Jim Miller and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra Saturday, Aug. 12, at The Festival at Sandpoint
Jim Miller and the perpetuated Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra swung as hard as the circumstances allowed Saturday night at The Festival at Sandpoint. The big band brought back memories of the silken sounds of yesteryear with hits made famous by both of the Dorseys - Jimmy and Tommy.
The circumstances that came into play were chilly and damp weather. The dog days of August turned out to be more like penguin days.
From 5:30 to 6:30 or so, the skies over Sandpoint turned dark and let loose with some serious showers, dropping the temperature to 39 degrees by the end of the concert. This is not just small-talk about the weather - these meteorological events take on a certain significance when applied to instrumental performance.
Cold air in a brass instrument can cause the pitch to go flat by a quarter or half-step - enough to make even the tone deaf grind their teeth - and the addition of warm breath to the horn adds a good deal of variability and uncertainty to the intonation. Also, putting cold metal to the lips numbs their crucial sensitivity and hampers accuracy. For a comparison, think about kissing a metal mailbox in the winter.
The Dorsey Orchestra did well under these conditions. There were some minor intonation problems and probably quite a few more cracked notes from the trumpets and trombones than would have occurred if they had been given a level playing field.
The rhythm section was strong and tight throughout the evening, driving cleanly in the up-tempo numbers. Saxes, bones and trumpets were all peopled capably and, aforementioned hazards aside, played admirably, recreating the inflection of vibrato and covered tone which made ballroom bands popular.
The suave and sophisticated songs of the post-WWII years were polished to a sheen. The mellow and lustrous ballads “I Remember You,” “Speak Low” and “Satin Doll” were romantic sirens, enough to keep servicemen out of the barracks at night. A favorite Tommy Dorsey ballad, “Danny Boy,” featured the trombone work of Jim Miller, whose smooth high-register work ran hard up against the weather in spots.
Nancy Knorr was the band’s featured vocalist. Her innocuous alto served well in renditions of the classics. “The Song Is You,” “Green Eyes” and “Tangerine,” all tunes originally done by Helen O’Connell with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, were sung with sparkle.
Saluting brother Tommy’s band was a medley of his hits including “Marie,” “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Song of India” and “Opus No. 1.” Some newer selections were thrown in, just to show there were some beautiful melodies not written in the ‘40s. Readings were given to “What I Did For Love” from Marvin Hamlisch’s Broadway musical “Chorus Line,” and Nat King Cole’s “The Very Thought of You.”
“That’s A-Plenty,” an up-tempo number in the Dixie tradition, met with some ensemble difficulties. But the band swung hard for all of the Dorsey signature tunes: “Jersey Bounce,” “So Rare,” “JD’s Boogie” and “Contrasts,” which was done as the final encore.
The chill probably kept a few away, but there were hundreds of hardy folks blanketed in for the duration. The rain prevented the promised dance floor from being laid out, but a few indomitable spirits took to the grass throughout the concert anyway. At least it got the blood circulating.
It would have been nice if the Festival’s “Starlight Ballroom” could have been a little warmer, for audience and band alike, but for the undaunted fans of swing, nothing could stand in their way.
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