At various times, in past concerts, it has seemed that flugelhornist Chuck Mangione prefers to play in the key of Z (as in, ZZZZZZZZZ . . .). His compositions, all of which are based on a formula of sweeping melodies and monotonous rhythms, drone away into the night, and he and his group often tend to solo to sleepy excess.
All that said, Mangione's concert last night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion sparkled with imagination and energy. The songs were the same, but the verve and excitement were new.
On "The Land of Make Believe," Mangione and soprano saxophonist Chris Vadala engaged in a rapid-fire double solo, sending notes flying in all directions, while guitarist Grant Geissman added a rocking, bluesy break. "Give It All You've Got," that snorer which Mangione wrote for the 1980 Winter Olympics, was propelled by the solid bass work of Dave Piltch.
Throughout, drummer Steve Gadd (gad is he good!) maintained a deft yet intense accompaniment that culminated in a thunderous and utterly spectacular drum solo (ah, but it is a thrill to hear a good drum solo for a change).
Chuck Mangione usually saunters through his shows with the assurance and placidity of a sleepwalker. Last night, he woke up, with a little help from his friends. Thanks guys, he needed that.