A Real Blast
One of the finest entertainment-and-dining experiences I’ve ever had occurred Monday night at the American Rock Bar & Grill in Deerfield Beach, where Mike Egan’s Teacher Teacher Big Band performed to a pitifully small audience. This despite the absence of a cover charge. It was FREE for a drink or dinner.
I can only assume that people weren’t aware of it. The only place I saw it promoted was on Jeannette Pina’s online South Florida Jazz. Yet, it doesn’t get any better than this hard-driving, muscular band in the style of Buddy Rich’s stellar ensembles. And they’re all teachers. Trombonist Egan is a graduate of the progressive Stan Kenton Orchestra.
The band set the standard for the evening with the opener, Splanky, one of the 50 numbers that Neal Hefti wrote for the great Count Basie Orchestra, including Li’l Darlin and Cute. Right away, you knew this was an outfit to be reckoned with. I had to check whether my socks were still on: I thought this 16-piece dynamo had knocked them off. The evening continued with a mix of standards, such as Cole Porter’s All of You and Come Fly With Me, by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, and obscure pieces that shined. All were given added heft by the band of four trumpets, four trombones, five saxes, keyboard, bass and drums. Solos highlighted the concert, with those of the first tenor and lead alto particularly engrossing.
Egan was a dynamic, nimble-witted emcee from his spot on the bandstand. “I don’t have a microphone, so I hope you can hear me,” he announced. “I’m a middle school teacher (Eagles Landing in Boca Raton), so I know how to raise my voice.”
And what of the food? My buddy and I each had the eggplant parmigiana, a huge portion that was scrumptious and complemented by tasty, sautéed vegetables and a hearty salad. The price was a modest $13. I had a whisky that cost an unbeatable $4. It was the deal of the century.
My friend agreed that the entertainment tab alone likely would be at least $100 in a New York nightspot. Yet, at its peak, the audience numbered 22.
So you missed your chance for an unforgettable night. Don’t fret: Another is set for June 27, when the Mike Norris Jazz Orchestra, also in the Buddy Rich mode, takes the bandstand. Let’s hope the audience will be larger, so that this Monday night treat will continue. It runs 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant/nightclub is in the Cove Shopping Center, on Hillsboro Boulevard a couple of blocks east of U.S. 1.
Mike Norris Jazz Orchestra
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