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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Vaughn Monroe Show - a review


from Dan Gabel's website

DO NOT MISS the current Vaughn Monroe Show tour presented by Dan Gabel and his magnificent orchestra and singers: their next stop is this coming Sunday, October 15th, Worcester, at the Holy Name High School from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The program is an extraordinary opportunity to experience live Big Band music as it was meant to be performed, and is a notable tribute – perhaps the best kind of tribute—to Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra.


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But the two hours is more than foot-stomping entertainment from an 18-piece orchestra with brass so exhilarating it practically lifts you off your seat.  It’s a recreation of the old Camel Caravan live radio remotes.  It’s October 1949, and you are there.


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Last weekend I was delighted to attend their gig at the Springfield Technical Community College, sponsored by the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.  The only disappointment was that the show as not as well attended as it should have been.  All fans of Dan Gabel need to spread the word, for this Vaughn Monroe Show is as much about skill and musicianship of this young orchestra leader, arranger, and musician and his superlative band members, as it is about Vaughn Monroe and the heyday of the Big Bands.


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The program began with a warm-up act, so to  speak, of vintage video clips – a cartoon, some early television commercials, to set the stage for 1949.  It was a good lead-in; the audience laughed, particularly at the cigarette commercial, which Gabel and his troupe later reprised in a teasing “commercial” for their live program.


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Specialty numbers included Gabel’s regular featured vocalist Elise Roth, who always impresses me not only with her 1940s-look in dress, hair, and makeup, but that she sings with the style of the best of the swing singers of that era.  She displays great control and range, “selling” the songs in the classic manner of back in the day.  For this program, she was joined by a recreation of Monroe’s “The Moon Maids” – Sarah Callinan, Annie Kerins, and Emily Greenslit.  Their vocal blend and dreamy expressions during the romantic numbers—and a lot of Vaughn Monroe’s hits were romantic—gracefully lends the perfect combination of charm and talent.


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Craig Robbins, who plays first trombone, also steps up to the mic and displays a terrific baritone voice, particularly the romantic number, “There, I’ve Said it Again.”


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Steve Gagliastro, who plays second trombone, wowed ‘em with his comic rendition of “The Maharajah of Magador.”  He was Jerry Colonna on steroids—but his tenor voice is outstanding.

Katie Piselli and Steven Plummer, a pair of lively jitterbugs, brought a novelty and physical expression to the music.  Ms. Piselli had a featured role as the “Ballerina” of Vaughn Monroe’s hit song while Monroe himself was seen in video singing, Gabel’s orchestra backing him up, a nice effect.


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Leader Dan Gabel also croons, and was joined by his “girl singers” and “boy singers” for a spirited “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”  Gabel is a genial host, and his youth may strike some fans of this kind of music—mostly middle-aged to quite elderly seniors—as being something of an anomaly.  However, that is doing Gabel, and for those of us who grew up loving music that was popular long before we were born, a disservice, for such completely misunderstands the attraction of this music.  Gabel’s The Vaughn Monroe Show is not simply nostalgia.  That’s part of it, to be sure, especially for those older folks who actually remember dancing to this music.  But it’s more than that.  It takes the music and the musicianship of this era and recreates it, plays it as it should be played so fans new and old can appreciate the magic of it.

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This is not just an exercise in parody.  This, despite it’s being 2017, is the real thing.  This is genuine Big Band music.  Gabel’s orchestra is that good.



To call it nostalgic is to dismiss all that is excellent about this music.  When we hear of a symphony orchestra performing Bach, we don’t think, “Oh, how cute they’re doing nostalgic music from the sixteen century!”  No; we accept it as an art form.  So, too, is Big Band music an art form, a cultural expression from the first half of the twentieth century.  Dan Gabel’s critical success is that he understands that and respects that, and has become a most skilled interpreter.


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Here is Dan Gabel’s website for more information.  Here are links to two previous posts we’ve discussed on Gabel’s music and on Vaughn Monroe’s New England base.

Don’t miss the rest of The Vaughn Monroe Show tour!


2 comments:

Caftan Woman said...

Music is as vibrant as its performers and the audience it reaches. This sounds like a marvelous show, and I am sorry I'm not in the area to be able to enjoy it. I'm sure I'd take it in more than once.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Paddy, you would love this. It's absolutely thrilling.

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