Echoes of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and other big-band idols resounded through Kleinhans Music Hall Friday evening as John McDaniel, leader of the band on TV's "Rosie O'Donnell Show," led us on a sentimental journey through the popular musical landscape of the '30s, '40s and '50s.
A decade or more ago this probably could have been considered a trip down memory lane for those 50 or older. But swing band music has staged enough of a recovery lately that Friday's modest-sized audience seemed to include a good cross section of all age groups.
The concert opened bathed in the sounds of Glenn Miller arrangements. "In the Mood" was complete with the authentic 1940 Tex Beneke tenor and Johnny Best trumpet solos, and there was a smooth-as-silk recreation of the Miller theme song "Moonlight Serenade."
Later, a rather unbuttoned version of Miller's "String of Pearls" featured the original trumpet solo beautifully articulated by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Gerry Soffer.
Lynn Roberts, in a stylish white pant suit with a few demure spangles on the jacket, repeatedly demonstrated that she really knows how to put a song across. Her smoothly projected voice is finely centered, attacks and intonation are spot on, and she sustains a long lyric line as well as anyone, with an unerring sense of style.
She was heard to best advantage in songs with a restricted dynamic range such as "Over the Rainbow," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," where she displayed a fine sense of the song's softly kicking rhythm.
Roberts sang just as well in "Night and Day," "You Made Me Love You," "Yes Indeed" and a couple of others, but McDaniel seemed to have trouble holding the orchestra's dynamics in check. Consequently the vocalist, and a number of the instrumental soloists, often could barely be heard.
McDaniel led the orchestra in a quietly coruscating Morton Gould arrangement of "Stardust" that was introspective and tasteful, with some decorative fluttering flutes.
An extended Ellington medley held enough of the Duke's favorites to please anyone, but in "Tenderly," a tribute to Harry James, an imported trumpeter was rather sloppy in James' horn lines.
The concert closed with McDaniel's drummer Brian Miller having a field day emulating Gene Krupa in the famous Benny Goodman version of Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing."
That would have been enough, but Roberts returned, with McDaniel leaving the podium and sitting down at the piano.
"We have rehearsed this, haven't we?" she said to McDaniel in a stage "aside," just before they launched into "I'll Be Seeing You" as a very tastefully done cameo encore.
Buffalo Philharmonic Pops guest conducted by John McDaniel
"In the Swing of Things," music of the big-band swing era, featuring vocalist Lynn Roberts.
Friday evening in Kleinhans Music Hall, with post-concert party for all in Mary Seaton Room; repeat performance today at 8 p.m.