Severinsen, renowned trumpeter and leader of the NBC Orchestra during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, spoke to a captivated crowd in a cafeteria of Manchester High School about the trials and tribulations of a life in the music industry. He also filled […]

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Gil Gutiérrez, Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel 5 at Carnegie Hall

If it hadn’t been for a fateful encounter five years ago, two extraordinary jazz virtuosos, guitarist Gil Gutiérrez and trumpeter Doc Severinsen, wouldn’t be performing together at Carnegie Hall on January 28. In fact, they wouldn’t be making music together at all. As anyone knows who has heard these artists riff off each other, that […]

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Doc Severinsen KPLU Radio Interview

SEATTLE, WA (KPLU) – Grammy Award winning trumpeter Doc Severinsen comes to the Pacific Northwest for a concert next weekend. Probably best known as the flashy dressed bandleader for Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” Orchestra, Severinsen had a career that spanned sixty-five years, and is back on the road after a very brief retirement. KPLU’s Kevin […]

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At 82, Severinsen still makes the grade

Few musicians retire willingly. Most prefer to keep playing their music as long as they can, if their performances are up to snuff.

Former “Tonight Show” bandleader Doc Severinsen, who led his Mexico-based quintet Monday night at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, is a prime example.

The trumpeter, who will turn 83 on July 7, ended his 25-year run with Johnny Carson in 1992. In 2007, he retired as principal pops conductor for several symphony orchestras, including the Minnesota Orchestra, and moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

There, he met a group of local jazz musicians in a cafe and eventually formed his current ensemble, El Ritmo de la Vida (“The Rhythm of Life”).

The group’s repertoire is a heady blend of traditional Mexican music, Argentine tango, Spanish flamenco and gypsy jazz.

Severinsen’s group on the current tour includes one other fairly well-known U.S. musician — violinist Sid Page, who was a stalwart of the popular ’70s swing band, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

Monday’s opening set included an unidentified flamenco piece (with a trumpet part evocative of Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain”) and two pieces by the great Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla.

One was “Libertango,” with the melody played in unison by Severinsen, Page and guitarist Gil Gutierrez. Cuban-born percussionist Jimmy Branly laid down a brisk beat with brushes on his snare drum, supported by upright bassist Kevin Thomas.

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Pops still young at heart

Celebrating popular culture has made the Boston Pops what it is, and so it’s no surprise that opening its 125th anniversary season on Tuesday evening at Symphony Hall included a nod to favorites from Gershwin to “Glee.”

For the bulk of the century and a quarter, the Pops has had three just directors: Arthur Fiedler, John Williams and current maestro Keith Lockhart. Each has left his own stamp on the orchestra, and the splashy three-part program honored all of them.

The survey of Fiedler’s distinctive taste was all American, including some things patriotic (“National Emblem March”), and some things kitschy (Leroy Anderson’s idiosyncratic and enjoyable “Typewriter,” which served as a soundtrack to a video retrospective of the colorful Fiedler years). But it also had some real substance: Gershwin’s great “Rhapsody in Blue,” turned nicely (albeit in a bowdlerized version) by Pops regular Michael Chertock, as well as the most eloquent tribute of the night, featuring concertmaster Tamara Smirnova, who soloed gracefully in a timeless Pops favorite, “Jalousie,” the first million-selling recording of any kind, as Lockhart pointed out.

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Severinsen finds his gypsy in latest band

Doc Severinsen moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2007 to retire. Then he had dinner at an Italian restaurant, where violinist Pedro Cartas and guitarist Gil Gutierrez were playing.

“I dropped my fork and my spoon and everything else,” Severinsen said, from the site of a second home he’s building just outside San Miguel de Allende. “I couldn’t believe what these guys were doing.”

Thus began a chain of events leading to a concert set for Friday at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater. Trumpeter Severinsen, Cartas, Gutierrez, percussionist Miguel Favero and bassist Gilberto Gonzalez will play a benefit for the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s new Jazz Institute.

They call the band El Ritmo de la Vida. They were here in September, as a featured act with the Milwaukee Symphony Pops. Severinsen, of course, was the MSO’s principal pops conductor from 1994 to 2007. By all accounts, that show went very well.

But the Pops show, with a full orchestra in tow, required arrangements and constricted the band somewhat. The Pabst concert will be closer to the group’s Italian restaurant show.

Yes, Doc – who will turn 82 on July 7, who became a household name after decades on the “The Tonight Show” – plays three or four nights a week in a restaurant in Mexico.

“I’m the only one who doesn’t get paid,” he said.

From the name (“The Rhythm of Life”) and the makeup of the band, you might think they specialize in Latin jazz. Actually, they’re eclectic. A lot of jazz standards are in their repertoire, and the influence of French gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli is apparent in the playing o Gutierrez and Cartas. You can hear a wonderful, and very Hot Club of France, treatment of “Sweet Georgia Brown” at the Ritmo Web site.

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