LONG BEACH SYMPHONY, MAY12, 2018
By Harry Saltzgaver, Music Columnist
Matt Catingub, the versatile conductor, singer and pianist, had the baton, and kept it pointed at the orchestra for a shortened first half.
Even though he only had five songs to do it, Catingub showed again why Long Beach keeps asking him back to POPS! concerts. He is friendly, even down-home with his patter, then turns into a virtuoso musician when the baton comes down. He's carried more than one POPS! concert by himself more than successfully.
BUFFALO PHILHARMONIC, MAY 26, 2017
By Mary Kunz Goldman http://buffalonews.com
Enthusiasm engulfs BPO Memorial Day concert.
Matt Catingub was an energetic figure leading the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Friday morning's "Swingin' Stars and Stripes," the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Memorial Day concert, drew a huge crowd. There were lots of little kids and from the clamor before the concert, you would have thought you were at a baseball game. And that was just the beginning. Once the concert began, people kept rising to their feet.
It happened for the first time when guest artist Anita Hall sang the daylights out of the rousing "God Bless the U.S.A.," which is turning into a kind of modern national anthem. In the concert's second half, everyone rose spontaneously again to "America the Beautiful" -- and then after that to a show-stopping take on "God Bless America." There were numerous veterans in attendance, and you could tell the depth of feeling from all of this getting up and down. One listener joked, "It's like Catholic Mass."
Guest pops conductor Matt Catingub is at the helm of this sparkling and enjoyable concert.Memorial Day concerts have been evolving. They are less solemn than they might have been once upon a time. The program, which was announced from the stage, had its reflective moments. But it included a lot of big-band fanfare. It also sported lots of lighthearted, World War II- era swing. Songs such as "It Had To Be You," "Night and Day" and "Over the Rainbow" could make you think of the people who traveled the world entertaining the troops.
There was no podium, so as to give Catingub room. He is a kind of one-stop-shopping entertainer. He can do it all, and he does. Forget the baton -- he leads the BPO like a big band. Conducting "Take Me Out To the Ball Game," he looked as if he were throwing pitches.His graceful, economical jazz piano added zip and poetry. There were tight, knockout arrangements, including a breakneck "Dearly Beloved" and a sizzling "Honeysuckle Rose."
Catingub and Hall work together frequently and have it together. The concert featured eight other equally important guest stars. These were the Fredonia Voices, a group from SUNY Fredonia State College assembled and coached by baritone sax player Bruce Johnstone, who was on hand for this concert.
God knows how Johnstone gets these kids together, gets them to show up for rehearsals, and does everything else necessary to turn them into the miracle they are. They sing in impeccable synch. Their retro harmonies, in particular, were a delight. When they sang Nat "King" Cole's "Funny," it was like taking a time machine back to 1960.
Hall sang a couple of unexpected numbers and made them work. The suave "Change Partners" was sweet as a song sung by a woman to a man, instead of the other way around. "Seventy-Six Trombones" took on a new twist, aided and abetted by the BPO's trombones. But where was the timpani when the song mentioned the booming timpani? Boom out those drums on Saturday night, is my suggestion.
I have one other suggestion, too. The Fredonia Singers did a great job whipping up the crowd in "When the Saints Go Marching In." Next time around, how about letting them off the stage and sending them into the crowd? When the singers go marching in! I think folks would go wild.
LONG BEACH SYMPHONY, OCTOBER 15, 2016
By Jim Ruggirello, Music Columnist
Suppose they gave a concert and a party broke out?
That’s what it felt like at the Arena Saturday night, when the Long Beach Symphony opened its POPS! season with “Monster Mash Up!”
It was a wild evening, fast and loud and loads of fun. Orchestra and audience were in costume; Jason from “Friday the 13th” played fourth horn, for example, and concertmaster Roger Willkie’s antennae were adorable.
Those looking for musical substance should look elsewhere, that wasn’t what this evening was about. The program consisted of TV and movie themes, medleys, and pop songs.
…what made the show work, other than the rampant silliness, was the sheer talent onstage. Presiding over it all was Matt Catingub, now a familiar figure on our POPS! podium, who not only conducted but sang, played the piano and saxophone, and did all the arrangements, including a very interesting take on the national anthem. Impressive.
Equally impressive were Steve Moretti, a drummer of consummate skill, who also sang. There was also a terrific guitarist, Andrew Synowiec (no wonder I didn’t catch the name when the conductor announced it), featured on a number of songs, and singer Colby Benson made a welcome return, singing both solo and in duet with the omnipresent Catingub.
