What a swell way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stan Colella Orchestra!
The music swelled with the sumptuous sound of strings as the “Hometown Big Band” now led by Stan’s son, Len Colella, was accompanied by Symphony Syracuse on Saturday, March 10, at the Crouse Hinds Concert Theater, at the Mulroy Civic Center, downtown.
The Colella combo – which often performs as a 12-piece – had itself swelled to 19 for its ruby anniversary performance, and that solid core was augmented by 17 violins, seven violas, five cellos and trumpeter John Raschella.
While musicians filled the Civic Center stage, a sparse audience of a few hundred barely filled a quarter of the 2,100-seat theater.
Regardless of the scant turnout, the collaborating musicians swung joyously on more than two-dozen tunes from the Great American Songbook, taking listeners on a ride on the “Night Train” all the way to “New York, New York.”
‘Back Beat Boogie’
They kicked it off with “Back Beat Boogie,” a Harry James number which featured riveting leads by trumpeter Jeff Stockham and tenor saxophonist Jim Spadafore. Len Colella picked up the trumpet to blow slow and lovely on “Unforgettable,” ably assisted by trombonist Jim Lamica.
Pianist Joe Carfagno, the lone surviving member of the band Stan founded in 1972, was showcased on “Take the A Train” and on “I Can’t Get Started,” a tune which Len dedicated to his mother, Grace, who was in attendance.
Vocalist David Baker shone like the Strip on a Rat Pack Medley including “Summer Wind,” “Birth of the Blues” and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” the tune penned by Syracuse native Jimmy Van Heusen, also a member of the Rat Pack. Baker’s no-nonsense approach to singing allows the power of each song to rise to the top, and he was especially effective on barn burners such as “My Kind of Town,” “Mack the Knife” and “New York, New York.”