LIVE: David Amram & the Dylan Perrillo Orchestra @ Universal Preservation Hall, 7/17/15
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
In the old days at Caffe Lena, the late Lena Spencer would introduce frequent performer David Amram as “the Renaissance Man of American Music,” and in fact, Amram is at home in many musical settings, whether they be folk based, Latin American based, Native American or symphonic. And he was certainly at home back in Saratoga Springs last month as a special guest with the Dylan Perrillo Orchestra, the Local 518 12-member big band that specializes in performing the music of the ’20s-’40s.
In many ways, the evening was indeed a well-balanced combination of the old and the new. The inaugural concert of the Universal Preservation Hall’s second season was also the first joint project between UPH, Proctors, Caffe Lena and Corey Aldrich’s 2440 Design Studio.
The Dylan Perrillo Orchestra was on the stage alone for the first set, comprised mainly of old standards, many featuring the vocals of Nick Manzella. I have seen the orchestra only in smaller quarters, and the larger performance space of UPH proved to be considerably more conducive to the band’s big sound. They no longer have to hold back their volume and can play with more dynamics, which of course, is really what a big band is all about. Most enjoyable was the sing-along of the old Mills Brothers classic “Glow Worm.”
The tireless 84-year-old Amram played the second set on a wide variety of musical instruments, including congas, dual Native American flutes, French horn and a Chinese instrument known as a hulusi. He was accompanied by the rhythm section of Dylan Perrillo on bass, Kevin Urvalek on drums and Rob Davis on guitar. And throughout the performance the horn and saxophone players from the DPO were also called up join them for various selections.
The show-stopping finale featured Amram and the entire orchestra rendering a barn-burning version of Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow.”
In spite of the heat, humidity and the intermittent rain, it was a fine and mellow evening indeed.