Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Monday, February 26, 2007

Doc Severinsen February 25, 2007

Doc Defies Father Time

By Glen Creason

It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon, blustery outside and most certainly nap weather for the Baby Boomer-plus crowd that gathered at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts for a matinee of an idol of yesteryear. Yet, when Doc Severinsen showed up on stage in Pink Blazer festooned with copious rhinestones over a hot pink shirt and rich violet slacks while sporting black and white two-toned shoes it opened the eyes of the assembled a bit wider. When he intoned, “I’m out to have about as much fun as I can without going to jail” they sat up more upright. When he touched his talented lips to trumpet and the fifteen person Severinsen Big Band blasted off all were fully awake and swinging like a drunken zoo. This is not a show you could snooze during unless you jitterbug in your sleep. Doc Severinsen has chiseled this mixture of old vets and young Turks from the Mancini Institute into a genuine-first-rate Big Band capable of hitting all the right notes and stirring the blood to a steady boil. The thirty-year leader of the superb Tonight Show band is heading toward the big 8-0 and this is his farewell tour but he’s going out like a fully toothed lion. You have to appreciate the superb arranging skills of the man when you hear just how crisp the sound of this group was throughout the demanding and varied musical choices. There wasn’t close to a dud on the program.
No sense fooling around with appetizers at such an historic occasion and the great band got to sink their teeth into some of the classics of Big Band music. Duke, Dizzy, Count Basie and Satchmo were given their due in a program mixing one-hundred proof swinging tunes and velvet soft ballads beautifully done. The talented vocalist Carmen Bradford took on the difficult task of singing in front of this high-octane band sweetening “Singing in the Rain,” an Ella-esque “When You’re Smiling,” “No Easy Way to Say Goodbye,” and the bluesy duo of “Everyday I Have the Blues,” plus “Smack Dab in the Middle.” From the opening blast of Doc’s horn in “Flying Home” to the ending triumvirate-triumph of “One O’clock Jump/ “Two O’clock Jump”/ “Twelve O’clock Jump” the fine band kept the current flowing at high voltage. Truly outstanding were pianist Biff Hannon, saxophonist Ernie Watts, trombonist Mike Daigeau and the twelve-person horn section that caressed when necessary and swung most mightily throughout. The best moments were when the entire orchestra took it to the top as in “West End Blues,” “King Porter Stomp,” a truly wonderful “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” and “Flying Home.” Show highlights were certainly the wild and wooly interplay between Watts and youngster Brandon Wright on “Sax Epic” and the two Doc Severinsen showcases in “What’s New” and the powerful trumpet of “West End Blues” proving the ageless wonder wasn’t yet ready for the rocking chair on this day. When he came out for the second half in a mustard colored jacket, burgundy shirt and salmon trousers you knew the proceedings would be delicious. Retirement awaits but Doc left some nice memories behind in Cerritos.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Crusaders February 17, 2007

