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Gap Mangione

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By Mary Kunz
The Buffalo News
[December 12, 1994] -- In the last year or so, Buffalo has been lucky enough to see both the Mangione brothers -- trumpet-flugelhorn ace Chuck and pianist Gap -- a number of times.
It doesn't take long to notice some basic differences between them. Chuck is moody; Gap is serene. Chuck dresses like a Bohemian; Gap dresses like an investment banker.
And, while the mercurial Chuck has been known to scowl now and then, Gap never stops smiling.
Saturday, Gap Mangione brought his 13-piece big band to the Calumet Arts Cafe -- and through all three sets, the man's smile never wavered. Gap grinned, nodded his head and bobbed up and down. He beamed at the large group of listeners who had fought freezing rain to show up.
When he spoke, his voice had a giggle.
"I'm going to have a wonderful time, and I'm hoping you are, too," he told us.
In these drab days, we don't get much chance to hear live big bands. That perhaps is part of the reason that, whenever Gap Mangione's band comes to town, a crowd turns out, and the room assumes a festive glow.
Mangione's band first visited the Calumet Arts Cafe last summer, and it was fun from the beginning. The musicians, however, sound 100 percent better now -- more rehearsed and in sync. They showed their strength right away in "Stolen Moments" and then segued into "Groovin' for Nat," a tune by Ernie Wilkins. Buffalo alto sax man Dave Schiavone contributed a fleet-footed solo.
Certainly this group, anchored by drums doesn't lack power. A singer once described "My Ship" as "a heavy old song," and that's how Gap's band played it, like a piece of Biedermeier furniture. A Chuck Mangione work originally titled "Rochester, My Sweet Home," reflected its composer in its full, robust trumpet sound. And "The Gap Theme," a bluesy affair, ended in stomping elephantine chords.
When petite singer Cindy Miller took the stage, the band threatened several times to engulf her, rushing at her like a great sparkling tidal wave. Miller, though, packs power on her own. With flair, she attacked "The More I See You," "The Nearness of You," and a funky, precarious "You Are My Sunshine."
Gap, poised by his electric piano, added a light touch. He comped with gentle, easygoing chords, flashing that smile. He played a graceful, twinkling "All of Me."
He seems like a good boss to work for, and proof might lie in the fact that Buffalo musicians flock to join him when he visits. Saturday, alto saxophonist Andy Weinzler counted himself in Gap's ranks, while trumpeter Jeff Jarvis -- who had been busy working with Doc Severinsen -- arrived for the second set.
Quite a sound was created. Toward evening's end, WECK jazz host Sid Ehrenreich shook his head. "Are they exceptionally hot tonight, or what?" he marveled.
As if he could hear us, Gap Mangione beamed that big smile our way. "Don't go away," he grinned. "The last set is the party."

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