But wait, as they say, there was more.
Monsters from the Queen Mary Dark Harbor showed up, as did the Ghostbusters. We did the “Time Warp” with guest vocalists Everjohn Feliciano, Susan Huckle and Laurnae Yue Wilkerson. Jamieson Price spookily intoned the Vincent Price narration from “Thriller” as Benson vocalized. Spiderman, Batman, The Addams Family, The Munsters, you name it, all in Catingub’s vibrant arrangements.
There was a guest guest conductor, one Robert Garcia, who donned a cape to conduct John Williams’ iconic suite from “Superman,” which may have been the most substantial thing on the program. I’m not so sure about Garcia’s conducting technique, but he showed definite leadership ability.
This Catingub is a find. He presides with an easy affability that is immediately engaging, and contributes mightily to the evening’s enjoyment. Immensely talented, he also knows his stuff, exhibiting a wide range of musical knowledge and conducting with stylish authority. He’s been on our POPS! podium for a number of years now, and all of his concerts have been energetic, fun and audience-friendly.
The LBSO hasn’t had a Principal POPS! Conductor since Steven Reineke left, and at times it has shown. Musical leadership is a good thing, and Matt Catingub would seem to be a prime candidate.
If he’s not available, there’s always that Garcia fellow.
LONG BEACH SYMPHONY, May 14, 2016
By Jim Ruggirello, Long Beach Gazettes
I didn’t win the car.
But everything else about the Long Beach Symphony POPS! season finale the other night was terrific, an unalloyed delight that was a throwback in many ways.
Just like we remember from the good old Krajewski days, the orchestra was attired to fit with the theme of the concert, in this case “A Portrait of Paradise,” meaning aloha shirts and floral prints. This set the tone for the entire evening, which was fun, casual, and tropical. Mainly fun.
The music was good, too. We were in the capable hands of Matt Catingub, maybe my favorite among the regular guests on our POPS! podium. Catingub is one talented son of a gun; he sings very well, he plays the piano very well, and I’ve heard him play the saxophone very well. He also conducts with suave assurance, and serves with engaging ease as master of ceremonies.
Catingub started things off with a very different, lovely and lyrical take on the national anthem, which let us know we were in for something special. The first half program was another throwback, a potpourri of loosely Hawaiian-themed stuff. There were songs (a jazzy “Pearly Shells,” “Waikiki,” “Tiny Bubbles” and Catingub channeling his inner Iz on “Over the Rainbow”), an orchestral work by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro (and we learned the correct pronunciation of “ukulele”), and of course the theme from “Hawaii 5-0”.
A rising star named Colby Benson sang a few songs made famous by artists from the islands (Bette Midler, Yvonne Eliman, Bruno Mars), people danced, and the energy in the room was infectious. Standing ovations are nothing new, but I can’t remember one after the first half before.
And I used to snark about having the guest artists not come out until the second half. Silly me. First with Oleta Adams at the David Benoit concert, and now with the Hawaiian group HAPA on this one, the second half of the concert took things to a whole new level of excitement and enjoyment.
That second half was something else. HAPA, consisting of guitarists Barry Flanagan and Kapono Nā’ili’ili, bassist Tarvin Lono Makia and hula dancer Chantelle, performed an amazing set, some on their own, some with orchestra. Benson came back, and added her considerable talent to a couple of numbers. Others featured a phenomenal guest guitarist named Shawn Ishimoto. Throughout both halves of the concert, drummer Steve Moretti provided dazzling licks and driving energy. Talent and genius poured from the stage.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the concert ended with Catingub’s arrangement of “Purple Rain.” The large and enthusiastic crowd, already having the time of their lives, justifiably went nuts.
This entire POPS! season has been one to remember, a definite cut above its predecessors and hopefully a portent of great things to come. And this last concert was one of the best ever.
OMAHA WORLD HERALD, APRIL 10, 2016
Matt Catingub’s annual spell of Omaha musical magic had a Latin sparkle — and he conjured it for Omaha’s orchestra first.
In his previous guest-conductor visits, Catingub energized the Omaha Symphony and excited audiences by drawing from a deep catalogue of rock and pop arrangements. Saturday night, however, marked the premiere of Catingub’s new “Latin Pop Revolution” show tracing south-of-the-border influences on big-band jazz, 1960s and ’70s rock and the dance tunes of more recent decades.
The Kiewit Recital Hall wasn’t as full as it was on Catingub’s other visits, but those who left seats empty were the losers. Catingub, singer Anita Hall and drummer Steve Moretti once again seamlessly blended into their host ensemble, which amplified their infectious joy and good humor into waves of musical fun and warmth rolling throughout the hall.