Crusaders Show the Way at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Leader Joe Sample could not contain himself about half way through the Crusader’s action-packed concert on Saturday night and unloaded on the state of the music “business.” He used the words “fools” a couple of times and heatedly decried a certain label’s failure to promote the group’s CD made in the mid 90’s. Then Joe and the Crusaders gave proof positive that the fool appellation was fitting when they put some fine edges on a rambunctious tune called “Viva the Funk.’ It was a perfect example of why the Crusaders still draw big crowds and make stirring music that brings folks to rocking in their seats. What the Crusaders don’t have is fancy sets, showy costumes, dramatic lights, smoke machines or musical histrionics. What they do have is a superb, veteran band that knows the ropes and concentrates only on doing their songs justice. They came to the Performing Arts stage in jeans and t-shirts, among scattered, vintage instruments and real wire hookups then played from their solid repertoire with passion and joy. The only surprise might have been the add-in of drummer Steve Gadd who was truly exceptional along with the young son of the leader named Nick Sample thumping up a storm on bass. It is a given that sax-man Wilton Felder, Guitar-wizard Ray Parker Jr. and piano maestro Joe Sample will sparkle but on this night the bass and percussion were really at a high level.
The fellas chose from a short list of Crusader gems and pleased the big crowd with a first-half set of purely instrumental materials including “Free as the Wind,” “Night Crawler,” Styx Hooper’s “I Felt the Love” and a memorable “Ballad for Joe” that included a deluxe guitar solo by Parker. Joe Sample would begin with a sweet piano intro then toss the lead over to one of Wilton Felder’s idiosyncratic sax readings or trombonist Nils Langren’s inspired horn journeys. The aforementioned “Viva the Funk” spiced by a Langren ear-opening foray was a perfect example of the Crusaders engine firing on all cylinders. The well-warmed band finished with the lyrical “So Far Away” as the gentlemen left the audience wanting more at intermission.
The second half was like another concert altogether. It began with the smooth groove of “Spiral,” roared on with the spirited “the Territory” and satisfied everybody with the classic “Way Back Home.” Then songstress Randy Crawford joined the band and things actually got better than the very good it had been all night. Ms. Crawford is a veteran, singer’s singer and her sweet yet powerful vocals blended into the Crusader sound like good scotch and soda.” Rio de Janeiro Blue,” “San Francisco Morning,” and the beautiful “I’ll Fly Away” demonstrated why this lady has such a fine reputation. However, her deeply moving “Imagine” (despite crowd yahoos talking throughout the piece) and the achingly bittersweet “When Your Life Was Low” just stunned the huge crowd into rare silence. Quiet they were not when she busted out the old favorite “Street Life” and the percolating encore of “Feeling Good” that put a nice glow on a very good show.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chris Botti February 10, 2007

Botti Blows Up Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Chris Botti is a man of paradoxes. He’s an overnight sensation who has played steadily on major records since the beginning of the 90’s. He is a well-schooled jazz man not from the Big Apple, New Orleans or Chi-town but Corvallis, Oregon. He’s a virtuoso on his instrument yet gives equal time to other band members in his live shows. He’s articulate, handsome, and famous and has influential friends but is still self-effacing and humble about his awesome gifts. Lastly, he has a decidedly nice-guy image but can blow the trumpet like a stone-killer.
Visiting the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend Botti (pronounced Boaty by his road manager) was even better than advertised. As a matter of fact he was terrific on three counts; his playing was exemplary, his band was fantastic and his exposition along with the music was smart, humorous and edifying. The many ladies present seemed to enjoy his good looks but everyone in attendance dug his electrifying solos that blended beautifully into a total team concept. He might have Kobe Bryant moves on his ax but passes the ball.
If the opening number of “Ave Maria” might have given some the idea that this was a smooth jazz, easy chair show that all was exploded by the wild and wooly “When I Fall in Love” that followed. Botti specializes in a sort of trumpet bookend, starting sweet and then blowing raucous with the help of his outstanding band mates. It is impossible to put one in front of the other but Marc Whitfield’s muscled-up jazz guitar, James Genus’ bass on steroids, Alan Pasqua’s mercurial keyboards and the incomparable Billy Kilson’s drums ensured Botti of a powerhouse sound that reached the back wall and then some on this night.
There were a few dreamy ballads including an evocative “Cinema Paradiso,” and “What’ll I Do” plus a nod to the great Miles Davis masterpiece “Kind of Blue” in Botti’s best playing on the night on the free-style “Flamenco Sketches.” Giving due respect to the great brother Miles, Chris Botti showed shades of color from the trumpet only a master can produce. There were two surprising and spectacular Leonard Cohen tunes; the many layered “Thousand Kisses Deep” and a gorgeous “Hallelujah” that were simply worth the price of admission standing on their own.
Botti also let go the reigns many times on the night, allowing the band to blast away including Whitfield’s tour de force on a “Streets Ahead” with plenty of giddy up, a very hot jam on the unlikely “the Look of Love” and the total involvement of “Relativity” punctuated by one of the most dynamic drum solos ever seen on the planet by Billy Kilson. The man has the fastest hands seen since Muhammad Ali fought Big Cat Williams. On ballad and jam Alan Pasqua played piano with sublime expressiveness and driving power. The headliner compared him to Bill Evans which certainly is the highest compliment any pianist can get. Also, dazzling Sy Smith stepped to the mike for a triumvirate of vocals, shining brightest on “Good Morning Heartache” in between a fast and furious give and take between her Cousin Marc’s guitar and Botti’s white hot trumpet. The tight and spirited show was complimented by a single encore by Chris Botti with Pasqua on piano. It was a sweet and straightforward “One for My Baby” in which you could just hear the ice cubes tinkling in glasses at the bar around closing time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Romeros Feb. 1, 2007

