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By Wanda McCrae

Now that I've relocated to New York City, I felt it would be a crime against myself to not attend the Father's Day Pan Jazz concert at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. One month in advance I bought myself a ticket in the center of the orchestra section.  By the time the show began, my anticipation had grown almost unbearable; I expected an awesome show, and I was not disappointed.

The program started just after 6 p.m. with a well-executed set by ADLIB Youth Symphony.  I had only heard them at Brooklyn Panorama in previous years, so this was my first chance to hear more of their repertoire.  They appeared to take their performance very seriously--only one or two of them cracked smiles during their set.  I was told they had been working very hard to prepare, and their hard work obviously paid off, as they did a fine job with every piece.  I thought it was both fitting and brave for them to end their set with "We Kinda Music", since Andy Narell, the tune's composer, was up right behind them.  I joined the rest of the audience in enthusiastically applauding them both before and after they took their final bows.

Mr. Narell's energetic set (consisting entirely of his own compositions) began with a spirited rendition of "Kalinda", one of my favorite tracks from his "Live from South Africa" recording.  Some of the finer points of his panmanship were lost in the drums and percussion, but the piano and bass mixes perfectly balanced his pans.  When he introduced "Laventille", some of the members of the audience closest to the stage chided him until he good-naturedly went back to the microphone and added that he had arranged that tune for Women in Steel.  The audience heartily approved of that tune and his others by giving quite an ovation as he and his ensemble ended their set.  He seemed to be just as disappointed as we were, if not more, when he was told he had to end the set earlier than he had planned.

Garvin Blake's set was more laid back, but just as pleasing to the ears.  I had never seen him perform, so it was interesting for me to observe and hear the differences between him and Andy Narell.  The tunes he played were sweet and enticing, inspiring the audience to sing along with his rendition of Sparrow's "Ah Fraid."  His ensemble even incorporated an accordion on his rendition of Duke Ellington's "Caravan", showing, once again, just how well the pan can mix with any assortment of instruments.  He and his ensemble also received a hearty ovation from what appeared to be a nearly full house.

Preceded by driving rhythm and bass, Liam Teague and Arturo Tappin took the stage and blew up the place with TNT, the title track from their duo CD.  Then they soothed our senses with the sweetest rendition of "The Hammer" I have ever heard in my life.  Throughout the set, Mr. Teague set my head a-spinning with his rapid-fire panmanship.  At first, all I could do was sit with my mouth open as his hands flew over his single tenor.  I can see why he is called the "Paganini of Pan!"  Once I got over my amazement at how quickly and accurately he could play, I was able to appreciate the way he and Mr. Tappin blended their instruments' voices to produce music which was both sweet and scintillating.  Most of us in the audience jumped to our feet to loudly cheer and applaud them at the end of their all-too-short set.  (Of course now I must buy their CD, so I can hear more!)

All in all, I was thoroughly pleased with the event.  The venue seemed to be perfectly suited to the show, since it was neither too big nor too small.  The acoustics were very good, particularly for ADLIB's set; I could hear the basses in the back as clearly as I could hear the tenors and seconds in the front.  The drums and percussion were a bit overpowering during the rest of the show, but that is probably more a function of the mix, not the building's acoustics.  There also seemed to be some confusion about how long each ensemble had for their set, with most being told onstage that they had to end right away.  But the MC kept things moving along smoothly, even during the slight delay while the drums were prepared for the final set.  Between the great venue, great turnout, and great performances, taking into account the minor glitches I mentioned, I'd rate the show an "A-".

The MC mentioned Sunday's show was the first of what will be an annual event.  I certainly hope so.

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Date: 06.22.04



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