That indefatigable maestro, Eugene Jelesnik, has these seasonal concerts down pat. A couple of light classical overtures, some Broadway hits, a few Tin Pan Alley classics (a little mix-and-match Cole Porter or Gershwin), and top it off with the foot-stomping "Orange Blossom Special."
He's been doing this for 46 years, so obviously Jelesnik is doing something right.I could probably quibble (that's what critics are supposed to do) over the routine sameness. The formula never changes. The same composers' names - Rossini, Strauss and Bizet - are always on the program.
Personally, as a drama critic, I'd love to hear some contemporary Broadway stuff. My favorite Stephen is Sondheim, not Foster.
Why not have Billie Loukas try her hand at "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" instead another operetta?
On the flipside of the argument, I suppose, it is rather comforting in a fast-paced world where everything's changing much too fast, to have a nice, cozy concert you can depend on.
But just once in awhile, it might be kind of interesting to see Jelesnik break out of the "Bob and Billie Show" pattern and let his audiences see some other Salt Lake talent. (We really do like tenor Robert Peterson and soprano Billie Loukas, but why not use a couple of these concerts as showcases for relatively unknown performers as well?)
I must admit, though, that both Peterson and Loukas were in fine form Thursday night - with Peterson demonstrating he still has that Great White Way strength in such songs as "Born Free," his trademark "The Impossible Dream" and in a short medley of Cole Porter Parisian tunes, among others.
The one "surprise" aspect of the concert was The Salt Lake Good Time Jazz Band (listed on the program as a "special attraction").
The operative word was definitely "good time" - for both the quintet and the audience.
The five musicians really turned up the heat with their program of six hot Dixieland numbers - "Panama," a nifty old tune from 1917; Jimmy Brown's intricate clarinet work in a hot Chicago jazz piece, "Once in Awhile"; and a tune that Sheldon Burk wrote for an up-and-coming lady in her early years, "Some of These Days," which became Sophie Tucker's theme song for 60 years. Dedicating it to all the Red Hot Mamas in the crowd, Brown gave a gravelly, Satchmo-like sound to the well-known lyrics.
The other members of the band - trombonist Brian Priebe, banjo plucker Doug O'Brien, trumpeter Dick Skillicorn and bassist Doug Giles - all got a chance to strut their stuff in the program, which also included Jelly Roll Morton's classic "Wolverine Blues"; one of Eugene Jelesnik's personal favorites, "12th Street Rag" (honoring a street in Kansas City); and another sizzler, "South Rampart St. Parade."
One of the philharmonic's best numbers was "The Carioca," showcasing Bob Davis on the piano (but which we really suspect Jelesnik likes to include on the program because it gives him a chance to pretend he's Zavior Cugat, putting down his batan and shaking those funny little Latin goards).
Also, while the philharmonic's concerts aren't quite as sophisticated as the Utah Symphony's, it's still rather embarrassing to have patrons applaud between the various sections of Bizet's "Carmen Suite." Every time Jelesnik would shift gears, someone would clap.