“Three of a Kind to Full House, the Romeros Win the Hand at Cerritos”

By Glen Creason

The Wayne Shilkret Memorial Tribute Fund concert is always a special evening at the Performing Arts Center and normally only the crème de la crème are on hand to entertain at this event. This year was no exception as the Romeros, often called the Royal Family of the Guitar were scheduled for their program of Spanish classical music. Yet, the stunned crowd was told at the introductions that Celin Romero, senior member and father of two sons in the group had broken a finger in an accident and would be unable to perform. This, being like a basketball team having to play without its point guard. It took the wind out of the giddy full house and put added pressure on the remaining three to honor Mr. Shilkret and go on with the show. There was also the considerable hurdle of the announced program containing a number of quartet pieces that could not possibly be played by a trio.
Fortunately, Pepe, Celin and Listo Romero are given the royal moniker for good reason and they navigated this bend in the road without showing a care. As a matter of fact, this challenge was met with style and grace ending in a genuine triumph with the formerly worried sellout crowd on their feet shouting Romero praises. As it turns out, the quartet pieces were swapped out for some deliciously intimate compositions by the patriarch of the family Celedonio Romero and other familiar Spanish composers. All were played with passion and precision and by the conclusion few in the audience felt even a twinge of regret over the changes. The trio played the “Concerto in D Major” by Vivaldi in its entirety and the wonderful peaks of the Allegros book ended the sweetness of the familiar Adagio as a portend of good things to come. Gaspar Sanz’ “Suite Espanola” was played by Celin who showed great virtuosity with the left hand to express the piece’s delicate textures. After the very contemporary sounding “Tonadilla” from Rodrigo by the young men and an incredibly moving “Asturias” and “Rumores de la Caleta” by Pepe the family turned to their patriarch for further inspiration. Celedonio’s “Los Maestros” by Listo was a tour de force of guitar musicianship using every square inch of the instrument.
The Romeros were amazingly resilient in choosing materials on the fly and the second half included wonderful substitutions like the silken “La Paloma,” played perfectly by Celin and Dance #2 by Granados by both Celin and Lito. The family kept going to the rich Romero mine and finding Celedonio’s gold including a spirited “Fantasia” played by Celin and “Zapateado” by the “boys,” bringing the house down. Still, the greatest applause seemed to be reserved for the viejito Pepe who showed them how it is done with passion and skill on both “Gran Jota” and “Recuerdos del Alhambra” by Tarrega . You literally could have heard an “alfiler” drop during the “Recuerdos...” which was identified as a favorite of Mrs. Shilkret. Pepe was gracious and gave additional love to the assembled including his own stirring composition “Fiesta en Cadiz” and his father’s “Noche Malaga” that got the hall on its feet for a standing ovation. The encore was appropriately directed to Mr. Shilkret, the great hall and efforts to educate youth in the arts. Pepe Romero called Wayne a “beautiful dreamer” and asked the assembled to keep his dream alive.