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Doc Severinsen |

Doc Severinsen’s 97th Birthday Surprise!

Special TrumCor mutes made for Doc Severinsen in Celebration of his 97th Birthday!

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Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story – November/December 2020 Update

More Film Festivals will be showing the documentary NEVER TOO LATE: THE DOC SEVERINSEN STORY. All screenings are online and include fun video panels and Q&As which you can watch along with the film. Ticket links are noted below.

(Minnesota and Texas Only)
November 14 – 16, 2020

Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival

(Connecticut Only)
November 18 – 27

Hartford Symphony Orchestra – Connecticut Premiere

(Alaska Only)
December 4 – 13

Anchorage International Film Festival

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NEVER TOO LATE: The Doc Severinsen Story UPDATE

Two more Film Festivals will be showing the documentary NEVER TOO LATE: THE DOC SEVERINSEN STORY this month. All screenings are online and include fun video panels and Q&As which you can watch along with the film. Keep watching for more announcements!

Available in Wisconsin
October 15 – 29

Milwaukee Film Festival

Available in Virginia
October 21 – 25

Virginia Film Festival

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NEVER TOO LATE: The Doc Severinsen Story

The documentary NEVER TOO LATE: THE DOC SEVERINSEN STORY is beginning to show at film festivals this month and details and locations are located below. All screenings are online for now and include fun video panels and Q&As which you can watch along with the film. More announcements are coming soon!

Guanajuato International Film Festival
September 24 – September 27

Nashville Film Festival
Available in Tennessee
October 1 – 7

Mill Valley Film Festival
Available in California
October 9 – 18

Available in Oregon
October 8 – 25 Film Festival

Available in Kansas
October 16 – 25

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Trumpet Icon Doc Severinsen’s The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 and 2 Available Now

(July 17, 2019; Los Angeles, CA) Grammy® Award-winning musician, Doc Severinsen has been celebrated as America’s favorite trumpet player for more than half a century! Welcomed into living rooms for nearly three decades as the leader of The Tonight Show Orchestra, (with host Johnny Carson hailing him as ‘the greatest trumpet player in the world,’) his impeccable musicianship and charismatic presence still dazzles at 92 years old, with the iconic trumpeter performing his signature stylings of big band, pop, jazz, world, and classical standards, universally hailed as one of our national treasures.

But it’s Doc’s most recent musical rediscovery of ‘lost’ live gems that has revived one of the lesser known, but more touching chapters in the American Maestro’s storied career: The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 and 2, available now, are comprised of fully realized modern Trumpet concertos that Doc performed in the 1970’s and ‘80s with the Baytown & Plano, Texas High School Bands, written by accomplished band composers and specifically commissioned for Doc by noted Texas high school band leader and friend Charles Forque.

“It was just a fantastic, uplifting experience all the way around,” Doc says. “I remember going down there for the first time to begin the project in the late ‘70s and all these wonderful, enthusiastic kids were there to greet me at the airport. They were just a joy to work with, and so incredibly talented. I’m talking about the kind of talent comparable to any professional band working then or today. Texas took its high school band music very seriously back then, and Charles instilled in these kids a passion and love for music that I have seldom witnessed to this day.”
The album’s selections were culled from more than 40 soloist performances by Doc, supported by the Texas high school bands conducted by Forque. The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 and 2 consist of 6 concertos written by the noted band composers, spotlighting the inspired chemistry between Doc and these amazing young players and serving as a unique snapshot of Doc’s commitment to nurturing new generations of musicians throughout his Tonight Show career and beyond.
Forque commissioned Concertos to be specifically written for Doc’s unbridled virtuosity, which really meant the kids had to be able to hold their own. Included on the album are two Concertos composed by the acclaimed chief arranger/composer for the U.S. Air Force Band, Floyd Werle, “Concerto No. 3 For Trumpet And Band,” and “Concerto No. 4 For Trumpet And Band.”
Another stand-out work on the album is the jazz inflected jam “Bill,” written by noted jazz pianist Fred Crane, who also performed and recorded albums with Doc and other acclaimed musicians, including Al Hirt. The commemorative composition held a special place in Doc’s heart and all involved. “Freddy Crane was a wonderful guy and a musician’s musician,” says Doc. “If you mentioned his name to any jazz piano player when he was alive, they’d know his name. That one was specifically written for a young student named Bill Cunningham who was suffering from an incurable disease,” says Doc. “Billy was about 13 or 14 years old and his dad was the associate band director and it was written to honor him. He was still alive when we first played it, so we were very touched by the whole performance. He was a noble young man and much beloved by all of us.”
“Concerto For Trumpet And Band,” composed by gifted composer, teacher, and administrator John Barnes Chance, and a Concerto by the same name composed by University of Minnesota composer/conductor and Director Of Bands, Frank Bencriscutto add to the album’s bold repertoire. Czech born composer Vaclav Nelhybel’s “De Profundis,” completes the six-track offering and is passionately performed by Doc and the accompanying student players. “I’ll always be impressed by their dedication and discipline,” says Doc. “I’ll never forget, one day Charles says to me ‘Watch that girl that’s playing the snare drum. This was in a concert band of 50 to 70 people. She stood out, just a small girl probably about 13 years old. She was in middle school. Charles says, ‘Here’s the wild thing about her, she is completely deaf, can’t hear a note of what’s going on around her, yet she never makes a mistake.’ That never got out of my mind and that’s the kind of kids they were.”

