Jazz singer Alex Pangman

Review: Alex Pangman and Her Alleycats – Dec. 14, 2015

Brian Gall Concert Series, Jazz Artists, Jazz Reviews

Alex Pangman sang from her soul and made it swing. Her spirit was bright as she jumped up and down on stage, leading her Alleycats through a night of music from the 30s, for the latest edition of the Brantford Downtown Jazz Series, Dec. 14 at the Sanderson Centre.

Many audience members remarked that they had seen Pangman perform before and there was a definite difference in the energy of the crowd in comparison to most shows in the series. As bandleader, she chose a fantastic mix of songs and the crowd responded loudly to the faster, livelier swing and jump-blues mood. It was the most fun edition of the series, perhaps since the last swing show featuring Bob DeAngelis. A change from serious, jazz sounds was nicely placed on the calendar with this being the last concert until February 8, 2016, when the series returns for a special Valentine’s Day concert, featuring vocalist Barbra Lica.

Pangman’s Alleycats included: Glenn Anderson (drums), Christopher Banks (bass), Peter Hill (piano), Drew Jurecka (violin and alto sax) and Ross Wooldridge (clarinet, tenor sax and piano).

“They are the trick up my sleeve,” Pangman said of her stellar crew.

Jurecka and Wooldridge are former members of Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards and the late guitar great produced Pangman’s 1999 debut album They Say as well as the 2001 follow-up, You Can’t Stop Me From Dreaming. Healey was famous for his personal record collection of 20s and 30s jazz that reached over 30,000 records.

The evening opened with Marie, by Irving Berlin, followed by Fats Wallers’ Honey Suckle Rose. Brilliant solos were given by all band members as they were introduced and Pangman’s natural voice was obviously original – not forced like some modern, overly indulgent, jazz vocalists.

Obscure songs were mixed in with recognizable ones like On the Sunny Side of the Street, which made use of the violin/clarinet combination beautifully. I Would do Anything For You, an instrumental, featured Wooldridge on piano, while Pangman stepped out. The Brantford resident switched between three instruments throughout the night and stole the attention of the crowd several times. Wooldridge returns to the Sanderson May 28, 2016 as the director of Sing,Sing,Sing – A Tribute to the Kings of Swing, featuring the 14-member Galaxy Orchestra.

A tango show tune called Hernando’s Hideaway involved the crowd in the chorus, with the nearly sold out crowd collectively shouting “Ole!”

While introducing I’ll be home for Christmas, Pangman described her past medical difficulties and the fact that she is a two-time, double lung transplant recipient. During her time in hospital, thinking about gift giving and the Christmas season, she realized the gifts she had received. Now she often discusses organ donation with her audiences and urged the crowd to consider being an organ donor.

“It is a gift than cannot be wrapped and put under the tree,” she said.

Registering to be an organ donor is easy to do. Anyone 16 years of age and older with a health card can register at www.beadonor.ca.


Brian Gall is freelance writer, mainly reviewing live and recorded music. His work has appeared in the Brantford Expositor and All About Jazz.