Show: Three Men and a Big Band
Venue: El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles
Date: June 2
Luck may be a lady, but she had nothing to do with Three Men and a Big Band, the boys� night out that featured singers Gary LeMel, Jerry Sharell and Steve Tyrell, backed by Gregg Field Big Band, taking on the best of the Great American Songbook. The 17 piece ensemble was composed of the finest players from Musician Local 48.
From the outset, it was obvious a lot of hard work had gone into the sold-out show. Emcee Joe Smith, like the headliners a music-biz vet, kicked things off with -- what else?
-- a dozen zingers directed at music-biz vets, before turning things over to LeMel. Warner Bros. Studios� president of worldwide music opened with �Luck Be a Lady,� segued into a suitably swinging �The Lady Is a Tramp� and hit a number of high spots in his half-hour slot. Among them: an understated �Moonlight in Vermont,� �Walking My Baby Back Home,� �Taking a Chance on Love� and his closer, an uptempo �Hello Young Lovers.�
Next, Sharell, currently president and CEO of the Society of Singers, bounced the moon on an up-and-at-�em �You Make Me Feel So Young.� A hat-tip to pianist Mike Melvoin and a heart-felt reminiscence about first hearing the DeCastro Sisters when he was in high-school led into �Teach Me Tonight� and a brisk take on Carl Sigman�s �Dance Ballerina Dance� (Sigman�s son Michael was in attendance). He then took the show into the audience to welcome Keely Smith, composer Ray Evans (of Livingston & ) and Ginny and Monica Mancini. He gave a touching reading of �Mona Lisa� to honor Evans�(back onstage, he saluted Henry Mancini with �Days of Wine and Roses�). While in the audience, Sharell introduced his son, Jerry Joe (who gave dad a run for his money with an emotive but not overdone version of Johnny Ray�s �Cry�), then closed with a jazzy �My Kind of Town.�
If it seemed like Frank Sinatra�s shadow loomed large over the event, it wasn�t an illusion. All three singers invoked the Chairman�s spirit and covered his repertoire, including songwriter-producer Tyrell, who opened with �Witchcraft� and swung through �All of Me,� �I�ve Got You Under My Skin� (though it was the Bob Mann -- not the Riddle -- arrangement) and �Fly Me to the Moon.� Recognizing Marilyn and Alan Bergman in the audience, Tyrell strolled through their �Nice and Easy,� then a Dorsey-era Sinatra chestnut, �The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else),� before closing with �Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.�
The show wound up with all three vocalists onstage, Sharell presenting the SOS� Lifetime Achievement Award to LeMel and Tyrell, and the trio�s enthusiastic �It Had to Be You� (with emcee Smith joining in for the final chorus).
It was a fitting end to an evening that celebrated songs, singing and the camaraderie of folks who love both. Earlier on, Sharell had mused, �Do you believe that I�m up here doing this? Do you believe you paid to watch me do this?� It�s safe to say that most in attendance did, and truly dug doing so.
-- Gene Sculatti