EmptyVenue: Vibrato Grill & Jazz, Bel-Air, Calif. (Tuesday, Oct. 21)
The great Wayne Bergeron began the night with an apology for starting a little late. The boys in his band had been tied up downtown on the set of "Dancing With the Stars," and the 405 had been bad.
But the capacity crowd at Vibrato gave no sign of vexation, ensconced as it was in the lap of afterdark luxury atop Beverly Glen Boulevard.
To placate them, the band nevertheless romped through an unlikely Disney-linked tune called "The Revenge of Ivanhoe." Of course, they made it glisten like a little river of mercury, for these were the legendary Fast Guys from the Studios, and afterdark luxury is to them as mother's milk.
All evening long, it was one perfect first take after another. Bergeron, who got big playing lead trumpet with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau band, displayed a blindingly clean upper register to rival that of his old maestro. "High Clouds and a Chance of Wayne" was the title Tom Kubis gave his initial piece, and you could see why.
Reading just Bergeron's credits as a big band player -- he has recorded with Bob Florence, Jack Sheldon, Pat Williams, Frank Capp, Matt Catingub, Kim Richmond, Med Flory, Ray Anthony and Bill Perkins -- you gotta figure that he is maybe the fastest hand of them all.
But then there's the equally versatile Warren Luening out of New Orleans. So when the two killer trumpet men duetted on a rocking little chart, it became a high point of the memorable evening, as if you had the late, great high-¬register heroes Pete Candoli and Ernie Royal up there. But in fact, there were three more top-deck dealers on board: Gary Grant, Rick Baptist and Larry Hall.
Hailing the trombonists (Charlie Loper and Andy Martin!) and the saxophonists (Sal Lozano and Rusty Higgins!) would turn this review into a telephone book. But the root and foundation of the band was the agile, powerful, quick-witted rhythm section of Trey Henry, bass; Randy Waldman, piano; and Peter Erskine, drums.
The percussion master became a thousand-footed force as he put up his own peak with "I've Got You Under My Skin," honoring Frank Sinatra, with whom Erskine recorded the number.