This week, let's take a look at some clips of the Max Weinberg Big Band, who will be in the St. Louis area to perform at 7 p.m. this Thursday, October 21 at the Argosy Alton Casino. Known both for his long tenure as the drummer for singer, guitarist and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, and as the bandleader for late-night TV host Conan O'Brien, Weinberg debuted the 15-piece group last year while on hiatus from O'Brien's show.
With Weinberg having passed on the chance to be part of the comic's upcoming new TBS program, the big band is currently on an extended US tour, showcasing a repertoire significantly influenced by three Bs - Buddy (Rich), (Count) Basie and the Boss (in this case, Springsteen, and not the late trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, whose band members sometimes referred to him by the same nickname). To give you an idea of how they actually come across on the bandstand, we've got clips of four songs, recorded at three different gigs this past June.
In the first video up above, you can hear the MWBB tackle "Basically Blues," a straight-ahead number from Rich's catalog that was recorded during a show at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA. Down below, there's a version of the theme from the short-lived 1950s TV show "M Squad," written by Basie, arranged by Benny Carter and taken from the band's gig at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ.
Below that, there are two tunes from their performance in Newport Beach, CA: a version of "Bugle Call Rag" that revisits the arrangement used by the Rich band and includes a Weinberg drum solo; and a big band take on Springsteen's "Kitty's Back," featuring a solo from tenor saxophonist Joey Berkley.
The overall verdict? Judging from these clips, while they're not exactly breaking any new musical ground, the band is solid and swinging, Weinberg clearly is having a good time, and the audiences seem to be enjoying it as well. For tickets to hear the Max Weinberg Big Band at the Argosy Alton Casino, go here.