It started, as always, with Catingub’s knack for turning an orchestra into the biggest of big bands or suggesting that rock bands ought to always have large string and wind sections. Every “chart” integrated every section into the overall sound so well that one might never again hear “Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman” or even Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” without wondering where the other instruments are.
After all his visits to Omaha, Catingub knows his hosts very well. He told the audience that “almost every piece of music here was written just for tonight” — and there indeed were many passages that seemed to play to the strengths of this symphonys individual sections or players.
When Catingub opened the intricate “Waters of March,” which mainly featured Hall’s enticing vocals, he called on principal flutist Maria Harding to double his introductory piano passage with a piercing piccolo. And as Moretti laid into his drum set at the end of “Conga,” the climax of a three-song Miami Sound Machine medley, his intense tom-tom riffs were deeply enhanced by the symphony’s percussion section wailing right along with him.
Another example of creativity came when Catingub combined “Suavecito,” a 1972 one-hit wonder by Malo, with Sugar Ray’s strangely compatible “Every Morning” from 1999. It seems, Catingub told the audience, that Sugar Ray “kind of borrowed” the earlier song — which he proved by tightly weaving the two together so that a first-time listener would have difficulty telling they were written a quarter-century apart.
Delightful vocal moments abounded as well. Catingub had immense fun arranging, conducting and singing Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” which he dubbed “one of the silliest songs of all time.” When he and Hall reached the final chorus of Sergio Mendes’ “Never Gonna Let You Go,” they joined hands and sang the climactic duet face to face, bringing cheers from the crowd. And Hall not only effectively channeled Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez but also tapped her deepest emotional wells in singing Christina Aguilera’s haunting 2006 ballad “Hurt.”
As he opened the second act, Catingub noted that he and his friends will be back next year with another new show in the rhythm-and-blues vein of Earth, Wind and Fire, the Commodores and others. Omahans and their symphony are all but certain to welcome him any time he drops by.
OMAHA WORLD HERALD, OCTOBER 11, 2015
Holland Center performances these World-Herald reviewers will never forget. The Holland Performing Arts Center has played host to many memorable performances. The World-Herald asked three writers who have reviewed concerts there during the past decade to reminisce about their favorites.
Todd von Kampen:
Omaha’s orchestra knows how to swing and rock the house no matter who leads it, but never as strongly in my hearing as with guest conductor Matt Catingub in a trio of programs of 1970s hits (May 2012, January 2014 and March 2015). A master arranger, he so integrates the ensemble with its guest stars and brings such joy to the stage that neither audiences nor performers want his shows to end.
LONG BEACH SYMPHONY, MARCH 28, 2015
Beautiful POPS Sound
By Harry Saltzgaver, Executive Editor
He had rhythm. He had music.
Who can ask for anything more?
Matt Catingub returned to Long Beach Saturday night to lead the Long Beach Symphony through a POPS! concert he called Rhythms of the Night. Catingub keeps his song list a secret from everyone but the musicians, so every tune came as a surprise. The only hint in the program was the subtitle, “Songs and Rhythms from around the world.”
That journey started off pretty slowly, with a Ray Charles instrumental. Momentum began to build with the above-referenced Gershwin tune “I’ve Got Rhythm,” but stayed at a walking pace as Catingub warmed up his singing pipes on “Old Man Trouble.”
On the plus side, the orchestra was in the spotlight from the get-go, unlike other POPS! concerts that have revolved around a guest artist. A rather unusual seating arrangement put all of the strings behind a clear screen, presumably so Catingub could hear his piano when he sat down to play. But the section received its fair share of attention.
The audience became fully engaged when LBSO’s principal trombonist Alexander Iles was featured in Catingub’s arrangement of the French “C’est Si Bon.” Catingub’s musical collaborator and award-winning drummer Steve Moretti gave the audience a taste of the second half in a spritely number called “Tokada,” and Catingub took the audience to his Hawaiian home with the iconic “Hawaii Five-O” theme.
The around the world subtext played more strongly in the second half, with reggae, Jamaican, Brazilian and more. A never-to-be-repeated— and never to-be-forgotten — moment took place when the string section provided the whistle part of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Roger Wilke doing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Now that’s a real POPS! moment.
The strings also were strong in an amazingly faithful rendition of the band Toto’s mega-hit “Africa,” and were downright lush in the iconic “Girl From Ipanema.” Back to “Africa” for a moment. I don’t pretend to understand the technology, but some electronic tinkering made Catingub and Moretti sound like an entire choir. Impressive, and it brought the crowd to its collective feet.
