Show joyfully celebrates music of World War II.
Byline: Alison Kaufman For The Register-Guard
Tuesday evening's concert "I'll Be Seeing You: G.I. Jive, G.I. Jill & The AEF Jukebox of the Air," impressed as the grand opening for the 25th annual Oregon Festival of American Music. The theme of this year's festival is "G.I. Jive," with music popular between 1939 and 1945.
The concert itself was incredibly unique, with a fun format based on the old radio show "G.I. Jive." Each of the three sets were based on actual broadcasts of the show as hosted by the mysterious Martha "G.I. Jill" Wilkerson. Lynnea Barry portrayed Wilkerson downstage right, sitting at a desk and spinning her records. Barry captured G.I. Jill's infamous charm and affability, though at times her reading seemed a bit shaky.
As Barry introduced each song, a variety of soloists along with the Emerald City Jazz Kings performed the tunes in the big band styles of the original recordings.
A standout among the vocal soloists was Michael Stone. No stranger to the Shedd Institute nor to collaborating with the Emerald City Jazz Kings, Stone's vibrant personality shone through in his songs. His rendition of Johnny Mercer's "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive" oozed showmanship as he commanded the stage and the audience's attention.
Siri Vik, too, impressed in her rendition of "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine," originally recorded by Anita O'Day and Stan Kenton's orchestra. Vik sold the ironic verses with a comedically blas expression, while the entire band sang the choruses.
But where the three female soloists (Vik, Shirley Andress and Marisa Frantz) really shined was when they sang together as the Andrews Sisters. Their rendition of Johnny Mercer's "Strip Polka," complete with suggestive choreography, elicited many laughs in the audience and served as a perfect closer for the first set.
Among the singers was Ian Whitcomb, who many may remember from his 1965 hit "You Turn Me On." Whitcomb delighted the audience with an endearing performance of "Sierra Sue." While his impressive vocal skills may have diminished over the years, Whitcomb's comfort onstage and obviously close relationship with the repertoire offered the audience a unique take on an old classic. Certainly, his performances were the most memorable of the night.
The instrumental soloists were given several chances to shine as well throughout the evening, with many of the most impressive performances occurring during "Honeysuckle Rose." Byron Stripling dazzled with his trumpet, engaging in a fantastic dialogue with Jesse Cloninger's saxophone. Howard Alden on guitar, Lynn Seaton on the bass, Larry Fuller on piano and Chuck Redd on drums also had impressive solos in this piece.
An unnamed trumpet player wailed out a fantastic rendition of Ellington's trumpet solo from "Take the 'A' Train," a definite highlight on the program.
The performance's unique structure and impressive talent left only one thing to be desired - an open floor plan so the audience could dance to the music!
Even with this shocking oversight, the audience still greatly appreciated the event, with a raucous standing ovation showing their approval.
Musicologist and soprano Alison Kaufman reviews musical performances for the Register-Guard.
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Aug 12, 2016|
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