Cab Calloway should be declared a national entertainment-world treasure. Approaching 84, he continues to strut the stage with vigor and enthusiasm.
As the featured artist in the Hollywood Bowl’s Great American Concert Saturday night, Calloway touched the familiar bases in his musical history--from “Minnie the Moocher” (with his “Hi-De Ho” audience exchanges) to “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ ” (from “Porgy and Bess”).
In a society that too often seems to throw away rather than treasure the capacities of its senior members, it would be easy to stress the breaks and quavers in Calloway’s voice, as well as the occasional spots where he missed a cue. But it surely is far more important to point out the maturity and professionalism with which he dramatically incorporated those quavers into his musical lines, and turned the missed cues into opportunities for dance steps and scat rhythms. The result was a performance that superbly illuminated the persistent strength of the creative spirit.
The opening set of American music by Erich Kunzel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale had few redeeming moments--few moments, in fact, that demanded much from anyone’s skills. Surely a program of American music--even on a summer Bowl series--can risk reaching a little deeper than ‘God Bless America” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”? Copland, Ives, Piston, Schuman, anyone?