Moretti had them standing again with a two-minute solo on a Sergio Mendes number called Bim Bom 2015. Catingub also brought in guitar player Andrew Synowiec, who got his share of applause with a couple of solos. Unfortunately, some lateness in amplifier switching had him playing to himself for the first several bars not once, but twice.
Catingub ended the night of songs and rhythms around the world by going out of this world in an arrangement called Millenium Swing that included a fair chunk of the theme from “2001, A Space Odyssey.” He literally left the crowd wanting more, with no encore.
According to the program notes, Catingub is making a name for himself by reinventing the POPS orchestral format to be more fun and accessible. He did that Saturday by allowing the LBSO to shine right along with his guest artists.
And he had rhythm. Who could ask for anything more?
OMAHA SYMPHONY, MARCH 21, 2015
Matt Catingub, Omaha Symphony a must-see show
By Todd von Kampen / World-Herald Correspondent
Flaming-hot rock and pure musical magic have become commonplace when conductor/pianist Matt Catingub and his friends visit the Omaha Symphony.
The Holland Performing Arts Center filled to the top tier Saturday night for Catingub, the former Rosemary Clooney bandleader doing his fourth guest stint with the symphony — and third 1970s tribute show — in just over three years.
Two hours later, no one wanted to leave. The orchestra and Catingub, joined once again by drummer Steve Moretti and vocalist Anita Hall, came out smoking on the first song, the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It to the Streets.” For the rest of the night, the musicians performed as one with fire, style and joy, whether the tune was a slow ballad or high-energy rock or disco.
In short, this particular musical combination has become a can’t-miss attraction whenever it forms. In discussing the reasons for this, it must be stressed that the Holland has hosted many unforgettable concerts by Omaha’s orchestra. But when it comes to rock music — perhaps the hardest genre to adapt to the orchestral setting — Catingub’s arrangements surely have a special appeal to this ensemble.
Simply put, his arrangements treat the orchestra as a full partner. He doesn’t treat the strings and wind instruments as mere aural background while the singers and rhythm section do what rock bands do. He creates a single, integrated sound that makes listeners think, “This tune was great when it was on the radio — but, wow, what if it had sounded like this?”
It also helps, of course, that Catingub and his regular musical partners so evidently enjoy every moment they perform. Their passion and bubbly personalities rub off on fellow performers as deeply as they enchant the audience. Not only that, but Hall and Moretti have special musical gifts that leave their listeners in awe.
Hall displayed a stunning versatility of musical styles as Catingub’s ’70s program roamed up and down the decade. She matched the deep, broad quality of disco singer Alicia Bridges’ voice in “I Love the Nightlife” but was sweet and amazingly high on the Minnie Riperton hit “Lovin’ You.” The latter tune features a series of “oohs” that pierces the sound barrier every time it peaks — and Hall reached that peak every time.
Moretti played the drums with a fierce passion throughout, but he especially turned heads with his drum solo on a medley of Paul McCartney’s “Jet” and “Band on the Run.” While holding one hand and drumstick up in the air, Moretti pulled off a one-handed snare drumroll while keeping his cymbal “hi-hat” in constant motion with his foot pedal.
The symphony’s trumpet section was showcased when the second act opened with a medley of horn-driven Top 40 hits, including Herb Alpert’s “Rise,” Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” and Maynard Ferguson’s version of “Gonna Fly Now.”
A full saxophone section augmented the brass for the evening, giving local musicians Darren Pettit (tenor sax) and Ken Janak (alto sax) opportunities for hot solos. Omaha guitarist Ron Cooley, who filled out the rhythm section with veteran symphony bassist James Giles, turned in several wailing rock-guitar solos of his own.
Unfortunately for local concertgoers, Saturday night’s concert was a one-night stand. But Catingub’s name appears on the symphony’s newly released 2015-16 concert lineup. With such chemistry between host and guest performers, annual visits make perfect sense.
BUFFALO PHILHARMONIC, NOVEMBER 8, 2014
Sensational night at Kleinhans – with Vegas and Fredonia influences
By Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalonews.com
Matt Catingub, who conducted a show called “Glorious Gershwin” Saturday night at Kleinhans Music Hall, is a one-man band all on his own. He can play the sax – Saturday, he contributed a competent sax solo to “Summertime.” He can play the piano. He can sing.
Best of all, he can do Louis Prima.
The highlight of Saturday’s excellent concert, many will agree, came when Catingub joined singer Anita Hall at center stage and began talking about the golden days of Vegas when you would wind up the night in the lounge listening to Prima and Keely Smith.
