Originally Published: April 30, 2010 1:12 a.m.
Think swing. Add romance. Mix in some of the best musicians in the industry. Top it all off with fun. That's what local music fans can expect as legendary pop singer Toni Tennille steps onto the stage in Prescott on Sept. 25.
Tennille, who along with the Captain, Daryl Dragon, made famous such hits as "Love Will Keep Us Together", "Muskrat Love", and "Do That To Me One More Time", performed a sold out concert last year at the Ruth Street Theatre as part of the Prescott Jazz Summit. This year, she's stepping out on her own with a big band bash at the Yavapai College Performance Hall.
Tennille said she chose the venue because it seats more people, but still allows for what she loves - an intimate connection with her audience. She said she also is more comfortable with being in control of her own sound, lighting and other parts of the production. She will bring in 16 handpicked musicians for the concert, which she will produce with Dragon and their assistant Becky Greenlaw.
"What people will see is the best we have to offer," she said.
While she will perform big band standards by Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin and others, she knows that her audience will clamor for her "other half," as they did in this past year's concert.
"He strolled out on stage at the end of the concert and said one word, "Pres-kitt," and the place went wild. After I'd been singing for 75 minutes!" Tennille said of Dragon.
Doctors diagnosed Dragon with early stage Parkinson's disease last year, but he still practices every day and keeps up the couple's websites. Tennille said the duo, married for more than 35 years, has plans to do a couple of C&T songs, if he feels up to it the day of the concert.
Look also for a special visit from "Smoky," Tennille's certified therapy dog, with whom she visits patients at Yavapai Regional Medical Center.
Tennille's concert arrangements are courtesy of the legendary Sammy Nestico, who throughout his career arranged and/or conducted albums for recording artists Phil Collins, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Ronnie Milsap, and Tennille.
Tennille said Nestico is famous for his big band arrangements, but he also knows how to make symphony "swing."
"Sammy did a lot of arrangements for me for symphony. Symphonic musicians are classically trained. I am too. But they don't 'swing.' You either can swing or you can't. Sammy says, 'I'll write it so they'll sound like they're swinging, and they won't even know they're doing it," she said.
Tennille explains that "swing" is an intangible way of playing with the timing of the music that creates a musical tension. "You fool with the timing, but you always get there."
Her accompanist for the concert is Scott Lavender, who played with Captain and Tennille for many years and who is now Johnny Mathis' conductor and arranger.
Tennille is sure that those who attend her concert will find a variety of musical styles to enjoy.
"I'm comfortable with all different genres of music," she said. "I try to feel what the composer had in mind and put that across to the audience."
Tennille is hoping to open her concert with a special Nestico arrangement of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'," but that will depend on Nestico's complete recovery from a fall this spring.
"I'll take the audience through an emotional arc - it's not all 'up' - there will be some ballads, some piano, some laughs, some beautiful songs, and some sad torch songs, love-gone-wrong songs. We'll end it with some fun," she said.
A bonus for this year's concert will be the very reasonable ticket prices. As a gift to the community, Tennille will not take a performance fee for the concert.
"I love to sing, and the people last year enjoyed it so much," she said.
Tickets go on sale on Monday, May 10, at $30-$40 each. Order tickets through Tickets.com or by calling the Yavapai College Performance Hall Box Office Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 776-2000 or toll free: (877) 928-4253. There is a $3 per order service fee for processing phone orders.