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Review: River City Brass takes backseat to doo-wop

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By Bob Karlovits
Monday, April 8, 2013, 11:21 a.m.

James Gourlay says he wants to make the current series of concerts seem like the mix of jazz and pop that might have been common in homes in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The general director of the brass band has a good idea. Only one problem. The doo-wop material of Johnny and the Halos so dominates the concerts that the big-band jazz from the brass group is shunted into the attic.

The lightweight material of the band does not help either. Aside from its great arrangement of the “Channel 1 Suite,” a classic of the Buddy Rich Band, the River City's look at big-band jazz is unimaginative. Oh, it does some new arrangements of classics such as “Strike Up the Band” and “Birdland,” but new does not always equal good.

Meanwhile, Johnny Angel and the Halos dominate both halves of the concert with material ranging from expected hits such as “Oh, What a Night,” “Rock and Roll Heaven” and “Rubberband Man.”

Even when playing traditional concert material, River City Brass has done much better that this.

Concerts are April 9 at Upper St. Clair High School; April 10 at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center; Beaver County; April 11 at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland; and April 12 at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Johnstown. Admission ranges from $21 to $41. Details: 412-434-7222 or Details for the Pasquerilla concert are at 814-269-7200.

— Bob Karlovits

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