“Now we’re going to do what they did,” he said.
He can’t, you are thinking. He is not going to do that. But he did!
And he did it masterfully. Catingub looks like Prima, come to think of it, and perhaps he has been polishing this act over the years. In any case, he nailed it, to the tune of an ebullient “Embraceable You.” It was hilarious. Hall, bless her heart, went gamely along with the gag. She was dressed as Keely Smith used to dress, in a flared knee-length skirt, and she played it straight as Catingub hammed it up. The big crowd was in stitches.
The whole night was fun in a wide variety of ways.
Catingub, who last conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in June, is one of the maestros who might end up as our next principal pops conductor. He has the goods. Though his background is Hawaiian – he is the son of singer Mavis Rivers, who was known as Polynesia’s First Lady of Song – he hails from Las Vegas. He’s a fine entertainer and can concoct the kind of variety show that Marvin Hamlisch used to give us.
Hall, who also appeared with him in June, gave engaging and upbeat performances of a wealth of those wonderful George Gershwin tunes, including “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “A Foggy Day in London Town” and “I’ve Got a Crush On You.”
In a delightful surprise move, an octet of students from Fredonia appeared as if by magic in the second half and sang three numbers. Catingub called them the Fredonia Singers, the program called them the Fredonia Voices, and whoever they are, they are probably part of the popular wave of collegiate a cappella groups. Amazingly, this was reportedly their first public performance. They were terrific – smooth, suave and tight as they crooned “Soon” and “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon For New York,” from “Porgy and Bess.” Catingub sang the lead in that one, scooting into their midst with comic grace. After that, the Fredonians gave us “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” with a debonair 1940s feel.
Somewhere along the line, we got to hear a previously unheard Gershwin song that cabaret artist Michael Feinstein supposedly slipped to Catingub. Bruce Johnstone played it on baritone sax. We also got to hear the uplifting romantic theme from “An American in Paris” complete with the previously unpublished lyrics by Ira Gershwin, sung by Catingub and his drummer, Steve Moretti. We heard some great playing from the BPO’s own Sal Andolina. What with all this excitement, it was easy to forget there was a featured soloist. That was pianist Kevin Cole, who played “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Cole is a relatively low-key performer. His modesty is part of his charm. He began the Rhapsody with classical sensibilities, but as the piece went on it gained swing and momentum. The BPO, too, made the most of the moments of soaring romance. Speaking of which, the famous introductory clarinet solo – I am figuring it was played by John Fullam, the BPO’s principal clarinetist – was tremendously down-and-dirty, as thrilling as I have ever heard it. The whole piece got a big hand. After that Cole accompanied Hall in “Someone To Watch Over Me.”
’S wonderful, as the Gershwin song goes. ’S marvelous. ’S one night only, so if you missed it, you’ll have to wait till next time Catingub visits.
With luck, it’ll be soon.
GLENDALE POPS, JUNE 21, 2014
By Steve Chagolian, Variety
Anybody who’s seen Martin Short’s shorts — “Scenes From an Idiot’s Marriage,” in which he parodies his hero Jerry Lewis as directed by Ingmar Bergman,” or “I Married Monte,” a hilarious take on ’50s TV sitcoms starring Short’s version of Montgomery Clift — knows this unique talent’s capacity for genius.
At the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Saturday night, the multi-disciplined comedian revealed flashes of that genius during “An Evening with Martin Short & the Glendale Pops,” a show for which he shared the stage with the remarkably nimble orchestra conducted by Matt Catingub that serves as the Glendale Arts house band of sorts.
During a night billed as the grand reopening of the Alex after a $6 million backstage expansion, it was Catingub & Co. who kicked things off with a series of numbers that displayed the band’s dexterous versatility and foreshadowed the retro sensibility of the show, a kind of one-man Rat Pack Vegas review. Whether it was the Jones/Cahn standard “It Had to Be You” or a jazzed-up version of Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” the Glendale Pops turned the clock back to a time when Nelson Riddle and Count Basie led bands that backed the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, another Short hero.
GLENDALE POPS, JUNE 21, 2014
By Paula Edelstein, LA Music Examiner
Glendale Arts celebrated the completion of the landmark Alex Theatre’s multi-million dollar expansion and renovation with a special evening of music, comedy, song and dance at the Theatre’s Grand reopening on Saturday, June 21st. Martin Short, the Emmy and Tony Award-winning entertainer, performed an energetic and hilarious combination of songs and comedic sketches accompanied by Matt Catingub, Artistic
Director/Conductor of the Glendale Pops Orchestra.