Doc’s infectious playing, boundless energy and capacity for mentorship is never more evident than on the impassioned Lost Tapes, which were indeed destined to be lost forever if it weren’t for fellow trumpeter and longtime admirer, Vinnie DiMartino, who approached Doc about revisiting the material after the donated tapes had been set aside by the University of Kansas because of their seemingly irreparable state of decay. It was during a visit with DiMartino (an accomplished trumpeter and music scholar who was an artist in residence at Centre College, Danville Kentucky from 1993-2012) that Doc heard the tapes for the very first time.
“He’s a very good friend, so he just starts playing the tape for me no introduction, and I said “Uh, OK??, not realizing what it was or even who it was,” says Doc. “He says that’s ‘you,’ and I say ‘get out of here, I was never that good.’ And he says, ‘you were that day.’ Suddenly it all came back to me. Of course, I remembered all the wonderful trips down to Texas and meeting these wonderful kids, and Charles was a great friend and one of the finest musical educators I’ve ever encountered. What I didn’t know is that this had all been recorded and preserved, so that’s why I call it the ‘lost’ tapes because it was a shock to me that someone captured all of this great material and this wonderful experience live.” Because the tapes were in such disrepair a remarkable sonic restoration process was undertaken to painstakingly restore the integrity of the recordings. Doc is most excited that the exemplary performances of the young people has been faithfully brought to life after all these years.
Doc also credits the tight-knit Texas families that he visited through the years. Their support and belief in the value of music and its far-reaching contribution benefited the surrounding Texas communities at large. With music and art budgets often being the first programs cut in middle schools and high schools throughout the country today, the Baytown and Plano communities’ embrace of high school band music culture reverberates throughout the Lost Tapes. “Let me just give you a for instance – if anybody were to move into a medium sized town in Texas like Baytown and say ‘Why are we paying all this time and money for these kids to study band music. The budget and taxes are too high, why don’t we just get rid of it’ – you know what would happen? There’d be a truck outside your house in a half hour and you’d be on your way out of town. They never complained about paying your taxes for music – EVER! When you hear what these high school bands did year-in/year-out, they played on a level far beyond any college bands that play today. The compositions were meaningful, and we really loved what we were doing and we loved each other,” Doc says fondly. “We got to know each other real fast. I met their parents and went to cookouts at their homes. If I ran into any of those kids today, it would be hugs and kisses. It was a great experience.”

