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HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Monday January 29, 2007


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Show-trumpeter Guthman has gift of sincerity
If Canada had a Las Vegas, show-trumpeter Gary Guthman would be its Tony Bennett. He’s smooth, he’s got all the moves, he sings, he plays trumpet and flugel horn like Gabriel on amphetamines — but, and more importantly for Canadian audiences, he’s showbiz lite. In other words, Guthman, who brought his Salute to Swing concert to Symphony Nova Scotia Friday night, puts on a great act for Great White Northerners. We get embarrassed for the Vegas lot when they come up here and make idiots of themselves by not understanding we don’t need to be snowed to be entertained. Guthman has the gift of sincerity. He limits shtick to a few tap-dancer poses at the end of a number, but charms the audience with a mix of flattery and genuine delight in entertaining them and talking with evident delight about his favourite subject — swing. Musically, he’s extraordinarily expert in that field — American swing music of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s — but, as a virtuoso performer, can also slide seamlessly into a jazz combo, or the trumpet section of a symphony orchestra or big band — all of which he has done and still does in his career, and he’s not yet 50.
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Guthman paid tribute to the great swing bands/orchestras — Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, to name a few. But it became clear that for him Harry James occupies the peak of the pantheon. He began the show with a 1912 sentimental ballad James put his stamp on in 1942 — Eric Coates’s Sleepy Lagoon. Sighs of approval arose like sea-smoke from those lucky enough to remember the romance of it. And so it went: sappy ballads and squealing high notes, energetic orchestral intros with manic episodes like the whole french horn section playing Czardas like Paganini, Stan Kenton-ish arrangements bristling with rhythmic explosions like a blow-torch in a bagful of firecrackers, and high, high above it all — egged on by SNS’s marvellous three-piece trumpet section — Guthman’s trumpet wailing and sailing and slashing up and down the scales like chain lightning. Guthman ended the first set with a aalute to Glenn Miller, a medley of abbreviated excerpts from "12 or 13 of my favourite Glenn Miller hits." He played a lot of such medleys, sometimes just ending the tunes without transition, pausing briefly, then starting the next one over the applause, the audience thinking it was the end of something. In the second half, conductor Dinuk Wijeratne spelled off rhythm-section pianist Don Fraser to play Beautiful Love in a quartet combo with Guthman, bassist David Phillips, and drummer Terry O’Mahoney. They could have played all night.

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Wijeratne is an extremely fine jazz pianist, with a style distinguished by both its thoughtful invention and its transparent simplicity. Guthman changed gears in an instance from show trumpeter to jazz horn-player (on the mellower flugel-horn). Then they all went back to the business of the evening, first with a sweet, cheek-to-cheek version of



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the romantic Besame Mucho, and ending with Louis Prima’s Sing Sing Sing in the Glenn Miller style in which 0’Mahoney delivered a very respectable interpretation of Gene Krupa’s jungle-drum solo.
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