This was the first time in ages that I have seen the Don Krekel Orchestra, a 17-piece big band. The Comedy Caravan was packed, for a send-off concert featuring trumpet and flugelhorn player Charlie Niehoff, who is relocating to Nevada with his wife. Krekel says of Niehoff: “Charlie has left a giant music footprint in the Louisville area. He was/has for many years been a regular member or first call sub for many musical groups in this area including The Ovation Orchestra, The Crusade For Children Orchestra, The Roger Dane Big Band, The West Market Street Stompers, The Rascals Of Ragtyme, The Don Krekel Orchestra, The Wednesday Night Band and The Masterpiece Brass Quintet.” The band opened with “Time After Time,” followed by a short, fun arrangement of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Barbara Polk sang a medley of “Some of these Days” and “After You’ve Gone,” with lyric alterations in honor of Niehoff. “My Foolish Heart” featured Niehoff’s burnished flügelhorn. Guest June Kelly-Roy joined Polk for an entertaining version of the warhorse “Why Don’t You Do Right.” The final song of the first set, “Outback Blues,” gave almost all the musicians the opportunity to shine with solo spots.
After a brief intermission, the classic sound of Count Basie was featured on “And That’s That,” followed by “Stardust.” Saxophonist Miles Davis took over singing duties for “The Tender Trap” and “Embraceable You.” Regrettably, after just a few more songs, the power went off, and the second set was cut short. One of the things which impressed me about the performance was how the big band did not overwhelm the relatively small space. Krekel told me that, in part, this was due to the acoustics of the room, and also due too the dynamics he employs in leading the band. Bon voyage, Mr. And Mrs. Niehoff, and thanks to the Don Krekel Orchestra for a most entertaining evening.