Call it big-band music for people who think Duke Ellington married the Duchess of York and Count Basie was the brother-in-law of Dracula.
Or call it David Perrico and the Pop Evolution.
Far from echoing your grandfather’s, father’s or even your older cousin’s big-band music, Perrico and his 18-piece outfit stylishly contemporize the genre so it’s accessible to “the kids” while never sacrificing musical integrity—i.e., the codgers will dig it.
Peripatetic trumpeter-about-town—his band performs regularly locally—the cap-wearing Perrico produces a warm sound with crisp articulation that skips nimbly atop the grooves laid down by a hard-charging ensemble peppered with Strip musicians (and fellow big-band maestro Lon Bronson). Fronted by formidable singer/songwriter Naomi Mauro—whose power pipes and sexy stage presence are a potent combo—this band swings, rocks and rips through a 90-minute set of originals and covers. An animated bandleader, Perrico adds visual zing to the aural pleasures, using body English—a jabbing finger here, a sudden arm swoop there—to underscore a cymbal splash or blast of brass.
Big band taking up Britney Spears’ “Circus”? Hey, why not, as long as rollicking original “Go With It” is in the mix. Ditto Mauro’s “Heavenly,” sharing the program with the Stones’ “Miss You,” lending gravitas to the latter classic by Mick & Co. while still honoring the tune’s signature rock-bounce. On original “G3,” Perrico reaches for sky-scraping riffs reminiscent of late, leather-lunged Maynard Ferguson.
Generous in allotting stretch-out solos to his sidemen, Perrico handed the spotlight over to nearly all of them. Particularly electrifying—if you’ll pardon the redundancy—was a turn by electric violinist Crystal Yuan on Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” (its title still cryptic, 42 years after the song was a hit), tearing into the tune with thrilling vibrancy.
Making a guest appearance at the mic, Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips—whose tan is exceeded only by that tanning-bed nutcase from New Jersey—belted out a variation of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” that was nearly unrecognizable in swing form, but did underscore Phillips’ exuberant exclamation: “This is the sound Vegas was raised on.”
Thankfully, in a town infamous for erasing nearly everything it was raised on, this remnant of our history—freshened and energized by musicians like these—can still explode, rather than implode. ★★★★☆