Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Swing, swing, swing indeed

Pianist Roy Gerson couldn't have picked a more appropriate name for his band. The Swinget says it all, no matter how many musicians he has along for the fun ride on a given night.

He brought his full eight-member band to Port Charlotte on Monday, February 10 for a Charlotte County Jazz Society concert. The band dug into a strong blend of material from the Great American Songbook, vintage swing jazz, a bit of boogie woogie, the blues, the heartache lyrics of Billie Holiday and even some R&B.

Roy Gerson
The band included trumpeters Dan Miller and Randy Sandke, trombonist Herb Bruce, guitarist Frank Portolese, bassist Don Mopsick, drummer Tony Vigilante and singer Corrine Manning. Gerson and Manning moved to Naples three years ago from New York City.

With Gerson drawing on his savvy skills as a bandleader, this was a night for sprightly horn solos and varied instrumental combinations. It enabled him to spotlight every member of the band at least  a couple of times. For example, Manning and Miller teamed beautifully on a "September in the Rain," and trombonist Bruce was featured on "Stars Fell on Alabama" and "Stardust."
Sandke, Bruce, Miller

When one horn player took a solo, the other two often would team up to comp behind him on the many ensemble pieces. Philadelphia native Vigilante, who was Ben Vereen's touring drummer for 20 years, provided a powerful, swinging beat all night long. He was featured on "Caravan," "Cottontail" and the concert closer, Lionel Hampton's uptempo classic "Flying Home."
Corrine Manning

Tony Vigilante
Manning's soulful vocals were particularly poignant on Holiday's "Don't Explain" and "I Don't Hurt Anymore," the 1954 country hit by Hank Snow that was covered later that year by Dinah Washington. She changed the pace with French lyrics to Sidney Bechet's classic "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere" (If You See My Mother) that was featured in Woody Allen's 2011 film "Midnight in Paris."

Portolese shifted with ease between rhythm guitar and melodic solos. He was featured on "Stompin' at the Savoy" and a bluesy and swinging instrumental take of the Ray Charles hit "One Mint Julep."
Frank Portolese

Sandke offered a poignant take on "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues" and teamed with Manning on "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." Miller soared on  "Sometimes I'm Happy." Mopsick's creative versatility as a bass soloist was spotlighted on "The Man I Love."

Gerson, who was house pianist at The Village Gate in the 1990s, is a stride and boogie-woogie piano master. This night, he showcased his playing prowess only twice. Those were his boogie-woogie take on "Honky Tonk" with just the rhythm section, and his Second Set take on "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" The latter, a Great Depression-era tune from the 1932 musical "Americana," is based on a Russian -Jewish lullaby melody. In Gerson's hands, it sounded like something out of "Fiddler on the Roof." 

The concert drew a crowd of more than 375  to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H. Wakeman III Theater.

The Roy Gerson Swingtet

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