“Chicago's Grand Terrace, Harlem's Minton's Playhouse, Greenwich Village's Cafe Society - back in the day these were the hot spots where the lady with the languorous voice would teach any fan of jazz do-right, how that jazz should be sung. By the time she was 18, this so-called buxom torch singer already had a fan base of folks like: record producer-promoter John Hammond, singer Mildred Bailey, bandleader/clarinetist Benny Goodman and saxophonist Lester Young. This singer, whose name was Billie Holiday, and who could gift wrap a syllable and butter out a phrase on a ribbon of smooth, eventually fell victim to the ravages of a life derailed by drug addictions and lousy relationships. Dead in 1959 at age 44, nobody then or now ever doubted that she had all the goods to make a song an all out inspiration. Trombonist/composer/musical director Max Perkoff is a fan of Lady Day. "Her swing, her music, her genius: inspired Perkoff to form the jazz sextet "Nights With Lady Day" which exclusively performs Miss Holiday's complete recorded repertoire. Max Perkoff's Nights With Lady Day played Saturday night at Pacifica's Sanchez Concert Hall and from note one, the audience strolled back to the rhythms of Swing Era sweet while keeping their temperature in the hip and now. What makes this group a real standout is the fact that it is an all instrumental ensemble with Perkoff's muted trombone often working as the songstress to deliver the lyric. What also elevates the step of this band, is the complete reliance on all musicians to personally create their own testament to Holiday's uncanny sense of style and delivery. Though the lamplight is on Lady Day, the strut of their musical barbecue is owned by each and every member of the band. Those members are as follows: musical director Max Perkoff on trombone; Scott Peterson on tenor saxophone and woodwinds; Si Perkoff (Max's Dad) on piano, Duncan James on guitar, Steve Webber on double bass and Omar Clay on drums. As the band likes it, the Sanchez rolled out the dance floor and the crowd got up to toast the lady with their grooves. First song up, a tux and tails rendition of "Pennies From Heave" (J. Burke, A. Johnston.) Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein wrote "Lover Come Back To Me" and Max Perkoff's band rolled it out on a magisterial swing carpet. Pouring out glamour trombone and tenor sax lush, the band's rendition of Will Hudson and Eddie De Lange's "Moonglow" was a smoky late night dance of seduction. Light bass brush strokes, tumbling drums and whispering trombone made "I'm A Fool To Want You" (J. Wolf, J. Herron, F. Sinatra) a pristine walk through the cool. Tobias and Ingraham's "No Regrets" was a jazz island breeze, with a significantly fine piano glide and a nice hush of the sax. Billie Holiday wrote and introduced "Fine and Mellow" in 1939 and the band turned their musical pages to open book glory as they just rocketed blues with a zing. The next song up was Lewis Allan's "Strange Fruit." The only song of the night where Perkoff requested all dancers to take a seat, this is a song that carries a history worth knowing. Strange Fruit" was written by a schoolteacher and a union activist devastated by a photo of a lynching. First performed at a New York teachers' rally it found its way to Greenwich Village's Cafe Society where Holiday sang. Holiday made it her business to deliver its message and ended up recording it on a specialty label when her own record label refused the song. The song immediately became the torch bearer for the anti-lynching movement; its lyrics making it impossible to ignore the horrors of hate. Its first four lines read: "Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees." There is a near overwhelming passion in the music of "Strange Fruit" and "Nights With lady Day" laid down its billow of soul; seared, weary and written on heartache. Lightening up the mood, Perkoff offered a personal narrative to introduce "God Bless The Child" (B. Holiday, A. Herzog). The year is 1977. Max is playing piano at his high school. He's 14 and he only knows two songs. The girl of his dreams (though she nows nothing about that) saunters up and asks Max if he takes requests. Does he know "God bless The Child?" and with great relief Max plays half of his repertoire. (And of course that set the music for their first date.) All kinds of great music sashayed through Set Two including: "Back In Your Own Back Yard," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Love For Sale," "Swing! Brother Swing!" and a nice little jump starter by Si Perkoff called "Si's Boogie." With notes played at just the right decibel by a group of guys well versed in the romance of their instrument, Max Perkoff and his "Nights With Lady Day" open their band door to the best of Billie Holiday as they pepper their listeners with a walk through the right. That would be jazz do-right. For more information and upcoming shows type into perkoffjazztrombone.com.” - Jean Bartlett
— Pacifica Tribune
“This band really swings! The musicianship is top-notch, and the concept, with Max Perkoff playing the melodies on his trombone, works beautifully. Max and the band captures the spirit of Billie Holiday's music perfectly. It is authentic swingin' Jazz, and is great for listening or dancing.” - Lavay & Chris Smith, of Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.
“I just wanted to let you know that the band was just awesome. That was one of the best nights I've had of dancing in a long time and it was, in no small part, because of the band. You guys did a wonderful job of playing to the dancing crowd. I can't wait until you come back!” - Kirk, a very happy swing dancer
“You guys were AWESOME on Tuesday night! Everyone loved you and that singer of yours was totally amazing! We will have you back at Swing Central just as soon as we can.” - