Bob Baldori and Arthur Migliazza are Boogie Stomp now playing at the Elektra Theatre. Both are brilliant piano players with a love of the Boogie Woogie, jazz, blues, gospel and it’s history. The show is like an encyclopedic of a music that time may have passed. For most people who know the background of music, we know it started in the African American communities around 1870s. It is characterized by a regular left-hand bass, which is transposed following the chord changes. Basically eight to the bar. The genre started as a way to raise rent and dance. The problem is, in listening to two hours of this, I think this sound may have passed into oblivion.
Bob, who is considerably older, spoke of Earl Fatha Hines, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bob Seeley and Chuck Berry whom he worked with. Ask anybody under the age of 40 who Chuck Berry is and I can guarantee, they will not know who he is. Bob then played the harmonica and sang in a wobbly voice “Shake That Boogie.” I am not sure if that is how the harmonica is suppose to be played as it was squeaky. Hersal Thomas’s “Suitcase Blues,” “I’m So Glad I’m Living in the USA,” “School Days,” and “Okemos Breakdown” were included in the first set. It was an improvised “Fourplay” which included four-hands on one piano with hilarious choreography entwining arms and legs that finally made me sit up and pay attention.
The slow ballad “Tennessee Waltz,” made famous by Patti Page, started the second act in a rather boring way, but the highlight of the evening was Arthur’s “Boogie Woogie Man” into the “Bumble Boogie.” He was truly remarkable as his hands flew across the keys. Next up was one of my favorite songs, Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” done with that same Boogie left hand and I am sorry it ruined the song. Had the Boogie been taken out it was an amazing arrangement, but that montonous left had took out the syncapaded swing.
Next we got a mediocre composition by Bob called “By Myself.”“Honkey Tonk Train Blues” and “Got My Mojo Working” by Muddy Waters ended the show, but not without some forced audience participation.
Baldori wrote and directed the 2012 documentary Boogie Stomp, which inspired this production, but it is Migliazza, a professional pianist since the age of 13 and a two-time International Blues Challenge finalist who shines. For what the show lacks is the it factor of Jerry Lee Lewis, Liberace, Elton John. These men gave a show. When Migliazza is allowed to shine in the second act we get a glimpse into this entertainment and we are mesmerized. He can dance, speak prolifically without corny jokes and has the better singing voice though neither will win awards in this category.
John Campana’s book does not work nor does Kirk Gostkowski’s direction. The projections by John Michael Crotty were truly historical and enlighting. This is a show that should be a concert at BB Kings, Smoke or Blue Note, but is there an audience for this sound? I don’t thinks so, at least not enough to fill Town Hall or Birdland which is where these two really belong. Their musicianship is impeccable but I see why Boogie Woogie has all but faded into the background.
Boogie Stomp: Elektra Theatre, 300 West 43rd St.