Dan Levinson, Molly Ryan and friends
A holiday special.
Review by: Marty McGinnis
Photos by: Jim Swavely
Last December we had the last Sponsor Club event at the Valley Jazz Club. Once again, we brought Dan Levinson and his songstress wife, Molly Ryan all the way from New York to play at our club. This was the second stop of their 4 day 3 gig Thanksgiving weekend tour through Southern California. They started on Thanksgiving day playing the San Diego Jazz Festival for three days and five sets. More on that in my other review of the SD festival in this issue.
We were honored to host this couple at our club as they have not been in the valley for about two years. The group of musicians today included: Dan Levinson, Clarinet & Saxophone; Molly Ryan, Vocals; Brian Shaw, Trumpet, Dan Barrett, Trombone; Chris Dawson, Piano, John Reynolds, Guitar, Sam Rocha, Bass and Gareth Price, Drums.
The set started with both Dan and Molly singing "I'm An Old Cowhand" featuring the tag line “Yippie-yi-yo-ki-yay” and featured solos all around. After introducing the band, they continued with “Old Man Moon” from the movie “Topper” followed by an upbeat song featuring John Reynolds on vocals and whistling, which he did not mention the name of.
The first set continued with “With My Ship Comes In” with Molly on vocals, then “Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby” with Dan joining Molly on vocals for a nice duet. That was followed by a hot instrumental “Big Butter And Egg Man” with Brian and Dan Barrett doing solos in unison, then “A Song Was Born” from “A Song Is Born” finished out their first set of the afternoon.
The second set started out strong with a fast number featuring drum solos by Gareth Price then Molly came back to the stage with “Get Rhythm In Your Feet And Music In your Soul” followed by a Bing Crosby song “Swinging On A Star”. Then came “Let’s Fly Away”, the feature track from Molly’s last album of the same name which featured all travel related songs.
The set continued with another song featuring John Reynolds “Old Green River”. John once again treating us to his vocal skills.
The next to last song was very different than the normal jazz fair. Most of us know “Rainbow Connection” being sung by a little green frog playing a banjo but this time the banjo part is played by Dan and his clarinet while Molly provided the vocals in a way that I have never heard this childhood classic sung before. It was so beautiful and moving that it gave me goose bumps while listening to the melody fill the room. The place was silent while Molly sang those beautiful lyrics and the band played the song to perfection. You would never guess these guys had never played this chart together before. I was emotionally moved by this performance and I am so glad I have a recording of this once in a lifetime experience to play again and again.
The afternoon concluded with “Happy Endings” from a Shirley Temple Movie “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” after Dan thanked those who helped them get out here and introduced the musicians once again to thunderous applause. At the end of their performance we all gave them a standing ovation they will remember for quite a while.
It was such a treat to have this wonderful couple and group of musicians at our club for a holiday performance I will remember for a very long time. Thanks to all who helped us bring this event possible.