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Gap Mangione plays favorites

Gap Mangione, in partnership with his younger and better-known brother, Chuck, has made an impact on the national jazz scene, especially back in the 1960s and 1970s. If the truth be known, however, Gap is better recognized these days for his work as a big-band leader based out of Rochester.

Sunday, he brought his outfit to Buffalo for a free outdoor performance in The Buffalo News Jazz at the Albright-Knox series.

It was a beautiful spot for a concert, and the weather was fine, slightly overcast and, as a result, a tad cool and breezy. While it didn't seem to affect the audience one way or the other, it was the kind of wind that made the musicians glad for the clear sheets of thick plastic placed over the music so that they could read what they were supposed to be playing without the hassle of chasing errant music scores around the neighborhood.

The group showcased a top-notch 10-piece wind/brass section and a fairly standard rhythm section of keyboards (from which the bandleader directed his forces), guitar, bass and drums. Most of the material played came from their last few albums and featured a number of nationally known players, including saxophonists Gerry Niewood, Pat LaBarbera and Andy Weinzler, along with trumpeter Ron D'Angelo.

After starting the concert off with a deliberately paced "O Canada" and somewhat more swinging take on "America the Beautiful," Mangione led his band through a quick and slick version of the old Leroy Anderson classic "Serenata." As much fun as that riff was, however, the arrangement (given to Gap by Dizzy Gillespie) of Horace Silver's "Doodlin' " was a real romp with solos by Niewood, LaBarbera, D'Angelo (using a plunger mute) and the talented young trombone player Peter Fanelli.

Other hits over the course of the program included a great rendition of Jimmy Heath's "Big P" that focused more on the overwhelming bebop influence of the band members, a curiously satisfying version of Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" that started off with some New Orleans second line drumming before kicking into high gear and a pleasant take from Chuck Mangione's repertoire, "Bella Villa" and "Feels So Good."

Things were not always interesting, however. The band's version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" was a bit hackneyed, despite a fine Niewood soprano sax solo wherein he called up the ghost of Sidney Bechet, and Gap's arrangement of the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill" was no big deal either.

Still, for an afternoon's worth of free music, it was pretty hard not to be satisfied by the totality of the musicianship on display.


Gap Mangione Big Band

Part of The Buffalo News Jazz at the Albright-Knox series on Sunday.

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