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Brian Setzer's Christmas Extravaganza

Mike Perciaccante By

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With the help of his orchestra, Setzer performed the most ambitious and wonderful version of "The Nutcracker Suite" ever heard.
Westbury Music Fair
Westbury, NY
December 2003

Bounding on stage to the Louis Armstrong Christmas classic, "'Zat You Santa Claus?", Brian Setzer and his 18-piece orchestra (along with backup singers Beth Curry and Julie Reiten dressed as Christmas elves) took control of the Westbury Music Fair for two hours on this cool autumn evening. Billing itself as Brian Setzer's Christmas Extravaganza, the show was the kick-off performance of this tour as well as a homecoming for the Long Island-bred Setzer. As Brian, himself, put it, "There's a whole lot of Setzers here in the audience tonight." The family, friends and evening's concert attendees were definitely in for a treat as the show was more than an extravaganza. It was a party — in every sense of the word.

Setzer and his band then launched into his swing/blues/rockabilly-influenced version of everyone's favorite traditional Christmas song, "Jingle Bells." The band then proceeded to roar through tracks from both of Setzer's newly released Surfdog Records releases, Boogie Woogie Christmas and Nitro Burning Funny Daddy as well as older orchestra hits like "Dirty Boogie" and Stray Cats songs like "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut." By mixing holiday songs, older songs and newer songs, Setzer and company kept the audience on their feet and dancing in the aisles throughout the performance.

Setzer, who appeared in a vintage lime green outfit, looked every bit the retro rebel as he led the band through his revamped version of "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag," "Sleigh Ride," "Jump, Jive, An' Wail" and every other Setzer song a fan could ask for. The whole show featured great music with Brian Setzer, of course, as the center of attention. Virtually every member of the orchestra was given an opportunity to shine (either on solos or by interacting with Setzer). Bassist Johnny Hatton and drummer Bernie Dresel were given the biggest spotlight as they joined Setzer for a series of Stray Cats-style and influenced songs.

With the help of his orchestra, Setzer performed the most ambitious and wonderful version of "The Nutcracker Suite" ever heard. Clocking in at over seven minutes in length, Tchaikovsky's classic was performed almost as an homage to Les Brown and his Band of Renown — the influences are that evident. The piece has been completely reinvented and is amazing. Backed up by his band: Hatton and Dresel; four trumpeters — Willie Murillo, Bob Bennett, Kevin Norton and Kye Palmer; five saxophonists — Tim Misica, Eric Morones, Charlie Peterson, Vince Trombetta, Jim Youngstrom; four trombones as played by Robbie Hioki, Blair Raker, Jason Thor and Craig Woods created a musical tapestry that had to heard to be believed. Upon completion, the unlikely show stopper received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Following the obligatory encores, Setzer then asked the crowd to join him in a sing-along as her again performed "Jingle Bells" and wished the crowd a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a peaceful holiday season.

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