Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bob DeAngelis: Champagne Memories

Somerset Entertainment Ltd.
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.1.08
Buy CD: Champagne Memories

Bob DeAngelis is to present-day Canada what Paul Whiteman was to the United States in the late 1920s and early '30s. 

Although Whiteman's band couldn't be classified as a true jazz unit, his sidemen and vocalists included famous jazz icons such as Bix Beiderbecke and Mildred Bailey. Whiteman's orchestra was huge; it included strings and played primarily in concert halls. It also did much to introduce jazz to the relatively up-scale masses. 

DeAngelis' orchestra is much like Whiteman's. Performing under the name of The Champagne Symphony, it consists of 50 musicians: 14 in the jazz group, a large string section, vocalists and even a unit called The Dazzling Swing Dance Divas. It's the most famous orchestra in Canada, and performs for many affairs hosted by Canadian heads of state. 

Benny Goodman's wonderful band of the 1930s and '40s had a significant role in DeAngelis' development as a musician (he also plays the clarinet). This album, along with a series of concerts held in both Canada and the United States, was intended as a tribute to Goodman's famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. 

In fact, The Champagne Symphony celebrated that performance with another Carnegie Hall concert this past Jan. 16 ... precisely 70 years from the initial event. 

This release features many of the tunes Goodman performed at that concert, including such swingers as "Sing, Sing, Sing" and "Air Mail Special." 

Although this album reaffirms my belief that string sections can't swing, it does provide a very pleasant return visit to the wonderful "book" that Goodman's band used. Those songs were so great that they still make your toes tap while resurrecting great memories.

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