"1000 Years of Jazz and Tap" has just settled into Ford's Theater. That four-digit figure refers not to the age of the music but to the collective age of the 15 or so musicians and dancers in the cast.
After a bit of simple arithmetic, it's clear that we're talking about true survivors -- artists who've been in, out of, and back in vogue. These are "The Legends of Jazz" and "The Original Hoofers," gentlemen whose gray hair and lined faces belie their overwhelming energy and rhythmic juice.
The musicmakers' names -- Adolphus Morris (bass), Floyd Turnham (clarinet, tenor sax), Clyde Bernhardt (trombone, vocals), Alton Purnell (piano, vocals), Barry Martyn (drums, vocals), Herbert Permillion (trumpet) -- conjure up 1920s Bourbon Street jazz joints. The trombone oozes, the trumpet struts, the saxophone wails soul- searing blues. At times, these men are joined by vocalist Deborah Woodson, the sole woman and certainly the youngest member of the group, a lady who really knows how to torch up a standard tune.
The quartet of hoofers -- Lon Chaney, George Hillman, Ralph Brown and Jimmy Slyde -- set up a sweet contrast. Chaney, a big huffing bear of a man, sends his feet rat- a-tat-tatting through his trademark paddle- and-roll. Dapper Brown plays it for laughs, while the amazingly spry Hillman executes an elegant buck-and-wing. As for Slyde, why, he skates clear across the floor, then challenges the drummer to a bout of otherworldly improvisation.
The show is more than just nostalgia heaven. Its creators not only preserve a tradition, they rekindle it.
1000 YEARS OF JAZZ AND TAP -- At Ford's Theater. Previews Friday at 7:30, opens Saturday. $10-$17. Ticket-Charge: 347-4833.