Matt Catingub and the Glendale Pops Orchestra opened the evening with several great jazz compositions. While leading the orchestra Catingub sang “It Had To Be You” which featured a great guitar solo by Andrew Synowiec. They followed up with a rousing version of jazz trumpeter Nicholas Payton’s composition “Ziggaboogaloo” featuring trumpeter Bob Summers and tenor saxophonist Jeff Driskell. Marcus Miller’s “Run For Cover” received a great orchestral interpretation with soloing from rhythm bass guitarist Kevin Axt while the GPO’s exceptional arrangement of Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" (better known as the fanfare/theme used in “2001: A Space Odyssey”) garnered them a standing ovation.
BUFFALO PHILHARMONIC, MAY 3, 2014
Big Band Salute has Kleinhans all aglow. Guest conductor brings dancers to their feet
By Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Big Band Salute,” conducted by Matt Catingub, left us with at least one magical memory.
That happened when Catingub played “Moonglow,” a standard immortalized by Artie Shaw, and invited the packed house to dance. And some people did.
A cheer went up as a few couples ventured into the space in front of the stage. Then, after a few bars, other people got brave. A graceful silver-haired couple began dancing in the balcony. And further back, dozens of teenagers began rising to their feet. The teens were dressed to the nines. They had put on the ritz to perform in the Mary Seaton Room beforehand. Gallantly, the guys escorted the girls into the aisles, and they, too, danced to Artie Shaw’s “Moonglow.”
How sweet was that? Catingub had bridged the generations.
Catingub, who is of Polynesian descent, is the son of Samoan- born Capitol Records singer Mavis Rivers. He is the director of the Hawaii Pops, and he is one of the artists said to be in the running for the post of BPO principal pops conductor. This concert, his first appearance in Buffalo, set the bar pretty high.
The stage of Kleinhans Music Hall looked different from the way it usually looks. The brass were to the right. In the back were the horns, with principal Jacek Muzyk far right by the door, and in front were the prime big band players, including BPO saxophonist and clarinetist Sal Andolina, God’s gift to jazz- minded guest conductors. Meanwhile, the strings were all on the left side of the stage.
It must have been an interesting change of pace for the musicians, and they seemed to enjoy it. The atmosphere was alert and alive.
The night began with a zesty take on the Glenn Miller classic “In the Mood,” with a nice solo by Andolina, and then Catingub sat at the piano and crooned “It Had to be You.” “Did anyone dance?” he asked when he was through. He sighed, seeing the answer was no. “I’ll get you. I’ll get you,” he promised, and of course, he did.
For the next number, “I Love Paris,” he introduced singer Anita Hall. In a beautiful sea-green gown with a flower in her hair, she looked the part of the “girl singer” (to use a term beloved by Catingub’s late colleague Rosemary Clooney). Jazz might not be her first language but she sang very well, with a smooth delivery and upbeat personality. The act is polished. In “I Love Paris,” it was cute how Catingub played a robust solo and then tossed the song back to her, like a football. She caught it nicely.
“Stella By Starlight” came next, and then “All Of Me,” with a smoking solo by tenor saxophonist Andy Weinzler, a name known from local venues including The Buffalo News’ Jazz at the Albright-Knox festival.
A medley that paid homage to Clooney was a winner. Catingub used to travel with her, near the end of her life. The songs ranged from “Tenderly” to “White Christmas.” Catingub sang “Come On-A My House,” with gusto, and then yielded the stage to a splashy drum solo by drummer Steve Moretti. When the orchestra kicked in again, the musicians got in on the act, yelling lyrics on cue.
Catingub made good use of the orchestra. The arrangements were excellent. “Moonglow” was a stunner, with the strings sighing and smooth, seamless brass. Hall, re-emerging in a long dark gown, sang a “Blue Skies” that shone with honking horns and artful touches from Mike Moser on guitar. Even “Mack the Knife,” dull in the wrong hands, was sharp and shiny with deep, growling trombones. The night ended with a sultry “Take the ‘A’ Train,” which Catingub and Hall sang as a witty duet.
Catingub will be back in November for a Gershwin show with pianist Kevin Cole.
Is it too early to start looking forward to it?
OMAHA SYMPHONY, JANUARY 18, 2014
By Todd von Kampen
Symphony doesn’t take a backseat to thrilling visitors
It surely must be fun to be part of the Omaha Symphony when Matt Catingub leads a Symphony Rocks concert.
