Ghosts flitted about the bandstand of Charlie's last night as the Bob Wilber Sextet began a six-night residency of "Swinging for the King." The front line made no secret of its sources of inspiration -- the quartet and sextet materials of Benny Goodman. But interpretation, not imitation, was the order of the day.
Clarinetist Wilber caught the urgent swing and nuances of inflection of BG with uncanny accuracy, yet his voice and attack, often quite un-Goodmanlike, are his own. The Swede Lars Erstrand's vibes are polished glass, clean in sound, rhythmically driving, and melodically rich.The improvisatory skills of young Chris Flory, a Charlie Christian disciple, rest upon a technical arsenal that does his idol honor.
A veritable compendium of Goodmaniana comprised the first show, from the soaring flight of "Airmail Special" to the uptempo sprinting of "Runnin' Wild," from the relaxed calm of "Memories of You" to the swagger and bluster of "Flying Home." Pug Horton, in several numbers, evoked vocalists Helen Ward, Peggy Lee and others. The rhythm section of Mark Shane, piano, Phil Flanagan, bass, and Chuck Riggs, drums, simmered and boiled throughout.
This is small combo swing at its best. The group remains through Sunday.