Doc Severinsen was born to perform. You can tell right away.
“Welcome to our show!” he shouted Friday morning to the big crowd at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Coffee Concert.
The flashy maestro first emerged sporting an orange-and-blue get-up that earned a roar of approval. After intermission, he strode out in a glittery hot-pink suit. Pink must be his color: As he jumped spryly up on the podium for the overture from Bernstein’s “Candide,” he seemed even more powerful, more driven, more Doc.
When he gives that downbeat, he comes to life, and the hall does, too. And he still has his chops. Time after time, he picked up that trumpet or flugelhorn and poured out high-flying solos to “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “September Song.”
“I feel like the genie in the bottle. Your request is mine to fulfill,” Doc said to us.
The BPO is arrayed around Doc’s sparkling big band. The big band is amazing. It’s bossy and brassy. The BPO rose to the occasion, adding to the pizzazz. Doc brought two singers with him, Steve Lippia and Vanessa Thomas.
Unhurried and suave, Lippia sounds more like Sinatra than anyone else does. He has emotion and easy resonance.
Thomas’ rich, low, vibrato-laden voice took getting used to. She is an opera singer, Severinsen confessed. “The Days of Wine and Roses,” wasn’t right for her, and sounded heavy. She was good in “Singin’ in the Rain” and, even better, Duke Ellington’s slow, rueful “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).”
There was a surprise encore on Friday with a tenor, Joe Wolverton, singing Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.” That was a treat. Severinsen’s musical panache is still very much with him. If he trips over any notes, it’s only in the first bars.
Friday, before the band tore into “Well, Git It!,” he told the crowd about his first meeting with Dorsey.
He also gave us a surprise speech on alcoholism. Introducing “The Days of Wine and Roses,” he began telling how long ago he learned he had a disease, and he still has it, and –
The hall grew dead quiet. I expected a joke, something like “I’ve got Boogie-Mania!” The confession came as a jolt.
A video of Johnny Carson playing guitar, singing “Here’s That Rainy Day,” could have been skipped, especially since the sound and images were distorted. Speaking of technicalities, the sound should be adjusted for “Every Day I Have the Blues.” With Thomas belting the words in that high-octane opera voice, Severinsen blasting that trumpet and the band screaming, things were deafening.
It didn’t bother Doc. He said: “I am not going quietly into the night!”