It’s certainly a joy to hear them. Musical magic from the 1970s returned to the Holland Performing Arts Center Saturday night as guest conductor-pianist Catingub, vocalist Anita Hall and drummer Steve Moretti grooved with the symphony to the hits of jazz-rock giants Blood Sweat & Tears, Steely Dan and Chicago.
The two-hour show was a true reunion — not a simple return visit for the three visiting artists who thrilled the Holland with a broader-based ’70s concert in May 2012. For when Catingub comes to town and opens his bottomless cabinet of pop, rock and jazz arrangements, he and his guests are bound to become part of the symphony — not performers in front of it.
This observation isn’t at all meant to denigrate the tribute bands and other guest performers who appear each year in the Symphony Rocks and Symphony Pops series. All of them turn in highly professional performances, and some also excite the audience. But, all too often, the singers and rhythm section dominate the sound while the orchestra’s talents and versatility are wasted, if not left redundant.
Catingub doesn’t put music together that way. His arrangements truly integrate the orchestra, rhythm section and vocalists so all are critical to each song’s success. He gives familiar melodies or signature solo “riffs” to different orchestral sections without disturbing the groove that put a song in the Top 40 in the first place.
His knack for making every musician on stage a full partner in the performance was evident as early as the evening’s second song, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.” As the first act wrapped up a trio of Blood Sweat & Tears tunes and moved through the best of the Steely Dan catalog, audience members in the first few rows could see as well as hear how much symphony members were enjoying the gig. As for examples of letting the orchestra shine, well, who could have imagined using a rumbling solo bass trombone (played by Jay Wise) to present an iconic riff at the end of Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now”? His was the most unusual of a series of hot solos from the symphony’s ranks, including Darren Pettit and Ken Janak on saxophone, Mike Gurciullo on trumpet and Jason Stromquist on trombone.
During the all-Chicago second act and encore, the ensemble’s chemistry was wafting all through the Peter Kiewit Concert Hall. Much of the radiance came from Anita Hall, whose stunning outfits merely complemented her confident, sultry singing style that evokes the best of Toni Tennille and Melissa Manchester. She and Catingub split the vocals and combined for impressive duets.
Even when Catingub’s arrangements take a song somewhere new, the result rings true. He opened Chicago’s “Color My World” with a shimmering, poignant string variation, then personally played a mere snippet of the familiar piano arpeggio. The score settled into a pleasing jazz-ballad groove featuring cool electric-bass stylings from James Giles, a fixture in the symphony’s string-bass section for more than three decades.
Drummer Moretti lay down powerful beats throughout, capped by an amazing solo at the end of Steely Dan’s “Aja” to end the first act. Local guitarist Jeff Scheffler superbly rounded out the rhythm section.
GRAND RAPIDS SYMPHONY, JULY 26, 2013
M Live Michigan
By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
The Grand Rapids Symphony brought the stars -- Whitney Houston, Eagles, Journey, and a lot more – out to Cannonsburg Ski Area. Music from Glenn Miller to Madonna filled the air, and a big crowd spread out over the grounds to do the twist and the hustle at the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Picnic Pops.
“Gotta Dance!” was the title of the show, and the Thursday’s audience of 3,440 got the message.
Songs such as KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way (I Like It) had people on their feet soon enough. People love dance music, people love to watch people dance, but most of all, people love to dance.
“Tonight, from this moment on,” guest conductor Matt Catingub said at the start of the show, “if you feel like dancing, get up and dance.” Catingub created the show especially for the Grand Rapids Symphony, spanning music from the 1940s into the 1990s, including Ray Charles’ instrumental, “One Mint Julep” and Richie Valens’ “La Bamba.”
An ambitious effort any way you slice it. Its beta test went well, thanks to an orchestra, a big band and a few rock musicians all rolled into one ensemble that was able to carry off Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way” and Carlos Santana’s “Smooth” all on the same show.
Catingub’s a quintuple threat as arranger, conductor, singer, pianist and saxophonist. He nailed Bill Hailey singing “Rock Around the Clock” and did a pretty good Nat King Cole on “Unforgettable.”
Not all of the music was a dance number, and Catingub said as much. But songs such Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” whether or not it had a nice beat and you could dance to it, went down well with Thursday’s audience.
Guest drummer Steve Moretti channeled drummer Don Henley rather well to sing the Eagle’s “Hotel California” from behind the drum kit
By the end of the night, plenty were on their feet for the B-52’s New Wave anthem, “Love Shack."
But the biggest dance number of the night?
“It’s the song you love to hate,” Catingub said. “But you’re going to get up and dance any way.
