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Woody Allen closed out his jazz show at downtown L.A.’s Orpheum Theatre on Aug. 8 in classic Woody Allen fashion: “For those of you who have seen us before, you’ll notice I have not improved.”
Judging by the roar of laughter, the stream of glittering cell phones and omnipresent flash bulbs, the lengthy and rapturous standing ovation and the (not one but…) two encores, it was easy to see that the crowd certainly disagreed. Seeing Allen playing the clarinet on stage is nothing new (he has performed in Los Angeles over the years and regularly plays at the Carlyle Hotel in New York), but the L.A. crowd loved the night’s marquee offering from Nederlander Concerts: Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band.
“We play it because we love it,” Allen told the crowd of the particular style of music, while standing at the mic dressed in khakis, a blue button-down and brown loafers. “A very small group of people in the world even know about it — it’s like touring doing Gregorian chants.”
Allen helped educate the crowd by describing the music in more detail as “hymns, parade music and popular songs” and later introducing the whole band, including Greg Cohen on bass, John Gill on drums, Jerry Zigmont on trombone, Simon Wettenhall on trumpet, Conal Fowkes on piano and the leader of the band, Eddy Davis, on banjo. On the setlist: classics like “Down by the Riverside,” “Easter Parade,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “My Old Kentucky Home.”
The latter two songs came during one of the encores, which saw a surprise guest enter down the middle aisle. Flanked by two female guests and security detail, Quincy Jones took a seat in the middle of the fourth row during the first encore, close to 90 minutes into Allen’s set. Lucky for Jones and crew, the show continued for another 30 minutes. So what brought Jones downtown?
“Although they have never worked together, he and Woody are friends from throughout the years. He has a lot of respect for Woody overall, and especially as a musician,” Jones’ rep tells THR.
Also in attendance to check out Allen’s clarinet skills: Allen’s longtime agent, ICM Partners’ John Burnham, director-producer Robert Weide and actress Beth Behrs. It was longtime agent Burnham who paused to admire the 79-year-old filmmaker’s work ethic.
“Can you believe a guy who has a movie out, is starting a movie in three weeks, is starting a show with Amazon is also touring with his band? It’s pretty unusual,” Burnham said. “Who does four things at once?”
Even Allen seemed surprise at what he’s able to accomplish.
“Whenever anyone pays to see us, we’re amazed,” he said.
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