Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey were raised by an immigrant music teacher who wanted his sons to have a better future than slaving in local, Pennsylvania coal mines. They were professional musicians as teenagers, had their first hit in 1929, then played and recorded together until the famous falling out which made them competitors and relative strangers. 1947’s film The Fabulous Dorseys reunited the siblings. Jimmy played trumpet, alto saxophone, clarinet, and composed. Tommy , later nicknamed “The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing,” played trombone, trumpet, and composed. Both were extremely popular big band leaders.
Multifaceted artists Pete and Will Anderson craft their current show around the Dorseys’ lives as well as their music. Film segments bridge live numbers whose sequence, one gathers, is as true as possible to historical chronology. Context is established. Clips are entertaining, though hit and miss—some informative/good set-ups, others just segues with nothing to add. Each musical selection is identified on the screen so no introductions are necessary. Occasionally, the Andersons will improvise a little dialogue as it might have taken place between the Dorseys.
Musicianship is first rate. This is a tight band who, for the most part, seem to be having a really good time. I was skeptical that a small theater would be adequate to the sound, but surprised at positive outcome. Thread your way to a tiny table where intimacy and the choice to remain blessedly acoustic works to the advantage of the music’s specificity. Appropriate to the period, Pete and Will Anderson atmospherically stand when soloing saxophone, clarinet, and flute, which they switch out with remarkable finesse, as does Jon-Erik Kellso (a master with mute and high hat) on trumpet.
The evening contains standards like the white jacket-black tie-country club “Tangerine,” “I’m Getting Sentimental,” and “Lover Come Back to Me” as well as Sy Oliver’s unexpected swing arrangements of “Swanee River,” an easy going fox-trot during which Jon-Erik Kellso sashays around melody, and Rimsky-Korsakov material. Unless you’re an aficionado, you may be unfamiliar with “Dusk in Upper Sandusky,” “Hollywood Pastime” a little celluloid floy floy from the land of silk and sunny, and “Oodles of Noodles” for which Will must be importing breath from New Jersey. Pete showcases his own expansive control during such as the beguiling beauty of “Bebe.” At one clever juncture, the film freezes on Art Taturm making a guest appearance while Ehud Asherie offers his own excellent version of “I’ll Take Manhattan,” presumably what Tatum played. A rousing “I’ve Got Rhythm” closes the show with Gabriel’s verve.
Pete and Will Anderson are so authentic, they must feel as if born into the wrong era. Rhythm and attitude seem like second nature. Pete even wears a vintage tie. Appreciation and respect for one another are evident. The show runs a bit long, but is both entertaining and an opportunity to experience the era’s big bands without having to go to an expensive concert hall.
Credit for the Anderson photos, Lynn Redmile:
Top: Band Left to Right—Pete Anderson, Jon-Erik Kellso, Kevin Dorn, Will Anderson, Clovis Nicolas, Ehud Asherie
Second: Left: Will, Right: Pete
The Anderson Twins Play The Fabulous Dorseys
Pete Anderson/Will Anderson-Writer/Director/Clarinet/Saxophone/Flute
59 East 59th Street Theaters
59E59 Street Theaters
59 East 59 Street
Through October 7, 2012