Visiting "Seniors of Note Big Band" Celebrates Their 27th Year

Review by Harvey Barkan
Photos by Jim Swavely

"Jazz seems to be cool again in (California's) Ventura County," was reported a while back in the Ventura County Reporter in "Rebirth of the Cool." Local venues, including restaurants, service clubs, neighborhood bars, and area jazz clubs were places to hear jazz played again.  But jazz and big band music are nothing new for the "Seniors of Note Big Band" from Camarillo, in Ventura County, that was formed in the area 27 years ago, and has played under the leadership of Emily Vaniman since 1999. It's thought to be the longest continuously playing band in the area. For this concert, the band  traveled about 90 minutes south to entertain in the seasonal holiday highlight program of the Valley Jazz Club, In Canoga Park..
Originally founded as an all-senior musician big band, however, over time that policy had to be relaxed to keep the band instrumentally balanced and moving forward with top-notch players. Their renditions of well known, popular tunes were played today with enthusiasm and power, strong on-beat punch and traditional big band sound that quickly perked-up my ears!  These guys and gals demonstrated their skills on tune after tune, honed to perfection through the mandatory full-on weekly practice sessions that leader Emily Vaniman insists upon (so I heard!), that really work! The instrumental ensemble harmonies were precise and beautiful for dancers to follow and listeners to enjoy. A number of solos served as enhancements and demonstrated individual playing skills. The very exacting, tight playing acted almost like another dimension that made for remarkable listening. Clearly, Emily's rehearsal regimen produces results! 
If the Walt Disney creative staff were to update their wonderful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tale, by adding an eighth dwarf, named "Forgetful," I might take it personally, inspired by my difficulty remembering song titles! That's why I particularly appreciate the Seniors of Note policy of announcing each tune just prior to playing it. This eliminates the distraction of trying to identify a very familiar tune that you really know, but your grey matter just isn't cooperating!  This helpful task was handled by band member Scott Yawger, standing at his chair in the trumpet section, also providing other brief interesting information about each tune. Other members of the trumpet section were: Doug Hardie, Ray Linaweaver, and Irv Weiss. Saxophone section: Emily Vaniman, director and alto; Claire Curry, alto; Steve Danchik, tenor; Russ Nestro, tenor; and Derek Povani, baritone. Trombone section: Dave Hickok, Dave Marx, Bob Merkle, and Jim Baldree. Rhythm section: Jerry Millstein, piano; Joe Costello, bass; Dick Hinson, guitar; and Larry Perpoli, drums. These fine musicians deserve mention for their excellent level of ensemble play! Thanks, Emily, for making it happen!
With the sounds of Santa and his reindeer anticipated to be tip-toeing on my roof in only three weeks, some Holiday Season tunes were expected and plentiful, mixed in with big band favorites in the two set extensive program.  Included were: "Winter Wonderland," "Days of Wine and Roses," "That Old Black Magic," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "The Color Blue," and "It's So Nice." Vocals were all sung by Scott Yawger, again from the trumpet section, including ""White Christmas," "Start Singin' The Blues," and "Christmas Day In The City,"  Some of my favorites came at the end of the program, and included: "A Beautiful Friendship" and "I'll See You In My Dreams," a personal favorite.
The Seniors of Note accomplished their mission in impressive fashion, with a remarkable performance that brought enjoyment and entertainment to the audience, as well as themselves, judging by the post concert reactions. This is what I consider an "honest love of music band," originally formed for senior musicians just for the joy of playing and love of creating music and sharing it, not for a commercial enterprise.  Director Emily Vaniman explained, "We started as a senior only group, but as members became ill or unable to drive, we have acquired some younger players."  Make no mistake about their level of playing and presentation, this was a skilled and enjoyable big band concert, with admirable playing and coordination --- and with just a pinch of sugar added!

A not for profit organization dedicated to promoting Jazz in the San Fernando Valley.


Review of

Ginger & Her Hoosier Daddy’s

October 7, 2018

 Wow! You should have been there on this Sunday afternoon at the Valley Jazz Club’s presentation of Ginger & Her Hoosier Daddy’s.  The first thing that hit you was the ambiance in the ballroom of the Canoga Park Elk’s Lodge.  The room was full of round tables seating 8, surrounded by blue walls and brightened by strings of lights hanging overhead.  The large stage showcased the musicians, while their music was enhanced by our superb sound system, comprising a microphone for each player and vocalist, each modulated by Marty McGinnis on his computer-assisted mixing console and projected by a tower of Bose speakers on each side of the stage.

As the band took to the stage your eyes were uncontrollably attracted to Ginger Pauley in her sparkling fringed blue roaring-twenties dress enhanced by a long red boa hanging down each side from her neck and golden shoes.  Her 5 piece band consisted of Paul Kosmala on piano, John Hatton on stand up bass, Bobby Barron on drums, C. J. Sams on trumpet and Phil Krawzak on clarinet and tenor saxophone.  The musicians wore variously covered shirts and ties and all wore shoes.

The group started with a spirited fast-tempo instrumental called Dipper Mouth Blues that woke the audience and stopped their usual conversation.  Every instrument had a part to play and they played flawlessly.

The next tune was I Double Dare You — one of 6 featuring vocal performances — by Ginger in her clear alto voice, pronouncing every word distinctly so that even my old hearing-aided ears could understand it.  This also featured piano and bass solos.

Sweet Georgia Brown was the only piece that featured a vocal solo by trumpet player C. J. Sams.  It was followed by Daddy, Flat Foot Floogie, Ain’t She Sweet and shake That Thing.  Then Ginger’s band started playing some slower, more danceable songs like Sentimental Journey, You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me, When You’re Smiling and finally, Blues In The Night.  The dance floor was actually crowded, with 11 or 12 couples swinging to this great music.  Once again Ginger Pauley brought a fantastic band and her marvelous vocal performance to our Valley Jazz Club. 

—- Bob Berman