TAD CALCARA, Alpine Arts Center, Saturday.
ALPINE — One can hardly imagine the Alpine Arts Center as a smoky Harlem nightclub, but it wasn't too much of a stretch on Saturday if you closed your eyes and listened.
Tad Calcara and friends took the audience back in time for a concert that brought the music of 1930s' Harlem to life.
Sometimes cheerfully bubbly, sometimes sultry, the quintet livened up the concert hall with the music of such greats as Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Between numbers, Calcara also offered a narrative of the music's historical background — adding anecdotes and tidbits of trivia that added a greater understanding to the experience.
Although the program centered around the music of '30s music of Harlem, things were narrowed down a little as Calcara celebrated the centennial of several figures who were born in 1904 — Count Basie, Fats Waller and Earl Hines. He also spent some time spotlighting the great stride pianists James P. Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith and some of their students.
Many of the featured charts were relatively unknown pieces, but the group threw in some recognizable tunes as well — "Ain't Misbehavin' " "Undecided," "One-O-Clock Jump," and "Honeysuckle Rose."
Calcara shone as the group leader in both the quality and versatility of his performance. Switching between piano and clarinet, he proved to be adept at both, particularly when showcasing the music of the stride pianists.
Following intermission, he and trumpeter Tony DiLorenzo did an enjoyable call-and-response number where Calcara entered from offstage playing a horn.
DiLorenzo added a lot of color and interest to the concert himself with some excellent trumpet playing. During the first half, he demonstrated a variety of mutes on various pieces, which he used to add a stylized sound to the music. The second half emphasized the mutes a little less but didn't let up on the fun and liveliness.
The rest of the band — Jay Lawrence on drums, Simon Salz on guitar and Linke Hebrew on bass — gave strong support with the occasional spotlight. Lawrence added some color with some rim-drumming, and Hebrew got a chance to shine in a rendition of the Blanton/Ellington duet "Pitter Panther Patter."