Former ‘Tonight Show ‘ band leader blows them away at SU

Posted: March 23, 2013

The Winchester Star

Famed trumpeter Doc Severinsen, 85, plays with the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra during a Shenandoah Conservatory performance Friday in the Armstrong Concert Hall on the campus of Shenandoah University. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
A sellout crowd fills the Armstrong Concert Hall on the campus of Shenandoah University to hear famed trumpet player Doc Severinsen perform with the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — After all these years, he’s still hitting the right notes.

Doc Severinsen, the longtime bandleader of the NBC Orchestra on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” brought down the house with his signature soaring trumpet solos Friday night in Armstrong Concert Hall on the campus of Shenandoah University.

Severinsen performed with the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra, and although he’s in his mid-80s, he shows no signs of slowing down.

He still sports his gaudy style, playing in a purple blazer, a pink shirt and bright-red pants that matched the color of his face as he blew into his trumpet.

“I’m 85 and I’m still dangerous,” he declared.

He recalled a wistful old tune, “September Song” — sung by Walter Huston in the 1938 Broadway musical “Knickerbocker Holiday” — about growing old while the days dwindle away.

“I’m not buying any of that crap!” Severinsen shouted. “Walter Huston needed to get himself a pair of pink leather pants.”

The Baylock Orchestra and Severinsen played selections arranged by Baylock, including “Over the Rainbow,” “The Beat Goes On” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” — which Severinsen said he thought was an odd way to express affection for someone.

Concert-goers Bob and Nancy Mitchell were thoroughly impressed with Severinsen’s performance.

“He was wonderful,” said Nancy, who watched him often on “The Tonight Show.” “Outstanding.”

“He’s an inspiration,” said her husband.

Severinsen was likewise impressed with Shenandoah University, saying he enjoyed the campus and the cuisine.

“I ate in the food court and I lived through it,” he joked.

The students also caught his eye.

“They’re here to get an education and they’re working on it,” he said. “That’s very nice to see.”

Baylock, the jazz composer-in-residence at Shenandoah Conservatory and chief composer of the 16-member orchestra, said it was a privilege to work with Severinsen. “He’s an American icon.”

The performance was part of Shenandoah University’s Performing Arts Live series.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com