Is Cab Calloway Back?
Concert Review by: Dan Kassell
After the band vamp (as if for a stripper's entrance) and Birdland's announcement, "The Prince of Hi-De-Ho, Calloway Brooks", a tall lean gent jumped on stage to front the mostly hatted variously attired twelve member ensemble wearing a long white coat to his knees, white high draped pants over black & whites, a pheasant feathered white wide-brimmed hat and matching red deco clipped tie. He's a sight and when he extends his long arms and opens his mustachioed mouth flashes of his Grandfathers' vocal quality shine through each performance based upon the original 30's and 40's charts of Cab Calloway's Orchestra's.
The first soloist, tenor saxophonist Patience Higgins blows
with authority prompting my curiosity. Does he sound modern? Well yes, his
intonation is contemporary and that's good for it's within the late 90's jump
revival sound scape that's based upon the style Cab Calloway popularized and
tonight is anchored by the woody bass sounds of humorous writer Bill Crow. This
band is definitely not Mickey-Mouse to use a George T. Simon phrase, not strict
repertory either, but listening and watching Calloway Brooks lead this band I
sense a sincere effort to bring humor and showmanship to what could be a great
"Now a rare gem from the Calloway vaults, one of the
cradles of bop, the never recorded, 'Just a Rebop Guy', Calloway Brooks
announced to this Birdland audience opening night (2/21/01) then sings "If
that rhythm don't make you move, You're Square!"; on "Jungle
King" trombonist Wayne Goodman played exuberantly muted behind Brooks'
vocalizing and on "The Fastest Tune Ever Written", a novelty composed
and arranged by Brooks, altoist Jimmy Cozier ripped off an exciting solo.
Flashes of the precision of Cab's 30's band are
recognizable during the unison sax section (Patience Higgins-lead tenor, Jimmy
Cozier-second alto, Zane Paul-lead alto, Anthony Nelson-second tenor, Robert
Eldridge-baritone) opening of "Come On With The Come On", it's that
smooth well-rehearsed sound of saxophones that sounds like thick cream flowing.
Too bad there's no dance floor at Birdland. After a cool alto solo by Cozier the
screeching high trumpet solo by Winston Byrd is exciting but struggling to keep
up to the exceptionally fast tempo though the elder Mr. Paul, wearing a stylish
beret, blew a fierce clarinet solo; both trombonist Jason Jackson & Wayne
Goodman were obviously pleased with their in unison effort; Joel Martin
continued with a tinkling piano full of lots of runs; Brian Grice got the crowds
applause after a funky drum interlude but it was on the out chorus when the tall
baritone saxophonist Bobby Eldridge added that unique upper register flavor on
clarinet that the brass and rhythm molded like Jell-O to go with the cream.
Even the audience got to participate in response to Brooks'
question, "Are you hip to the Jive?" Their answer, "Yas-Yas".
As expected the closer is "number 477, Minnie The
Moocher", but tonight it again sounds fresh as this audience responded with
the same joyful "Hi-De-Ho" I heard Cab Calloway (wearing a gorgeous
red brocade dinner jacket) evoke from his men at his daughter's High School
Junior Prom in Tarrytown, NY in 1960. His jacket and the power of his music
mesmerized me then and tonight I'm refreshed watching this Calloway Brooks
emulating the jive that made Cab an entertainment treasure.