Carmelo's was crowded on Saturday, and with good reason: For the third night of Anita O'Day's stint, instead of the quartet that had backed her on the previous evenings, a big band provided her accompaniment. In effect, this was a preview of a Carnegie Hall concert May 24, when O'Day will celebrate her 50th anniversary in the music business.
The 16-piece ensemble had been assembled by Roger Neumann, who, in Washington for an inaugural gig, was not able to conduct it. Instead, the singer led the band through its paces for the first few numbers, after which Buddy Bregman took over as conductor to direct five arrangements he had written for two of her record dates in the 1950s.
All of which would have been fine, except that there was literally no rehearsal. "I'll be hearing charts I haven't heard in all these years," O'Day said.
For those who had never seen an actual rehearsal, there was curiosity in hearing her stop the band in mid-tune and call out such instructions as "try it again from Bar 115," or "let's do that ending one more time." Others, having paid an admission fee for what they assumed would be a properly prepared set, may have felt otherwise.