SYMPHONY REVIEW Trio brings surprise with old favorites

Augustine added charm by interspersing original material all evening.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Joe Augustine Trio headlined the fourth Youngstown Symphony Pops Series Concert Saturday night at Powers Auditorium.
Augustine, a perennial Youngstown favorite, brought all new arrangements, the highlight of which was "3 at 100 -- The Music of Gershwin, Ellington and Carmichael."
The collection came to a climax with an imaginatively juxtaposed combination of George Gershwin's "Prelude II" for piano with melodic fragments from Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust." This was all the more surprising because Stardust was not listed on the program.
Gershwin was also represented by "I've Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise;" Ellington by "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing," and "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me;" and Carmichael by "Skylark" and "Up a Lazy River" -- all classics among 20th-century pop songs. Throughout, the acerbic contemporary jazz harmony (extended thirds and chords in fourths and fifths) provided piquant flavor.
Flirting with danger
Augustine was able to cover so many songs and to keep things moving by never presenting more than one chorus or verse of a piece, and immediately segueing to the next. While this approach can flirt dangerously with "elevator music," Augustine managed to add personal charm by interspersing original material all evening.
The "Liberty" set introduction appeared to be a typical patriotic musical rendition at first, but as Augustine moved to his original melody and harmony, the sincerity was apparent. Notwithstanding the patchwork treatment of "America the Beautiful," Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water" closed the set strongly.
Also attractive were the "Action, Film and Music" and the "By Request" sets. Augustine seems to have special affinity for the great film composer, Henry Mancini. "The Pink Panther" and "Peter Gunn" were lively and attractive, while "Moon River" was soulfully expressive.
The Harold Arlen songs, "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Swinging on a Star" and "Stormy Weather" were all smoothly and tastefully played, as were Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" and Harline's "When You Wish upon a Star."
Drummer Clint Deganon played effectively throughout as did bassist David Finck, but neither were allowed an extensive solo. Augustine's and Mike Lewis' arrangements were good, though the formula of a single verse and on to the next seemed to preclude an occasional musical excursion.
The "Looney Tunes" set sparkled in "Linus and Lucy" and the ever popular "Looney Tunes" closer.
Standing ovation
The symphony's portion was delightful. Maestro Isaiah Jackson was greeted with a standing ovation showing the Youngstown audience's affection and support.
Most enjoyable was the Gershwin Girl Crazy Overture, providing effective orchestrations of "I Got Rhythm" and "Embraceable You," and some interesting muted trumpet sounds.
"Here Come the Bands" exposed some old favorites and had beautiful pyramiding in the brass. "Chicago Selections" allowed for some good solo work and National Emblem had well-controlled tempo and dynamics.

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