Under Grammy® Award-winning Doc Severinsen’s colorful direction, The Tonight Show Band became an American musical institution. His effortless demeanor as Johnny Carson’s joyous bandleader set the standard for late night musical perfection, the entire world delighting in the irresistible camaraderie between the legendary host and the man who Carson called ‘the best trumpet player in the world.’ Doc’s exuberant personality and outlandish outfits became a staple of late-night TV and a must-see attraction throughout his thousands of live performances ever since. Up until recently, the charismatic artist was logging more than 50 concert performances a year, a lifelong discipline the Oregon native learned fairly early in his career playing in the 1940s with big band legends including Charlie Barnet, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and others.
Doc’s recorded more than 30 albums during his incredible career, including 1986’s Grammy® win for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance Big Band, Johnny’s Theme (The Tonight Show Theme,) nominated six times throughout his recording career. Doc has performed with and conducted some of our country’s most noted symphony orchestras, including the Phoenix Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Milwaukee Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. He retired from Principal Pops Conducting in 2007, but has continued as a Guest Conductor throughout the United States, including his most recent appearance conducting for the Hartford Symphony in 2018. Doc was named Pops Conductor Emeritus in Milwaukee and Pops Conductor Laureate in Minnesota.

CD 1
1. Concerto No. 3 for Trumpet and Band
I Mexicana
II Caribeaba
III Brasiliana

2. Concerto for Trumpet and Band
I Declamato, Vivo
II Caloroso
III Scherzando

3. Bill
CD 2
1. Concerto No. 4 for Trumpet and Band:
I Adagio assai
II Non Troppo lento
III Presto

2. Concerto for Trumpet and Band:
I Allegro Jubiloso
II Adagio
III Allegro Spirituose

3. De Profundis

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Review: ‘Doc Severinsen and Friends – The Art of the Big Band’ at Strathmore

by Wendi Winters on November 18, 2016

Five BRASS Stars!

Doc Severinsen may have not appeared on your screen since Johnny Carson turned the keys to The Tonight Show over to Jay Leno in 1992, but he hasn’t slowed down. Hired as a musician for NBC’s radio network in 1949 and, later, a familiar face on the network’s TV shows, he first appeared with The Tonight Show /i>band, led by Skitch Henderson,in 1962. In 1967, Doc became the band’s Music Director.

He was notable for his bravura trumpet playing, but what got the gossips talking is what Doc wore on the air.

Long before the Beatles and other musicians set the sartorial bar, Doc was a prime time dandy. You never knew what he’d wear on the air – and neither did Johnny.

In the 24 years since his Tonight Show gig ended, Doc, now 89, hasn’t slowed down. He’s still got an incredible set of lungs. Plus, he’s conducted symphony orchestras around the country and toured with his San Miguel Five group and, currently, with his Big Band.

His website displays 39 albums, most produced since the early ‘90s.

Thursday evening, the Music Hall at Strathmore was awash in gorgeous purple, turquoise, red, and yellow lights. Turquoise and yellow panels shone high above the rear of the stage. The lower rear semi-circle was backlit by purple and red lights glowed from the ceiling several stories above.

Of course, the lights couldn’t compete with Doc’s first outfit.

He strode out on stage a moment after the sole female musician seated herself at the piano and fluffed her curly silver hair. Like the other musicians she wore a black business suit and shirt. The men also sported solid colored ties. Save for the drummer, most of the musicians appeared to be 30 and older.

Doc didn’t need a spotlight. Holding his golden S.E. Shires Severinsen Destino III trumpet, he made his entrance in a pair of lime green leather trousers, bright purple shirt and a blue, lime and silver patterned jacket dusted with tiny rhinestones and beading.

With no introduction, he and the band swung into a fast-paced, jazzy tune. Onstage with him were 12 musicians: five on saxophones, three trombones, one trumpet, one bass, one pianist/keyboardist and a drummer.

Introducing the group’s first full song, the Johnny Carson theme – “I Want To Be Happy”- he recalled how he leapt out of bed one morning in his NYC apartment building: “I wanna do songs that connect with our lives,” he said he yelled. “I wanna be happy.”

“A woman across the hall said ‘So do I, but I want you to put on your pants’.”

They got happy performing “September Song,” sung in the 1938 musical Knockerbocker Holiday by a character performed by Walter Huston. “He was unhappy about getting older,” Doc said without a trace of irony. As Doc directed with the enthusiasm of a teenager, the band ripped into the piece, filling the hall with their polished, brassy sound.

