Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five

Best known as the musical director of the Tonight Show band, Doc Severinsen has been playing the trumpet for some 77 years (the 84-year-old started when he was just seven). That’s a long time for any musician to be performing, but for a trumpet player, 77 years is three lifetimes.

Severinsen recently retired to Mexico (actually, he sort of semi-retired, but not really). There he found a group of local musicians who were playing Latin jazz mixed with contemporary pop and classical music. Hoping at first to promote the group, Severinsen eventually joined them, becoming Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five. They will be performing at Jones Hall today as part of the Society for the Performing Arts’ season. Much of the program is made up of Latin or Latin-influenced music, including several compositions by Gil Gutierrez, the group’s guitarist. One of his tunes is “El Farol,” which is based on Schubert’s “Serenade.” “We took eight bars of [‘Serenade’],” says Severinsen, “and then developed the tune around that.”

The program includes the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown” followed by the Mexican huapango “Cucurrucucu.” “They both translate very well to what we’re doing,” says Severinsen. “The way we do ‘Sweet Georgia Brown,’ that idea was taken from Django Reinhardt.” The group’s encore is a blazing rendition of “Dark Eyes.” “It’s a short, very hot presentation of a tune that everybody knows. It’s our way of saying, ‘Thanks for showing up, we hope to see you again sometime.’”

Moving from big-band jazz to small-combo Latin jazz might worry some performers, but Severinsen is confident his audience will make the transition with him. “Music is music,” he says. “It either communicates or it doesn’t. And just to make sure it communicates and to make sure people don’t forget that it’s me, I have a brand-new outfit to spring on everybody.” 8 p.m. 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.spahouston.org. $29 to $54.
Fri., May 6, 2011

 
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