Dan Levinson Octet at the Bickford, November 12, 2018

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Multi-reedist Dan Levinson led eight of the best trad/swing musicians on the metro NYC scene in a sold-out concert at the 300-seat Bickford Theater in the Morris Museum, on, November 12, 2018. There had been some concern about whether this series would continue after the departures of the previous theater director and programmer/publicist in June, but with an audience response like this, jazz fans don’t need to worry.

The leader on clarinet and tenor sax was joined by Warren Vache (tp, voc), Bria Skonberg (tp, voc), Mariel Bildsten (trb), Rossano Sportiello (p), Molly Ryan (rhythm guitar, voc), Rob Adkins (b) & Mark McLean (d).

This octet hit the stage running with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Jubilee.” Bria Skonberg sang a lilting “Don’t Be That Way” from the Benny Goodman songbook, and then Mariel Bildsten gave the crowd “Dicky’s Dream,” made famous by Basie Orchestra trombonist Dicky Wells. Molly Ryan stepped forward to sing “It’s Like Reaching for the Moon,” popularized by Billie Holiday, Ms Bildsten had another solo feature with “Blue Cellophane,” associated with Ellington trombonist Lawrence Brown, and Molly and Bria serenaded each other with “I Would Do Anything for You.” Warren Vache had a touching ballad duet with Rossano on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” before the ensemble returned for Dan Levinson’s charmingly jazzed-up arrangement of Stephen Foster’s “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair.”

Molly had another vocal feature on the seasonally-appropriate “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” Rossano led the rhythm section in his original “Blues for Basie” (winding up with a hard-swinging boogie-woogie section), and Dan offered a vocal and a tender tenor sax account of Henry Mancini’s theme music for the ’67 Audrey Hepburn-Albert Finney movie “Two for the Road.” The whole band returned on this Veteran’s Day with Dan’s propulsive new arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” which I hope gets recorded. The audience roared.

Related: Long Weekend: The Armistice Ball, Buck and a Quarter Quartet, Bickford Theater Benefit, Rum House, Nighthawks at the Iguana

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