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Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s tribute to James Bond films is fun, elegant

In the second act of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s James Bond concert on Saturday, we got a pop James Bond Quiz.

“What was not a James Bond quote?” was the question. And there were three possible answers: “Bond, James Bond.” “Shaken, not stirred.” “Get ’er done.”

Ha, ha! Why don’t we see this guest conductor, Michael Krajewski, more often? The last time I recall him being here was in 2001. He was a laugh a minute then, and he still is now.

The crowd got a big kick out of him, laughing and applauding him all the way. It was a big crowd, with an impressive range of ages. A lot of people dressed up, perhaps in tribute to the elegance of James Bond movies. There were young women in maxi dresses and a few young men in tuxes. James Bond never grows old.

The concert went swiftly.

Most of the first half was devoted to the music of the great John Barry, who wrote many of the famous Bond scores, starting with the first Bond movie in 1962. It was a joy. We heard the sassy, brash James Bond Theme, and the theme to “From Russia With Love.”

I wish we could have heard “You Only Live Twice” with the words. The song, another Barry classic, is exquisite. But the silken melody could stand on its own, and the Philharmonic gave it richness and warmth. The BPO musicians seemed to enjoy this concert. It gave everyone, from the timpani to the tuba, a workout.

It also gave singer Debbie Gravitte a workout. Gravitte, a Tony Award-winning singer who used to come here sometimes with Marvin Hamlisch, sang a bundle of numbers including the themes from “Diamonds Are Forever,” “The World is Not Enough” and “Goldfinger.” She threw herself into it, matching Krajewski’s humor and enthusiasm.

The concert did not take itself too seriously. Gravitte wore a series of over-the-top outfits. She pranced out to sing “Secret Agent Man,” which kicked off the second half, wearing white boots and a zebra coat.

The second half of the concert sparkled with music from Bond spinoffs and spoofs. Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova,” from “Austin Powers,” had a raunchy, humorous groove. The syncopated honks from the brass, basses and cellos were a kick. Another treat was Stephen Sondheim’s “Sooner or Later,” from the Warren Beatty movie “Dick Tracy.” You never hear this slinky, sultry blues, and it’s so much fun. Gravitte half sang it, half growled it, to great effect.

The “Inspector Clouseau Theme” from “The Pink Panther” was a cute change of pace. It wasn’t the famous, jazzy melody you expect.

“I’ll bet a lot of you would now want to hear the famous tune,” Krajewski said afterwards. “It would be nice if we knew it,” he added, as the audience roared. Of course he was kidding, and we got to hear that, too.

I had only a couple of regrets. Though “Nobody Does It Better” showed up as an instrumental in the final medley, that’s a song that should be sung, and it’s one of the great Bond themes. And there is no excuse to have omitted “All Time High,” the classic by John Barry and Tim Rice. Gravitte should have sung that instead of Adele’s “Skyfall,” which is cruddy in comparison. Oh well. Maybe they are leaving those numbers for next time.

Might there be a sequel?

email: mkunz@buffnews.com

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