Opera singer Vanessa Thomas, in a long, sequined purple dress, was introduced and quickly captured the audience with her deep, jazzy version of “Singing in the Rain.” Her rich, low voice could bend around the notes, rising to a squeal equal to the sound of Doc’s trumpet.

As the pianist’s fingers skated across the ivories, Thomas, Doc, and the Band segued into an exuberant rendition of “When You’re Smiling.” The sound threatened to spill out of the Music Hall and into the surrounding hills.

The next song, “Georgia On My Mind,” was purely instrumental and a showcase for Doc’s trumpet virtuosity.

“This is the art of The Big Band,” he said, taking a bow. “If it’s the last concert I do, it’s gonna be with a Big Band.”

Next on their playlist – which, unlike other groups is not set in advance but crafted onstage and spur-of-the-moment – was Tommy Newsome’s arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” a jazzy version of the classic rock song. Doc’s trumpet came across clean, clear and LOUD. He was joined by band member Ernie Watts on Tenor Sax. Watts was a longtime member of The Tonight Show Band.

Next up, “Jumping at the Woodside” by Count Basie. It started with a piano riff, followed by the glorious horns.

After an intermission, Doc returned. This time, he was wearing his “Day of Death” outfit. Tangerine leather trousers – do you know any man over 35 who can get away with any color leather pants? Doc can. Over his fuchsia shirt was a black tuxedo jacket with a satin shawl collar and … a sequined hatchet and what appeared to be a noose on the front and on his back a skeletal figure.

The Band, with bravura flourishes, performed Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” and a sensual “Ishfahan” by Duke Ellington.

Vanessa Thomas returned wearing a black jersey one-shoulder draped gown for “Mood Indigo.” Her voice lowered to a raw growl and soared to orgasmic heights in tandem with Doc’s trumpet. They followed that up with Etta Jame’s “At Last My Love Has Come Along (My Lonely Days Are Over).”

The final three songs – though the audience was willing to stay all night – were B.B. King’s “Every Day I Have The Blues,” a duel between Vanessa Thomas and Ernie Watts; drummer Stockton Helbing’s solo on Benny Goodman’s “Sing! Sing! Sing!” and Doc’s version of Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump.”

“We call ours the ‘Twelve O’Clock Jump!” Doc yelled, still not breaking a sweat.

And, it was.

Doc Severinsen and The Big Band are returning to this area Thanksgiving Weekend for three performances at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Want to treat yourself? Go!

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Doc Severinsen and Friends played on November 18, 2016 at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 North Tuckerman Lane, in North Bethesda, MD. For future events, go to the Strathmore’s calendar of events.

Doc Severinsen and Friends will return to this area on November 25, 26 and 27, 2016 to perform at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall – 1212 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased online. Check out Doc Severinsen’s website.


Vanessa Thomas, vocalist

Rhythm Section
Mary Louise Knutson, piano
Kevin Thomas, bass
Stockton Helbing, drums

Charlie Young, lead alto
Carlos Vega, alto
Ernie Watts, tenor
Chip McNeill, tenor
Glenn Wilson, baritone

Michael Nelson, lead
Scott Agster
Dave Budimir

Brad Shermock, lead
Steve Strand
Zack Lozier
Adam Rossmiller

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Doc Severinsen, bandleader and trumpet great, will play with W-S Symphony

