A near-capacity crowd hushed as the evening opened with the title song from Nat King Cole’s 1959 album Welcome to the Club. I was immediately impressed that Don Dillingham, the evening’s soloist, brought his own voice to the party rather than attempt to mimic Cole’s iconic vocals. That being said, several of the selections we enjoyed were near ringers for the tunes burned into memory.
The show is a tapestry of Dillingham’s life stories and songs which made a difference in his life. The extremely talented members of the North Metro Jazz Collective each expressed solo jazz riffs on their instruments. Don Wolcott’s fingers skimmed across his upright piano with blinding speed and heartfelt dexterity. Terry Koger blew both his tenor and alto sax as if the evening’s full moon was riding on his shoulders. Cyndy Elliott caressed her standing Bass like they were dancing the night away. And the sparkling black drum set of Darrell Taylor insinuated subtle encouragement and bold crescendos throughout the night. This hand-selected ensemble truly meshed together as if they had performed this show for years. Behind the scenes, Marc Wright set the ambiance with his masterful control of the lighting and sound.
Nat King Cole wrote and recorded too many songs to be presented in one sitting. But Dillingham’s inclusion of the following titles before intermission spanned the range of his work: “Got a Penny Benny,” “Straighten Up & Fly Right,” “Nature Boy,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” “Send For Me,” and “You’re Looking at Me.”
The show features special appearances by selected artists on different nights. We were treated to the angelic lyrics of Lynn Verronneau in a duet with Don Dillingham of “Unforgettable.” After that, she cast a spell on the audience with her presentation of “Autumn Leaves” sung entirely in French.
After intermission, the collective treated us to “Smile” which is credited to Charlie Chaplin from his movie Modern Times. The evening filled out with “Wild Is Love,” “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps),” “The Song Is Ended” by Irving Berlin, “Mona Lisa,” “Walking My Baby Back Home,” “Can’t Help It,” and finally, “L-O-V-E.”
But the standing audience would not let them leave so soon. And Dillingham et al. favored us with “When I Fall in Love” and “I Was A Little Too Lonely (And You Were A Little Too Late).”
Many thanks to Laura Andruski for working her magic to bring this show to Gaithersburg’s own intimate venue.
Running Time: Two hours including one 15-minute intermission.