A consummate pro who just keeps getting better, Rosemary Clooney was both cool and confident and warm and wooing in her splendid exposition of classy popular songs Friday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
Attired in a dark spangled gown and matching cape that shimmered gray to violet, depending on the color of the spotlight, Clooney presented the Segerstrom Hall audience with a bouquet of evergreens including "It Never Entered My Mind," "What'll I Do," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Tenderly," "It's a Lovely Day" and "I Cried for You."
She also dropped in more arcane tunes like Berlin's "Be Careful, It's My Heart" and Porter's "Why Shouldn't I?," newer material such as Barry Manilow-Johnny Mercer's "When October Goes," and her own pop hits, "Hey There" and "Come On-A-My House."
Since she doesn't take great liberties with melodies nor does she scat-sing, Clooney can't be classified as a jazz singer. Yet she has one quality all jazz singers possess: a superb time-feeling. And during this performance, her timing was impeccable.
Clooney's voice was strongest in its resonant middle register, and she was at her best on the ballads. While she strained slightly to hit high notes in such uptempo numbers as "Fascinatin' Rhythm," "Cheek to Cheek" and "There's No Business Like Show Business," she had no problem with range on the slower, emotive songs such as "Sophisticated Lady" and "What'll I Do?"
Clooney was accompanied by pianist John Oddo, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jake Hanna--a crack trio that provided ideal support--and the Gene Krupa Orchestra, which played Oddo's distinctive, snappy arrangements with vim and vigor. Tenor saxophonist Bob Efford, displaying a thick, breathy sound and quicksilver technique, had several shining moments.
The band, with Jerry McKenzie in the drum chair, played three tame tunes to open the show, but soloists Efford, McKenzie, trombonist Randy Aldcroft and alto saxophonist Kim Richmond gave these flaccid numbers a burst of life.
Tap dancer Gene Bell followed the Krupa crew. He started slowly, using minimal, though very smooth, movement on "Me and My Shadow" and "See You in My Dreams" before climaxing with high steps, whirling turns and other flashy footwork in series of tributes to Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Bill Robinson.