Cab Calloway, the king of Hi De Ho, the Sultan of Scat, jived into Los Angeles on Friday night for one of his too-rare local appearances. Resplendent in an elegant crisp pearl-gray suit, he strode on stage at Loyola Marymount University's Gersten Pavilion primed and ready--a golden-oldie who can still turn on the electricity.
Although he has long been identified with the jazz energies of the Cotton Club, Calloway's real skills are theatrical, rather than improvisational. Like an earlier version of Al Jarreau, he uses jazz rhythms, accents and imagery to create an entertaining and highly volatile stage persona.
Incredibly, at age 79, Calloway has not lost a single volt of his remarkable energy. Accompanied by an enthusiastic 12-piece band of local musicians, he charged through a program that was familiar, but never boring.
"Ol' Man River" and "September Song" were performed at unsentimental up-tempos; a deceptively low-keyed version of "Ain't Necessarily So" explained why George Gershwin used Calloway as the model for the Sportin' Life character in "Porgy and Bess"; "Stormy Weather" and "Blues in the Night" revealed an unerring instinct for finding the heart of a song; and his signature "Minnie the Moocher," with its audience-pleasing Hi De Ho's, showcased a breath control and range that would be remarkable in a performer half his age.
Although billed as "The Cotton Club Revisited: A Musical Review," Calloway's only companion on the program was his daughter, Chris Calloway, a singer with power and sophistication, who deserves to be seen in her own spotlight.