Everett Longstreth Orchestra Tribute to Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, with Vocalist Amanda Carr at The Stoneham Theatre
Some things just never go out of style. Pearls. Well-made suits. And swing music. And when Everett Longstreth and his 14-piece orchestra took to the stage at the Stoneham Theatre to pay tribute to Benny Goodman, it was clear why. The precisely executed arrangements and tight integration of reeds, horns, drums, chords and ivories never fail to get toes tapping and heads bobbing.
The evening featured a wide range of Goodman’s best-known works, and was enhanced with the vocal renderings of Amanda Carr, covering songs from the more than 60-year career of Peggy Lee.
Leader Longstreth kicked the evening off with “Let’s Dance”, giving clarinetist Sil D’Urbano and alto sax player Ted Casher the first of many spotlight solos. Alas, the restored movie theatre did not have room for dancing – to the dismay of a nearly sold out crowd of 360+ (if the bouncing of the row I was in was any indication of the audience’s desire to “cut a rug”!?).
Other favorites in the first half included “Stompin at the Savoy” (another one screaming for a dance floor), “Don’t Be that Way” and “Benji’s Bubble”, a light and bouncy tune written for one of Goodman”s daughters.
Amanda Carr began her tribute to another one of Goodman’s legacies – Peggy Lee – with “Tangerine”. Dressed in a long-flowing gown, reminiscent of the days of glamour, Carr did justice to several other Lee favorites, including “It Might as Well Be Spring” and “Indian Summer.”
The second half of the show began with “A String of Pearls” (of course, what would a night of swing music be without the Glenn Miller signature tune?). Followed by “Clarinet Marmalade”, when leader Longstreth gave D’Urbano more than a moment to impress the crowd with his homage to the clarinet genius that Goodman was at the height of his career. Not to be outshone, the orchestra’s drummer Jimmy Latini, wowed the crowd on the next tune -- “Runnin’ Wild” – with a solo that lasted long enough to let the other band members lay down their instruments and lean back in the their chairs, as Latini took to the skins in a frenzy.
Carr joined the orchestra again, and spent the next 45 minutes revisiting Lee’s career, mapping her selections to the varied and ultimately troubled life of the young woman from North Dakota who lit the stage with Goodman, and for decades later. “It’s a Good Day”, marking Lee’s launch, then on to the more vamp-ish tunes Lee is known for, including “He’s A Tramp” (penned by Lee for Disney’s “Lady and The Tramp” and, according to Carr, well-suited for describing Lee’s picks when it came to men), “Big Spender”, “My Man” and “Fever”.
Illustrating the differences between the world in which Lee lived and the world we live in today, Carr sang “Mañana”, a No. 1 hit in 1954, definitely outside the realm of political correctness. Carr’s cover of “Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World”, written by Lee near the end of her career, was a sincere tribute to Lee, who’d paved the way for so many women singer/songwriters, with just the right blend of wistful tone and powerful delivery.
After nearly two hours, the evening came to close as Longstreth ended with “Swing, Swing, Swing” – as much a tune as a cheer for the wonderful sound of the big band.
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