Finger-clicking good nostalgia

Durban’s Platform Jazz band in a scene from The Great Gatsby Party.

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STAGE: Platform Jazz: The Great Gatsby Party – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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WITH the world now at the start of a new Roaring Twenties, what better time for Durban’s favourite dixieland, ragtime and swing band, Platform Jazz, to present a salute to the bygone era of bling, swing and big bands, a style of music still winning fans with such current retro acts as Post Modern Jukebox, Pink Martini and the wonderfully whacko Gunhild Carling.

The Great Gatsby Party is just what its title says it is – an effervescent celebration of finger-clicking, good-time music that covers classics from as far back as 1899 (publication date of Scott Joplin’s jaunty Maple Leaf Rag), passes through the highs of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, and then presents some more recent favourites in the style of the golden greats.

Opening with a bang with the cheerful Twelfth Street Rag, band leader and trumpeter Cathy Peacock and her polished team offer a slick outpouring interspersed with brief anecdotal info about songs and artists. It makes for a great night out with a band that celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.

Peacock’s team comprises Kirsten Sayers on clarinet, Jeff Robinson on sax and newcomer Andrea Bolloco on trombone, with the brilliant Melvin Peters on keyboards, Bruce Baker on drums and Andreas Kappen on bass.

Guest vocalist Shelley McLean, who has performed often with the group, is as enchanting as ever, appearing in a parade of frocks and hairdos during the two-act programme which offers a fine mix of songs. Highlights include her renditions of My Baby Just Cares For Me, a restyled All About That Bass, a gutsy Sweet Georgia Brown and the Disney hits You’ve Got a Friend in Me (from Toy Story) and Bare Necessities (from The Jungle Book).

Platform Jazz saxophonist Jeff Robinson and drummer Bruce Baker.

McLean also sings S’Wonderful, Mack the Knife, Can’t Help Loving That Man, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Hit the Road Jack, and the rest of the programme is devoted to varied instrumentals that include Sing, Sing Sing, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Hello Dolly, Chicago, Caravan, When the Saints Go Marching In, In the Mood and that audience participation favourite, Minnie the Moocher.

There are also some nice surprises – interesting numbers either in a quieter tone or lesser known, among them Fats Waller’s captivating Jitterbug Waltz, the playful 1917 piece Livery Stable Blues and Ory’s Creole Trombone, a 1922 piece showcasing the talent of Platform Jazz’s newest member, young Italian trombonist Andrea Bolloco.

Also a standout is a moment in which the band’s men perform an excellent Someone to Watch Over Me, a number introduced by Peters. He dedicated it to legendary Durban guitarist Steve Fataar, who passed away on Saturday.

The Great Gatsby Party is to be staged again at 2pm today (Sunday, January 19), with final performances scheduled for 8pm next Friday and Saturday (January 24 and 25) and 2pm next Sunday (January 26). Tickets cost R160 (R140 for pensioners and students with cards) and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.


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