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Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel 5: Phoenix, AZ, May 1, 2013

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Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel 5
Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, AZ
May 1, 2013

Octogenarian bandleader Doc Severinsen has somehow added new fire to his legendary power and vibrancy in a sizzling coalition that melds Latin gusto with jazz zest. The trumpeter, who will be 86 on July 7, 2013, delivered pyrotechnical proficiency and sustained ending-phrase notes as strongly as his younger horn players.

The San Miguel 5 is Severinsen's second alliance with virtuoso Mexican guitarist Gil Gutierrez, enriched by Cuban percussionist Jimmy Branly and westerners Charlie Bisharat on violin and Kevin Thomas on acoustic bass. The quintet performed a hybrid repertoire ranging from The Beatles and Django Reinhardt to a Middle Eastern-themed chart and a tango. Gutierrez's incredibly dexterous guitar moves were matched by Bisharat's dazzling violin work, buoyed by Severinsen's crystal-clear delivery.

Meshing styles and cultures, the quintet's rendition of Reinhardt's "Minor Swing" featured a "Sing, Sing, Sing" intro, with Branly replicating Gene Krupa moves on tom-toms and cowbell. The Beatles' lovely "Blackbird" was refreshed in a Latin mode via Severinsen's silky fluency and Gutierrez's remarkable agility. Bisharat unleashed his ferocious chops in contrast with muted trumpet components for a tango by the late Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla.

An original, "Omar's Harem," was marked by minor segues of violin against trumpet smears, Branly delivering rhythmic punctuation on cajón (drum box). Branly then left his kit to hand-drum on Gutierrez's guitar, generating strong audience response.

Severinsen played much of the concert seated, standing to deliver his longer solos. The vivacious leader's energy level was undiminished during the band's second hour-long concert of the evening, despite spending most of the break between shows signing CDs and chatting with patrons. Still favoring the flashy fashions of his 30 years with the Tonight Show band, he chose purple leather pants and a neon-orange shirt beneath a wildly patterned sport coat.

This ensemble is the second created by Gutierrez and Severinsen since the trumpeter retired in 2006 to San Miguel de Allende, in central Mexico; the first, trio El Ritmo de la Vida (The Rhythm of Life), also recorded and toured.

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