"We're strictly of the geriatric set," declared hoofer Honi Coles of himself and his colleagues in the Copasetics -- Henry "Phace" Roberts, Charles "Cookie" Cook, Leslie "Bubba" Gaines and Buster Brown. Aging (mostly over 60) they may be, but as these five survivors of the golden age of jazz tap proceeded to demonstrate at Carter Barron Amphitheatre Saturday night, the fires and humors of youth still race through their veins, their muscles, their heads. "Copasetic," a term coined by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, to whose memory the tap-dancing club is dedicated, may be roughly translated "fine and dandy." That's the least of the compliments one could pay the evening's dancing.
The Copasetics performed with a four-man musical combo headed by pianist Danny Hogate. The earlier half of the bill was given over to an unaccompanied vocal group, the Persuasions, whose efforts were unfortunately marred by the absence of the group's bassist due to illness. The most one could say for the remaining foursome is that they appeared to be striving for a world record in shredded ensemble and off-key singing.
The lone reservation one might have about the Copasetics was the pat packaging of their numbers, which somehow seemed at odds with the spirit of inventive spontaneity one associates with tap. Still, the routines, however slick, were brilliantly effective. The group danced together in such items as "Tap-ology," which begins as a walk and evolves into an insouciant soft shoe; the "B.S. Chorus," performed sitting down with lots of under-the-knee claps and crossing ankles; the trickily syncopated "Shim-Sham Shimmy"; and a free-for-all flash finale.
In between came solos for the individual dancers, displaying their particular tricks and talents -- these included a Robinson tribute by "Phace" Roberts and Coles, and an homage to another classic hoofer, the late Pete Nugent, by "Cookie" Cook, raffishly flipping and twirling his vaudevillian tweed hat.Buster Brown got into a slew of taprobatics, with pirouettes into floor splits and the like. "Bubba" Gaines drew whoops from the crowd with his jump-rope number. At one point, Washington's own Mr. Rhythm (Carl Jackson) was called onto the stage for a brief solo of bearish charm.
Most winning of all was Honi Coles, using his lean height and suave bearing with Astaire-like grace, spinning out quietly dazzling tap rhythms in sounds that were like a cascade of poker chips.