By Ted AYALA
A veritable cornucopia of musical delights – spanning everything from classical and jazz to rock and bossa-nova – were served to the hungry audience attending the Glendale Pops Orchestra’s (GPO) “The Premiere” concert last Friday night, May 13.
Matt Catingub, the GPO’s new artistic director, emceed the concert with a sly charm and warmth that had the audience feeling as if they were being welcomed at the home of an old friend.
Or should I say old friends? Sharing the concert stage were several musical friends of Catingub’s that are well known to music loving audiences: David Benoit, Monica Mancini, and Kenny Loggins who performed a clutch of some of his best known songs.
Though called the “Premiere,” the “Preview” would’ve also made for an apt name for the concert as appetizers from future concerts were dished up for the audience, whetting their appetite for the rest of the GPO’s season. And very enticing appetizers they were. Each number performed by the GPO was played with aplomb and immaculate finish. It’s little wonder that Glendale Arts and the GPO’s many supporters were beaming with pride when Catingub was named its artistic director.
Catingub’s musical interests don’t just rest with conducting, however. Through the course of the evening, Catingub juggled playing the saxophone, piano, his own work as a composer, and even his husky vocal talents: each one of them with total mastery. “Journey,” an instrumental piece composed by Catingub, was one of the evening‘s highlights. Beginning with a severe, quasi-Baroque theme in the strings, the work courses through quite a musical journey, wending its way through a model, Oriental sounding section, segueing its way into a jazzy number, and finally closing out with a brilliant, Coplandesque how-down.
When the evening’s first guest arrived, jazz pianist David Benoit, he nearly brought the house down with his technique and sheer energy. Launching into an extended piano improvisation in the Herbie Hancock standard, “Watermelon Man,” David Benoit pinned the audience to its seats. Lunging at the keyboard, swooning over the piano, and making gloriously raucous music, Benoit’s solo had the audience in hushed wonder. When his solo finally ended, the theatre erupted in much deserved cheers and stomping.
Benoit also played a selection from the GPO’s end-of-year Holiday Concert. Praised by Catingub as “the keeper of the flame of Vince Guaraldi”, Benoit and the GPO played Guaraldi’s beloved “Linus and Lucy,” well known as the theme of the Peanuts cartoon specials.
Monica Mancini joined the GPO afterward in two brief vocal numbers that were sung with seductive intimacy and rich toned warmth.
As he strummed his guitar and warmed up before playing his first song of the evening, the evening’s final guest star, Kenny Loggins, mused on his dream-filled youth and the experiences that he has since enjoyed. “I spent my time writing this song instead of studying for my finals,” said Loggins before he played his song “House on Pooh Corner.” Then he smiled and said, “Now its paid for my kids’ finals and then some.”
Bringing the evening to a heady close, Loggins steered inevitably into arguably his best-known song, “Footloose.” As Loggins jammed away on his guitar with the cracker-jack GPO backing him, audience members swayed and sang along. A few of them even danced and twisted in the aisles.
The choice of Catingub for the GPO was a splendid one indeed; a better choice couldn’t have been made. This was quality entertainment at its finest and Glendale should be fully proud of hosting yet another musical ensemble of superb quality within its environs. With Catingub at its helm, the GPO’s musical high spirits will surely prove to be infectious.