Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
As good fortune would have it, supper followed, so there was a two-hour break before Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band arrived onstage to perform not one but two rather large and impressive sets. Neumann couldn't have chosen a more agreeable opener than the breezy standard "Let's Fall in Love," wonderfully played with solos to match by pianist Geoff Stradling and alto Phil Feather. Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" was another winner, with solo space this time for trombonist Scott Whitfield, trumpeters Summers and Coan, tenors Tom Peterson and Alex Budman. "The Juicer Is Wild," written by Neumann for the Buddy Rich Band, hummed merrily along behind Brian Scanlon's alto, Alan Kaplan's trombone, Coan's trumpet and Peterson's tenor. Coan, who it's said is an octogenarian (that's hard to believe) had center stage to himself, playing and scatting on the aptly named "Jack Coan's Blues," which preceded the laid-back "Easy Chair" (sounded a lot like "Old Folks") and the lovely "I'll Be Home" (solos by Summers on "Chair," Neumann [tenor] and flugel Mark Lewis on "Home"). After Bird's "Au Privave" (Coan on muted trumpet, Whitfield on trombone, altos Scanlon and Feather dueling simultaneously), vocalist Madeline Vergari (Mrs. Neumann) closed the set with likeable renditions of "Sunny Side of the Street," "Since I Fell for You" and "There'll be Some Changes Made."
There was more to come. After a brief intermission, the band returned with a shuffling blues, "Takin' a Walk," followed by Tadd Dameron's "Good Bait" and three more vocals by Vergari ("That Old Black Magic," "The Shadow of Your Smile," backed by Neumann's tenor, and an Ellington medley) before the band rang down the curtain with the crowd-pleasing "Stop Those Blues," played at warp speed and testing soloists Stradling, trumpeter Summers, tenor Peterson, trombonist Kaplan and bassist Kirk Smith (each of whom passed the exam with flying colors). Trombonist Alicia Ard had one chance to solo, on "Good Bait," and acquitted herself quite well. Enough for one day. Off to bed.
Friday, May 24