Material: In recognition of his 71st birthday and to promote the release of his band’s latest single, “Can’t Stand It,” film composer and conductor Dennis Dreith hosted a stellar celebration of sound and charisma at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill. Given the who’s who of session players from around Los Angeles and the camaraderie and understanding between Dreith and his guest vocalists, this was not your standard night out. The new single delivers a fun New Orleans vibe with a gentle high-hat sprinkled around playful bass lines, rich horn arrangements, and funky organ stylings.
Musicianship: From the warm retro groove of the band’s trademark “Eighty-Six, Ninety-Five” to the Herbie Hancock feel of “Brujo,” featuring eight soloists, a combination of driving minor lilt, dancing horn parts, dotted percussion, a sensitive funky drummer, and a pianist who knows how to use space, the level of musicality presented was truly breathtaking. The mutual respect between the conductor and his musicians was evident throughout the evening, and the combination of the 13-piece jazz band, four-piece string section, a Hammond B3 and traditional piano created an exciting playground of sound.
Performance: The incomparable Sandra Booker joined the gifted group with a unique rendition of “My Funny Valentine.” Her unexpected (but absolutely divine!) nod to Donna Summer in the intro made for a perfect segue into an earthy, soulful presentation. Booker’s unbelievable breath control, vocal command and virtuoso ghosting and scat stylings left even the most seasoned vocalist humbled. Legend Ellis Hall joined the band with his original, “Some Days Are Meant for Rain,” a ballad best described as having captured the essence and magic of what every love song should be. Hall followed up with a bluesy version of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” before presenting the band’s latest single, “Can’t Stand It,” a song already receiving airplay and momentum across the pond just a week after its release. Hall’s unbelievable falsetto and four-octave range, Southern gospel sounds on the Hammond B3, and vivacious personality and cheeky sense of humor made for an incredible blend of seasoned talent and engaging showmanship.
Summary: A funky bass pulse, lilting rhythm section and a seasoned gathering of stellar session players combined to create a phenomenal listening experience. The Dennis Dreith Band has a reputation for delivering some of the highest caliber musicianship around, and the show at Vibrato did not disappoint. With a mix of traditional jazz sounds, funk, R&B and Latin stylings, the evening was an incredible blend of musical flavors, and the phenomenal combination of talents left you feeling like a fly on the wall at a private recording session, with the added fun of a jazz jam of musicians clearly enjoying themselves at the top of their game.
Players: Dennis Dreith (composer, conductor); Kait Dunton (piano); Dominic Genova (bass); Jake Reed (drums); John Goux (guitar); Brian Kilgore (percussion); Fred Selden (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, piccolo, alto flute); Gary Herbig (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet); Bob Crosby (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, alto flute, clarinet); Steve Taylor (baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute); Ron King (trumpet, flugelhorn); Dave Richards (trumpet; flugelhorn); Ido Meshulam (trombone); Steve Hughes (bass trombone); Rafi Rishig (1st violin); Rhea Fowler (2nd violin); Jennie Hansen (viola); Armen Ksajikian (cello)
Special Guests: Ellis Hall (vocals, keyboard); Sandra Booker (vocals)