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November 22, 2014

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Pop Evolution puts Cab Jazz to the test — and vice versa

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Christopher DeVargas

David Perrico and vocalist Naomi Mauro perform in Pop Evolution, an 18-piece band featuring musicians from various Las Vegas productions, inside the showroom at the Stratosphere, July 2, 2013.

Cabaret Jazz was never intended to be a boom box. The word “cabaret” in its very title is a hint that the 240-seat club is built for nuance, not noise. But on Tuesday night, 22 musicians and singers (well, one singer) will climb atop the Cab Jazz stage and give the room another high-volume workout.

We speak of David Perrico’s Pop Evolution show band, which makes its Smith Center debut Tuesday at 10 p.m. (Tickets are $15 and $30 and available at the Smith Center website.)

The total number of performers on the Smith Center stage is a record, and Perrico’s band is as impressive for its quality as quantity. Example: Lon Bronson is in this band, which could well be called the David Perrico All-Star Band if it weren’t so derivative of the Lon Bronson All-Star Band, of which Perrico is a member.

It’s all so very incestuous, no? And not just because Perrico has already performed four times in the Smith Center with Bronson’s band, including a near-capacity show Thursday night. But Tuesday marks an important moment for Perrico’s ambitious, far-flung project and the evolution of Cabaret Jazz.

While the big room at the Smith Center, Reynolds Hall, has flourished with a first-class series of Broadway touring shows, Cabaret Jazz has tried to keep pace with the best productions suited for a small venue. Among Las Vegas performers, Clint Holmes kills every month, and the Composers Showcase regularly draws some of the best Strip and off-Strip performers and songwriters.

But, to be candid, some of the other bookings in that venue have been real head-scratchers. The overarching issue with Cabaret Jazz is making sure the public is aware of the latest push by Smith Center President Myron Martin and booking overlord Glenn Medes to stage great Las Vegas acts.

A legend in the lounges for nearly 25 years, Bronson has been the first, and his followers are being re-conditioned to follow him into a fully ticketed venue. Perrico is next.

“We have been working on trying to get into Cabaret Jazz for more than a year,” Perrico says. “We finally cracked the code.”

That code break was made possible by a schedule break. Perrico’s band did not play the Smith Center over the past year or so because of its exclusivity agreement with the Stratosphere, where it played regularly from April 2013 until May of this year.

Having been launched two years ago at South Point Showroom, Pop Evolution started at the Strat as a twice-monthly act, alternating Tuesdays, then were scaled back to once a month. It was a popular show, brimming with fans each time out, but not a high-selling production.

Perrico’s charge now is to fill a venue of 240 or so seats with spectators who have paid for those seats.

“We’re confident we can develop a following at the Smith Center,” Perrico says. “The idea is to build to a regular residency there, and I believe we can do that.”

What will fans of the band see Tuesday night? Largely the tried-and-true set Perrico fashioned at the Stratosphere, peppered with originals amid covers of Britney Spears, Sting, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Foreigner and (God bless ’em) Rush. Singer Naomi Mauro handles all the vocals, and the band burns with some of the best players in town.

Volume is not a problem, and the chops are ever-present. For Pop Evolution, time will tell if the Smith Center is an overnight stay or a real home.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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