Cleveland Pops presents Big Bands and All That Jazz: Carl Topilow

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Big Bands and All That Jazz
Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 8:00 pm
Severance Hall

The POPS pay tribute to the all-American Big Band Era—the music that made the whole world swing, and still does today. The concert features the Cleveland POPS Orchestra with popular jazz vocalist Barbara Knight, Jack Schantz on trumpet and trombonist/arranger Paul Ferguson.

Since 1995, conductor, clarinetist, and entertainer Carl Topilow and his Cleveland Pops Orchestra have delighted audiences with performances that inventively blend light classical, swing, jazz, Broadway, Dixieland, and Klezmer music. On Saturday, October 24 at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Topilow will kick off the Orchestra’s new season with a program entitled “Big Band and All That Jazz.”

“There’s going to be a lot of great Big Band music, and a lot of joking around,” Topilow said during a telephone conversation. “We’ll be playing Paul Ferguson’s arrangement of Mozart’s E​ine Kleine Nachtmusik. ​It’s a takeoff on Mozart’s not­very­well­documented visit to New Orleans.”

Topilow laughed. “It is a musicological discovery — it’s K. 525B.”

Other Paul Ferguson arrangements on the program include medleys of tunes by Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Glenn Miller, and Harry James, as well as Hoagy Carmichael’s beloved S​tardust.​ Ferguson, who’s also an outstanding trombonist, will be featured in ​A Salute to Tommy Dorsey. ​“Paul writes so well. He really is the star of this program,” Topilow said, adding, “it’s a big plus to have a guy like him playing in the orchestra. The Harry James medley he arranged for our fantastic trumpet player Jack Schantz is brand ­new. Jack’s been a fixture of the jazz scene in Northeast Ohio for so many years, and it’s great to have him in the Orchestra.”

Saturday’s program will also include performances by vocalist Barbara Knight, who will be featured during Duke Ellington’s C​aravan,​and pianist Rock Wehrmann, who will be front and center during George Gershwin’s E​mbraceable You.​ Drummer Jim Rupp will round things out during Louis Prima’s S​ing, Sing, Sing.​ “One of the key elements of this program is that these are all local people,” Topilow pointed out. “We’re not calling in performers from New York or Los Angeles. We have our own home­grown talent, like Paul, Jack, Barbara, Rock, and Jim.”

Of course, Topilow himself is a fine jazz clarinetist who can always be counted on to bring out at least one of his colorful instruments. “I’m sort of in fifth place next to these guys,” Topilow said earnestly. “But I will find my way into the G​lenn Miller Medley​, South Rampart Street Parade​, and S​ing, Sing, Sing​.”

The Orchestra will have its chance to shine during Richard Rodgers’ ​Slaughter on 10th Avenue. ​“Most of the pieces on the program are only three to seven minutes long, but I wanted to program one substantial work for the Orchestra, and this is a nice ten minutes’ worth of jazz-­influenced classical music.”

Mike Telin, October 20, 2015

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