Once “Y.M.C.A.” was underway, most everyone did.
REVIEW: 3.5 OUT OF 4 STARS
LAS VEGAS PHILHARMONIC, JULY 4, 2013
Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas NV
By John Katsilometes
The conductor for the “Fourth With the Phil” performance at Reynolds Hall is a person to watch, and not because he is so much fun to watch. Matt Catingub led the symphony’s pops presentation, a show steeped in patriotic songs fitting for the holiday and even a medley of TV sitcom theme songs (“All in the Family” linked to “The Love Boat” followed by “The Brady Bunch,” like that).
Catingub is a vastly talented, uber-versatile music director who can sing (he shared the stage with Clint Holmes and Kristen Hertzenberg on Thursday and fearlessly sang with both great vocalists), write charts and play the sax and other horns in the woodwinds family. Catingub is a pops specialist as the music director for the newly formed Glendale (Calif.) Pops Orchestra and Hawaii Pops.
He toured with Rosemary Clooney and has arranged and composed for an array of artists, including Boz Scaggs, Kenny Loggins, Diana Krall, James Ingram, Toni Tennille, The Righteous Brothers and Toto. As the son of Frank Sinatra protégé Mavis Rivers and a Vegas resident, Catingub is an ideal figure to lead the Phil’s pops shows. He’s back in April for a Vegas-styled, standards-driven pops show.
L.V. Phil officials, who plan to fill its open music-director position by next May, also are figuring out how to grow the symphony’s five-concert pops series to give Catingub more chances to lead the orchestra. He’s a magnanimous conductor. His enthusiastic sing-along to such songs as the theme from “Happy Days” tickled the holiday crowd. More Matt, we say. He’s fabuloso.
LONG BEACH SYMPHONY, NOVEMBER 2012, "A NIGHT IN BRAZIL"
Long Beach Gazettes, Long Beach California
By Jim Ruggirello, Music Writer
MUSICAL NOTES: Enthusiastic Symphony Impresses On Bossa Nova Night
I’ve figured it out.
The Long Beach Symphony POPS! concerts always feature great music and a festive atmosphere. But the difference between the first concert (meh) and the other night’s event at the Arena was the energy of the people onstage. It’s called talent.
Start with the conductor. This one was a bubbly force of nature named Matt Catingub. In his extemporaneous and blessedly brief spoken remarks, he radiated an enthusiasm for the music (this was Brazil night) and an easy professionalism that were infectious. Once we were engaged, it was time to sit back and enjoy. And then there was the talented part; Catingub conducted, played the piano, sang and played the sax. All very well indeed.
The man knows his business.
I hope the LBSO made money on this one, with all the extra brass and guest artists, because this was a truly great concert, . This one was stupendous, exemplary, dazzling. There. I’m out of adjectives.
GRAND RAPIDS SYMPHONY, OCTOBER 2012, "LAS VEGAS AND THE RAT PACK"
M Live Michigan
By John Phipps
Matt Catingub practically grew up at the feet of the Chairman of the Board, but his musical development clearly was influenced by the great philosopher Duke Ellington – “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”
And, hoo boy, did guest conductor Catingub and the Grand Rapids Symphony swing Friday night in the season-opening pops concert, “Vegas and the Rat Pack,” in DeVos Performance Hall.
With barely more than a two-hour runthrough of the program together and a set list of some of the famed Rat Pack’s greatest hits to navigate, the symphony and Catingub hit the stage running and amply demonstrated the enduring quality and appeal of some of the 20th century’s most loved standards from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and others.
Catingub brought his own charts, talented vocalist, drummer and some great saxophone chops of his own to the gig. The symphony brought its versatility, high-level competence, collaborative excellence, and a few first-rate supplemental musicians called in for augmentation in Catingub’s Big Band setup.
The result – the best of both worlds, orchestral and Big Band.
The first half entertained and gave the audience of 1,017 a solid taste of good things to come while giving the assorted talents a chance to settle in with each other. The second half flat-out smoked.
Catingub alternated from bandleading to playing lounge-style piano to coaxing midnight-blues licks from his alto sax to singing solo and with Hall. Wisely choosing not to pretend to imitate the likes of Sinatra or Prima, he simply sang in a pleasant, light tenor and let the music speak for itself.
His arrangements were big, brassy and beautiful, amply spreading the glory among sections and soloists
It would be easy to say the popularity of the songs makes it impossible to miss in this concert, but then there’s that all-important lesson that Catingub and company so completely exemplified Friday night – “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”
REVIEW: 3.5 OUT OF 4 STARS