The Valley Line: Orchestra brings the heat

August 18, 2010|By Jane Napier Neely
  • Vocalist Valarie Pettiford sings "All that Jazz" at last Saturday's Pasadena POPS concert. POPS music director and conductor, Maestra Rachael Worby, is in the background.
Vocalist Valarie Pettiford sings "All that Jazz"… (PHOTOS BY JANE NAPIER…)

For all of you summer lovers, at last you have been able to revel in the heat. The beginning of the week was exactly as August should be — HOT!

Last Saturday night a sliver of a moon shone brightly with the planet Jupiter twinkling nearby, when the Pasadena Pops orchestra presented "All that Jazz," conducted by Maestra Rachael Worby.

Opening up the jazzy night was vocalist Valarie Pettiford, who began her set with her sizzling rendition of the John Kander/Fred Ebb song, "And All that Jazz." Pettiford is not a newcomer to the Pops stage and once again she wowed the audience with her powerhouse presentations of "Le Jazz Hot," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Life is just a Bowl of Cherries."

Next up for more serious jazz lovers, Worby conducted the orchestra in three pieces by jazz great Thelonious Monk arranged by Pops musician Alan Steinberger. The three Monk compositions played that evening were: "Blue Monk," "Mysterioso" and "Midnight Special."


An interesting side note about Monk is that he is only one of five musicians to appear on the cover of Time magazine — the others being Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong and Wynton Marsalis.

Just before the intermission, the orchestra paid homage to George Gershwin and his great masterpiece, "Porgy and Bess," that is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its Broadway opening.

At its 1935 opening the Broadway cast was made up of classically trained African American singers — a daring and visionary artistic choice at the time. The music incorporated blues and jazz idioms fashioned into the classical art form of opera. I can't think of a person that I know who doesn't love at least one of the songs from "Porgy and Bess."

After the Pops' musical break, when concert-goers table-hopped to chat with friends about their summer stories, everyone settled in for more beautiful music that began with a Duke Ellington medley. Prominent in this tribute was "Take the A Train" written by Billy Strayhorn. Ellington was so impressed with the song that he made it his orchestra's theme song.

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