I have been hearing around the water cooler that is named the Beaches, that the Duke hosts a 17 piece Big Band called The Advocats. Normally when I hear the name Duke, I think that it is mainly a Blues bar, but once a month, the first Monday of every month they bring in a Big Band to entertain the troops.
I arrived early with my wife to have a nice dinner and see for myself. The place was empty at 6:30 and by the time 7:30 rolled around the band was preparing to begin the show and the place was packed! It seemed all the pieces fit into place rather well. The stage is large enough to hold 17 musicians; the sound guy had the volume at the perfect levels. There is an audience that will travel to see such a quality act and hungers for the nostalgia of hearing the great songs of the 1930’s and 40’s.
In classic fashion the band opened with an instrumental piece before they introduced the leading lady on Vocals, Nina Richmond. Sticking with the convention, she opened with the classic, “All that Jazz”. She could jump from artist to artist flawlessly and sang some Frank Sinatra, “Let’s fall in Love”. She got us dancing cheek to cheek and of course, It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing”, by Duke Ellington. Nina was a perfectly lovely hostess with her delightful stories and her charm, she kept the room warm on a cold February night.
Even with 17 members of this large band, each one had a turn a giving the audience a solo or two. That is the beauty of jazz; everyone has a turn at being in the spotlight. Check out my video on Instagram when the drummer had his moment to shine. There was even one point where the band had to do a little singing to get the song going. It was such a cast of talent and fun characters.
Make sure when you go to see this band that you bring your favourite dance partner, because there is room to cut a rug as well. I sat back and felt I was in a movie watching this couple dancing on a cloud with such an array of beautiful songs. Songs, like “Button up your overcoat”, selections from “Porgy and Bess” and even a French tune,”C’est Si Bon”.
Other artists you could hear this evening was Cole Porter, Burton Lane and even Charles Mingus. I think what stopped the show, was when they broke free from the past and came into the modern day when Nina did a killer rendition of James Bond’s recent hit- “Skyfall”. The band finished off this lush evening of sounds with the song, “A’int that a kick to the head”. I personally feel it was more of A’int that a kick in the pants, as the song was implying this was the last song of the evening and everyone should go home. The only reason I say that, is because at the end of two set on a Monday evening, no one left early. That is how much fun people were having in Toronto at a place called The Duke on a Monday Evening.
Don’t forget, you have your next chance to see this on Monday March 4th starting at 7:30, and take a walk on the Sunny side of the street.
Here are some images of The Duke: