Special to the Daily News
For a few short hours on Friday night, maestro Bob Lappin & The Palm Beach Pops provided an incredible travel value, whisking their audience off to the Big Apple for a musical daytrip labeled A New York Night for their Kravis season debut.
The program provided many more hits than misses and allowed the Pops personnel — among some of the finest musicians on the East Coast — to shine both as a tight, cohesive unit and individually through a number of very tastefully executed solos.
In the opener, Autumn in New York, the group hit its stride right out of the gate, achieving a superb blend between the sections that was enhanced by a great audio mix.
Next came a medley of tunes by one of New York's favorite sons, Billy Joel. After opening with the obligatory Just the Way You Are, the clever arrangement employed some of the Piano Man's best melodies, such as the passionate Honesty, and his frequent use of counterpoint in tunes such as Uptown Girl. Although a great instrumental version of New York State of Mind was delivered flawlessly, its heartfelt, begging-to-be sung lyrics were sorely missed—especially considering the caliber of singer on hand that evening, the enchanting Rebecca Baxter.
A polished performer who can shift on a downbeat from opera to Broadway, Baxter flexed her considerable pipes and held her own with the large ensemble, especially on That Old Devil Moon from Finian's Rainbow and the Judy Garland classic The Man That Got Away. But this was a night for the musicians in the house — and did they come to play.
A pair of Duke Ellington's finest set the stage, from a rousing rendition of It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) to the classy Take the A Train, which had a real Madison Avenue feel. But Jim Hayward's exceptional sax work on Harlem Nocturne set a new standard for cool, keeping a lid on the melody just long enough until the group kicked in on the bridge, bubbling over with just the right amount of swagger.
Also new to the Pops repertoire was a refreshing medley of Beatles hits, using an arrangement originally created for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and featuring trombonist Jim Bermann on Hey Jude, trumpeter Scott Melamerson on Yesterday, the string section on Eleanor Rigby, and the woodwinds on a whimsical joyride of When I'm Sixty-Four and Honey Pie.
By the time drummer Frank Derrick exploded into Sing, Sing, Sing — trading solos with horn man John Amoroso and the string section — and a New York, New York finale to top things off, the audience was ready to touch back down at PBIA, returning home from a thoroughly enjoyable evening spent — at least in spirit — in the Big Apple.