From the moment the Gene Krupa Tribute Band began to play, the triumphant brass tunes of this jazzy ensemble sent the audience back in time and transported to a period when big bands were in full swing. While the show was filled with a variety of strong performances, these imitation artists did not fully recreate the catchy rhythm of the original songs.
Hosted by PBS television personality Mary Lou Metzger, “Swinging with the Big Band” received a standing ovation Sunday afternoon when the host. But not all of the audience was standing and clapping. The show consisted of songs by big band era artists such as Glen Miller and the Andrews Sisters, which were good renditions but flawed in many noticeable ways, namely the vocals performed by select artists.
When it came to endearing the audience to the nostalgic jazz era, Metzger was the charming personality who pulled in the audience, expressing her deep appreciation for each song. Her soulful version of “Someone to Watch Over Me” by Ella Fitzgerald was emotionally captivating. She changed into lavish, sequin-covered outfits that literally made her sparkle.
When Metzger tried to sing in a voice that was not hers, her sweet disposition, athletic dance moves and huge smile became less endearing. Her attempt to sing “Oh, Johnny,” by Lawrence Welk, in a “baby doll” voice was very limited. She would often slip out of the voice and sing in her regular voice during the song.
The tribute band was a solid part of the show. The authenticity of their covers was almost always spot on while playing background to the other three performers. Their version of Krupa’s 1954 hit “Sing, Sing, Sing” had some audience members dancing in their seat.
After the main performances, two different trios followed with their own sets of songs. The Demarche Sisters came first, another example of the quality of the show dissipated with flaws in their vocals. Their introduction with Metzger was strong, showing off their ability to sing bright melodies from the 1950s. During their performance of “Jukebox Saturday Night,” it felt as though the audience was listening to an old radio in a diner. Unfortunately, when they tried to a hit a few high notes, the song was flat for a few awkward seconds. This happened for every long and high note they hit, considering the lyrics to big band songs have show stopping endings, it became very grating.
Some audience members were disappointed when they sang “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B,” by the Andrews Sisters. Their voices were in beautiful unison and could easily be mistaken for a recording of the original, but the big ending fell flat.
Strings of Pearls were the last group of artists took the stage and their vocal prowess was perfect. Not a single note was missed, flat or weak. The voices of Perry Hart, Katheryne High and Warren Adams harmonized beautifully. They performed a version of his famous hit “It Don’t Mean a Thing” in such a way that their voices became one unified melody. It blended beautifully with the tribute band that matched the intensity every step of the way.