Montreal Jazz Festival – Battle of the Bands

Montreal Jazz Festival – Battle of the BandsOn Sunday, July 6, 2008, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, directed by Larry O’Brien, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, directed by Buddy Morrow, faced off in the Battle of the Bands to culminate the Montreal Jazz Festival. The rumble ensued at the Place des Arts and was witnessed by two sold-out houses totaling 6,000 energized fans.

Hard swinging TDO “boy singer” Walt Andrus (a role historically held by Frank Sinatra) delivered on “The Song is You” and “Sunny Side of the Street,” while GMO crooner Ryan Garfi flaunted his velvet chops on “Berkeley Square” and “Serenade in Blue.” Connie Brink for the TDO charmed with “The Very Thought of You.” GMO’s Julia Rich pranced with “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” and her own “If I Spoke French.” (Note: Julia was awarded an extra point for her dress.)

The musicians in each corner were on fire, as soloists tag-teamed to bring their best into the ring. Drum solos by TDO’s Rudy Petchauer and GMO’s Brent Marques were showstoppers as was “In the Mood,” the national anthem of swing. Larry O’Brien’s rendition of “At Last” was characteristically perfect. Miller screech trumpeter Joe Harris hit the ceiling on the final number.

The Moonlight Serenaders heaved the one-two punch with “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Kalamazoo,” whereupon the entire Dorsey Band counterpunched a spirited vocal on “Marie.”

The last round featured Larry O’Brien and Buddy Morrow sharing the trombone solo on Buddy’s hit “Night Train.” (Historic note: O’Brien was a member of Morrow’s Night Train Band in 1960 before joining the Glenn Miller Orchestra as lead trombonist. Then the TDO stole Larry from the GMO to play the Tommy Dorsey solos. Buddy Morrow led the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the 1970s.) In an unscripted moment, Larry placed his trombone on the stage floor and bowed at the feet of longtime friend and mentor Buddy Morrow. A knockout!

There were judges in tuxedos, especially one handsome French-speaking singer named Fred de Grandpre. At the final bell, emcee and promoter Didier Morrisonneau announced the winner: A TIE. In a split decision, Didier proclaimed the music and the audience the true winners in the slugfest of swing. (The soundman even said there were times when he heard nothing but the roaring crowd—practically a Shea Stadium moment). Decidedly, The Battle of the Bands at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2008 was the main event!