Concert Review: Swinging in Crestview: VIDEO

DownBeat Orchestra

Saundra Daggs, “the first lady of Crestview jazz,” croons Cole Porter's “Night and Day” as the DownBeat Jazz Orchestra’s guest vocalist.

BRIAN HUGHES | News Bulletin
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 12:07 PM.

Like the north county weather’s unpredictability in autumn, the sounds in Warriors Hall Nov. 3 changed back and forth from hot and sultry to cool and breezy as the DownBeat Jazz Orchestra unleashed some of the greatest big band and jazz music to swing the Hub City. The Crestview Friends of the Arts brought the 17-piece band to the Warriors Hall stage to celebrate the first anniversary of the hall’s new grand piano.

The audience, which topped 200 jazz lovers, ranged from seniors with canes to a pair of 6-year-old twins who knew good sounds when they heard them, proving that all-American jazz transcends generations.

A boisterously hard-pumping arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train” kicked off the evening, followed by numbers showcasing the orchestra’s multi-faceted vocalist Gina Walker, whose tight vocals demonstrated ear-pleasing control but also let her cut loose when the material — or mood — demanded. Her warm, heartfelt rendition of the Brothers Gershwin’s “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess” was breathtaking.

Saundra Daggs, a guest vocalist, thrilled the audience with her rendition of Cole Porter’s complicated masterpiece “Night and Day,” followed by the perky “Mambo Italiano” before slowing things down with a soulful “This Masquerade.”

The songs reeled off one after the other, with the DownBeat guys, Gina and Saundra molding Hit Parade standards into fresh, exciting pieces all their own.

“This band plays stuff we like to play,” music director — and Gina’s husband — Michael Walker said. “We try to be more audience-sensitive, but when we got together, we said we’d play the stuff we didn’t get to play in high school.”

During many numbers, couples, often led by the Crestview Fred Astaire studio’s David Colón, Erika Moreno and Aaron Stowell, cut the rug. Unable to restrain their happy feet, three of Brent and Julie Bywater’s four children took to the floor and remained fixtures down front for the rest of the evening.

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