Johnny Carson called him “the greatest trumpeter in the world” in 1972.
Robert Moody, music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony, also said that he is one of the finest trumpet players in the world. But Carl H. “Doc” Severinsen, 89 and still playing about 50 dates a year, is hedging his bets.
“The trumpet is a jealous mistress,” Severinsen said by phone from his home in Maryville, Tenn. “Some days you can be the best player in the world, and some days you think, ‘What is this thing?’ Anybody who thinks he’s the greatest in the world is in for a bad day.”
Severinsen will join the symphony for a pops concert on Saturday at Reynolds Auditorium and will bring a few musicians and singers with him.
“I have two operatic singers,” Severinsen said. “Joe Wilson is a tenor …. I asked him, ‘Is there any reason that you couldn’t do some Frank Sinatra numbers?’ and he said, ‘I’m from New Jersey!’ — and he does really well.
“Vanessa Thomas; she is scary. That girl can sing flat-out. I found her by a strange coincidence in a small town in northwest Kansas. I was getting ready to do a Christmas show in Minnesota. I said. ‘Do you know any Christmas songs?’ and she came out with Mozart’s ‘Alleluia.’ She’s been singing with me for six or seven years now — great operatic singing and incredible blues …. They are incredible talents. I’m proud to bring them to Winston-Salem.”
Musical life
Severinsen said the concert will be about his life in music.
He was on “The Tonight Show” with Carson for 30 years, starting as a musician and taking over as bandleader when Skitch Henderson left in 1967. After “The Tonight Show” ended on a Friday night in 1992, Severinsen and his band got on a bus the next day and started touring. They are still at it, with a repertoire that includes Ellington and Basie standards, pop, jazz, ballads and big band classics.
“Everywhere we go, people know us,” he said.
Born in the small town of Arlington, Ore., in 1927, Severinsen began his formal music training when he was 7, but before that he played an Army bugle that some neighbors found in their basement.
“It never occurred to me that it should have a mouthpiece. I just took that thing and blew on it,” he said. “The person that gave me that Army bugle was the governor of Oregon a few years later. To me, he was Uncle Earl. He and ‘Aunt’ Edith adopted me as my also-parents.”
Earl Snell was secretary of state of Oregon 1935-1943 and governor 1943-1947.
Their association gave Severinsen some perspective on the world.
“I lived in a town of 600 people in the desert. I’d get on the bus in the morning and get to Salem (the capital of Oregon) in the evening to visit Uncle Earl,” Severinsen said. “I saw a distinct difference, and I think I liked the governor’s mansion. It put me in a position to see what politics could be like.” Severinsen said he contemplated going into politics — for a minute.
Severinsen was invited to join the high school band when he was still 7. At 12, he won the Music Educator’s National Contest and, while still in high school, was hired to go on the road with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra. His stay with the group was cut short by the draft. He served in the Army during World War II and following his discharge, landed in the Charlie Barnett Band. When it broke up, Severinsen toured with the Tommy Dorsey and the Benny Goodman bands in the late ’40s.
He moved to New York City in 1949 to become a staff musician for NBC, which led to his longtime gig on “The Tonight Show.”
Long collaboration
Moody and Severinsen performed together many times when both were at the Phoenix (Ariz.) Symphony. Moody served as associate, then resident conductor from 1998 through 2006, overlapping with Severinsen’s tenure there as principal pops conductor. Severinsen is also pops director emeritus of the Minnesota Orchestra. Over the years, he has been principal pops conductor with the Milwaukee Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Pacific Symphony and the Buffalo Philharmonic.
Moody will the be official conductor Saturday, but, he said, “I will have so little to do. I will stand there, and he will make fun of me, and I will laugh.”
“No, I won’t do that,” Severinsen said. “Well, I might poke a little fun at it him, but he can turn it right around and hand it back to me.”
Severinsen said that he has trumpets all over his house — on the bed, the kitchen counter, in the bathroom — and that he plays on and off all day.
“Nobody practices like he does,” Moody said. “He arrives (at the concert hall) four hours early and just plays. He must have lips of iron.”
“I get there early if it has a good stairwell,” Severinsen said. “The first thing I do when I get to town is find a stairwell and soul food — collard greens and fried chicken and black-eyed peas, and rice and gravy. The part of Oregon that I’m from, they came over the Oregon Trail from the South.
“I like Southern food from this country, and I especially like Italian food.”
How, then, does he stay so trim? “I work out in the gym. I was complaining about a little health problem recently, and my girlfriend said, ‘You did a 5-minute plank the other day!’
“I like to work out hard. It’s the best thing in the world, if you want to live a long time and feel good doing it.”
He should know. “I’ve had an interesting life. I’ve been married four times, and my life now is with a person … girlfriend who is a music professor at University of Tennessee.
“I’m into my great-grandchildren now, and their mother, my granddaughter, is a fabulous musician.”
Visited town before
This will not be Severinsen’s first trip to Winston-Salem. He said he visited here many years ago to buy a quarter horse for his daughter, Robin. He has four other children: Nancy, Cindy, Allen and Judy.
“I’m proud of how well they all turned out.”
He thinks it’s great that Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize for literature.
“I think it’s wonderful. He’s an unusual person, and that makes him seem a lot more real to people …. he is a poet and writer first — and a musician second …. He sings about little things — freedom and love,” Severinsen said with a trace of irony in his voice.
Severinsen is also real to people, Moody said.
“I conducted Doc last March for the Dallas Symphony,” Moody said. “He spearheaded a benefit for Ryan Anthony, the lead trumpet player there.”
“I didn’t spearhead it,” Severinsen said. “Ryan had a really bad form of cancer, and we wanted to raise some money. People started getting on board with it. It was a wonderful evening because all the money went into the hands of the people who needed it … and he’s cancer-free now, and we’re going to do it again.
“I just show up and talk to everybody I know. It was an all-star lineup, and it was a great time.”
It does seem that wherever Severinsen goes, people get on board and have a great time.
As Moody said, “The guy’s a monster.”
In a good way. (336) 727-7298

