Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Copeland Davis Redux

Last night we attended a performance in our subscription series to the Florida Sunshine Pops Orchestra, always a delightful time with a fine orchestra backing up, usually, Broadway-tested singers. These performances, including last night's, are normally under the direction of the orchestra's maestro, Richard Hayman, who is now in his nineties and enjoying his well earned reputation as one of the legendary arrangers of songs from the Great American Songbook.

A talented husband and wife team, Bev and Kirby Ward, joined the orchestra to perform a Dancin' and Romancin' program, a fitting one for Valentine's Day, organized around the music of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers era. Ironically, the Wards, unknown to us at the time, were our neighbors when we lived in Weston, CT (they in adjoining Wilton). The story of how they met and became a team is fascinating. They put on quite a show, lots of Gershwin, singing and dancing with a great orchestra behind them, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable and professional performance.

The evening also belonged to the guest artist, Copeland Davis. When we first saw him a couple of years ago, I said "Remember that name, Copeland Davis....I will go out on a limb and predict that Copeland Davis is destined to go way beyond the Florida market." Apparently, since then he's appeared on the Tonight Show as well as Good Morning, America. It's nice to see such a prediction come true.

It seems like Davis raised his level of playing even further, if that is at all possible. With his first piece, Fly Me To the Moon, accompanied by the orchestra, he seemed to devour the piano, attacking it, producing his unique fusion style of classical and jazz. Then he followed with a solo piece, My Funny Valentine (what else on Valentine's Day?), a memorable rendition, the melody so clear within his jazz phrasing. His last piece of the night was Satin Doll. I like the way he begins to play the piano in the process of sitting down, as if he is saying "let me at it." Satin Doll is in my own repertoire, and I play it often as an exercise in dropping the fifth when playing chords in the bass. The difference between my rendition and Copeland Davis' is like comparing a Model T to a Lamborghini.

He is a marvel to hear and to watch. As Richard Hayman joked, but in humor there is much truth, he is able to play at such a level even though his fingers are still attached to his hands. As Davis played his solo, Hayman just stood at the podium shaking his head, saying, at the end, "you never know how Copeland will play a piece until he just does it." He is that kind of musician, unique in every way and with an impressive, upbeat stage presence. Catch one of his performances if you are in South Florida.