Dennis Dreith

Live Review: Dennis Dreith Band at Upstairs at Vitello’s Supper Club in Studio City, CA

Material: A veteran film, TV and jingle composer, orchestrator and arranger, Dennis Dreith has a wealth of material to choose from in presenting his 18-piece big band. The band set the tone for the action-packed set with the vibrant, brassy and hard-swinging jam “Eighty Six Ninety Five Sincerely,” but artfully alternated these full-on blasts of funk and jazz with more subtly infectious pieces like the sensual, Latin-tinged “Ta Che Strut.” Dreith varied his largely instrumental set with the deep soul vocal energy of guest singers Sandra Booker (“Love Has a Way,” “She Can Be Evil”), Dan Foliart (a jazzy re-imagining of “Burning Love”), and barnburner Toni Malone (“Natural Woman”). Many of the band members are TV music veterans, and it was a blast watching Jimmy Z (harmonica) and Gary Herbig (sax) lead a sizzling, hard-edged blues jam through the earthy “Roseanne” theme.

Musicianship: One of the benefits of having been in the biz for decades is Dreith’s “rolodex” of first-call studio friends, and all of them, whether soloing, working in tandem with a single cohort, or making the emotions rise and fall in unison, were stellar. To paraphrase Parliament, this 18-piece band tore the roof off the sucker (intimate supper club, ha!) with a crazy-cool, way out whirlwind of vibes that were freewheeling but grounded in melody and alternately seductive and toe-tapping grooves.

Performance: Dreith is a masterful conductor/arranger and it was engaging to watch his arms and hands at work as he led his ensemble through mountains and valleys of transcendent energy and subtle grace. Having several excellent vocalists performing familiar classics amid the original material made the set hop and zip along quickly. Hands down, it was the fiery rendition of “Roseanne” that provoked the most visceral reactions.

Summary: Studio musicians are Los Angeles’ greatest musical treasures, but many of the greats who make the music happen for our favorite films and TV shows toil in relative obscurity. Creating shows like this, Dreith is a godsend. He allows these incredible artists to have a moment or two in the sun even as they strive toward their collective goal of working together to create an unforgettable jazz, rock, blues, New Orleans and funk-filled show. It’s good to be reminded every so often just how deep the musical talent runs in our fair city. A truly triumphant show on so many levels.

The Players: Dennis Dreith, bandleader and conductor; Jake Reed, drums; Kait Dunton, keyboards; John Goux, guitar; Dominick Genova, bass; Brian Kilgore, percussion; Fred Selden, saxophones, flute; Gary Herbig, saxophones, flute, clarinet; Bob Crosby, saxophones, flute, clarinet, English horn; Greg Huckins, saxophones, clarinet, flute; Ron King, trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Richards, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ido Meshulam, trombone; Steve Hughes, bass trombone, tuba; Jay Rosen, violin; Neil Samples, violin; Jennie Hansen, viola; Matt Cooker, cello; Jimmy Z, harmonica.

Venue: Upstairs at Vitello’s Supper Club

City: Studio City, CA

Contact: Nicole Slater, nicole@nicoleslaterconsulting.com

Web: dennisdreith.com