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Legendary trumpeter Doc Severinsen to open Broadway and Beyond season

By Brett Turner
Contributing Writer
SPRINGFIELD — With Grammy Awards and a place on one of the greatest shows in television history in his past, you’d think legendary trumpet player and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” big band leader Doc Severinsen would slow down in his golden years.
Not when he can still play music “Once More With Feeling,” his show based on his bestselling recording.
Severinsen and his 17-piece band will open the Springfield Arts Council’s Broadway and Beyond season at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
The show is presented by the Springfield Arts Council.
A frequent performer in Springfield over the years, Severinsen, age 89, is excited to be stopping here once again.
“These are the kind of people who like my music and that makes me want to come back and perform,” he said.
He has an association here beyond music. A quarter horse enthusiast, Severinsen often came here to visit the late Blair Folck, who raised horses, and often enjoyed a meal with the family.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the family at the show,” said Severinsen.
Since “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” left the air 24 years ago, Severinsen and his band have toured all over, mixing a variety of standards including “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “12 O’Clock Jump.”
Vocalist Vanessa Thomas adds a new dimension on songs such as “When You’re Smiling” and “Singing in the Rain.”
“She’s really a fabulous singer. She comes out on stage and just takes over,” he said.
Expect his usual colorful and offbeat wardrobe, which Severinsen said has become as big a part of his identity as his trumpet.
He’ll begin the concert with one of the most familiar theme songs in television history, “Johnny’s Theme,” which opened “The Tonight Show” for years.
Severinsen said the show was so special, because Carson had the brightest mind of anybody he knew and the band had to be paying attention.
“We went to work every day with no idea what could happen,” he said, laughing.
Living an active life keeps Severinsen going. He still rides horses, works out, watches what he eats, surrounds himself with friends and thinks positive thoughts.
He’s even planning how his 100th birthday in 2027 will go — with friends on an all-day trail ride.
Then Severinsen will likely pick up his trumpet and play.
“My wife asked me about retiring, and I said ‘why,’ because it tells me who I am. My music is my way of life.
“If I’m not playing, I get no fun out of that. Playing and a good cigar is what will get you through the day.”

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Doc Severinsen blows out auditorium

Civic Music debuts new season with no holds barred.
Concert Review, September 22, 2013 By Bob Saar for The Hawk Eye

Burlington Civic Music kicked off its new season Sunday afternoon at Memorial Auditorium with a bang that compelled the huge audience to whimper.

The Doc Severinsen Big Band gave the old building new life, as though it had been waiting 80 years for them to show up.

Severinsen, renowned high-note trumpeter, sideman to Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, was Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” band director for 30 years.

An elegant intro by Civic Music president Barbara McRoberts, and pow! – Severinsen and his band bopped a piece of the “Tonight Show” theme before leaping into “We’re in the Money.”

What a band. What a band!

“How’re you feeling, folks?” Doc asked the crowd, and they cheered like prison inmates for Miley Cyrus. “Sounds like a riot’s about to break out,” he yelped.

