The Tommy Igoe Big Band

RRazz Room
San Francisco, CA
Something very important is happening at the RRazz Room on Mondays and not a single note is being sung. Bandleader and drummer extraordinaire Tommy Igoe, whose NYC Birdland shows have become the stuff of legend, has relocated to SF and assembled a collection of the Bay Area’s finest musicians for a series of concerts exalting the explosive big band sound seldom heard in this town. And if last night’s show was any indication, we’re in for some spectacular, even groundbreaking, events.

Igoe, a drummer since age two, has had a stellar career, and now sells out his weekly Birdland shows in addition to recording, working on Broadway and teaching the drums. Brash and confidant, he is not shocked at the success of his endeavors. "The reaction to this band has been overwhelming," says Tommy. "We're dedicated to bringing large-ensemble jazz to a new 21st century audience and it's obvious that music lovers have been waiting for a band like this. The fans are blown away and they can't get enough." Indeed, Monday’s audience went bonkers right from the opening number and, whith each successive number, the atmosphere in the RRazz  Room turned electric.

The 12-piece horn section (five saxes, three trombones, four trumpets), electric bass and piano worked feverishly to accompany Igoe’s phenomenal drumming style as they ran through their arrangements.  Two Michel Camilo numbers, “Why Not?,” a Latin jazz standard, and “One More Once,” a funky cha-cha, saw remarkable solo after solo by these accomplished musicians.  Two Thad Jones tunes highlighted this band’s unique sound, both big and brassy and yet, fragile and soft.  “The Deacon,” covered by Count Basie, is an easy, swinging blues number, while the melodic “A Child Is Born,” with its muted trumpets and fine piano work by Chad Shulman, was delicate and subtle. Paquita D’Rivera’s arrangement of the Venezuelan folk song “Alma Llanera” featured Igoe doing what he does best, pounding the skins with a style reminiscent of Buddy Rich, Dick Cully and Gene Krupa, with heavy influence by his late father, Sonny Igoe. The finale of Chick Corea’s Latin jazz “La Fiesta” had the crowd positively giddy with joy. I haven’t seen a reaction to a performance at the RRazz Room quite like this.

With a huge grin and his blonde hair flopping around, Igoe is ecstatic onstage, guiding his band through some truly remarkable spaces.  Both educating and surprising his audience with sizzling arrangements and seldom heard gems, he has something quite special in store for his new legion of San Francisco fans.

The Tommy Igoe Big Band continues its run April 9, 16, 23, 30; May 7; June 11, 18, 25; July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; August 6, 13, 20, 27.

Steve Murray
Cabaret Scenes
April 9, 2012
www.cabaretscenes.org