Severinsen introduced the second number as “my impression of an older man tap-dancing his way into eternity,” then drifted sideways into a monologue about aging.

“I am not going quietly into the night,” he said, and the crowd bellowed their approval.

Quite simply, this band is the best musical crew to hit a Burlington stage in decades. We’ve seen great shows at Steamboat Days, The Washington, the auditorium, the Blue Shop, but none have reached the soaring heights of Doc Severinsen and his band.

That’s right, no one. There’s isn’t a touring country or rock act that can generate the raw music power of Severinsen’s group. They were super-tight, super-hip and super grooved. They were pumped, bad and loud, the way big band jazz should be. Plenty of bass. All brass; no wimpy strings in Doc’s band.

They played brawny, fat, in-your-face arrangements and they were tight, very tight.

And Doc Severinsen can play. His face got all red and spotty on his solos, but an 86-year-old man can be excused- he squealed the high notes like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert.

OK, enough of that. They looked good, too.

From the ground up, Severinsen sported black patent leather loafers, lime green slacks, a hunter-safety-orange shirt and a jacket that made one imagine a Mexican peacock caught in a child’s rhinestone dream.

A chile pepper-red scarf poked out of his left pocket like an imp.

The band wore dark suits with matching ties: yellow for the trumpets, orange for the ‘bones, blue for the saxes and pink for the bassist and drummer.

Severinsen started up the Basie bash, “Jumping at the Woodside” with a warning: “All I can tell you, kids, is jump back-you could get burned.”

The band – four trumpets, three trombones, five saxes, piano, bass and drums- made it all look easy. Horn solos were high up in the realm of Doc’s forays, and Mary Louise Knutson’s keyboard work
was superb.

Ernie Watts’ solo: Yow! Wow! Holy cow! Triplet city! Hot note stampede! What a saxman. What a saxman!

Then they brought out Vanessa Thomas for a few numbers.

She owned the room from the start of “Singing in the Rain.”

Thomas has a rich voice, able to dig deep into the darkest corners of heartbreak and high into the hidden comers of the soul, always floating on a perfect vibrato with enough power to make the horns
work just a little harder to keep up with her.

What a voice. What a voice!

She treated the crowd to the Charlie Chaplin chestnut, “Smile,” while the band cradled her easy, mellow ballad. Then Severinsen shouted, “All right, girl, heat it up now!” and they segued into a hot
jump version of “When You’re Smiling.”

Severinsen’s blues solo on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” mesmerized the audience.

It went on like that until the very end. A snaky “Caravan,” the aching lament of “Georgia,” a drum solo on “Sing Sing Sing” that electrocuted the room.

A medley closed it off: “One O’clock Jump,” “Two O’clock Jump,” and the Tonight Show break, “Twelve O’clock Jump.”

“When you went out to the refrigerator on commercials, that’s what we were doing- we were swinging,” Severinsen said.

This was Severinsen’s third appearance at Memorial Auditorium. He played here in 1965 and ’67 with the Burlington High School Stage Band, led by Maurice White.

“Instead of raising money to take a trip to Disneyland, we raised money to bring a celebrity to play a concert with us,” BHS vibes man Mort Gaines recalled.

Severinsen said he remembers White well.

“I’m still friends with his two boys,” he said.

Craig Smith of Burlington brought his family to the auditorium to experience a legend.

“This was a great opportunity to expose youth to music,” he said. His son, Joshua, is just beginning band in fifth grade and wants to play trumpet; daughter Samantha, in her senior year, is an accomplished trumpet player.

“She was in tears,” Smith said. Everyone who saw the Doc Severinsen Big Band can relate to that, Samantha.

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Doc and the San Miguel 5 October 2012 Tour

This October, Doc will be hitting the road with the San Miguel 5 for a tour of California with a stop in Las Vegas. Featured will be Doc Severinsen on trumpet, Gil Gutierrez on Guitar, Charlie Bisharat on Violin, Kevin Thomas on Bass and Jimmy Branly playing percussion. You won’t want to miss this fantastic group. Tour cities and dates are noted below.

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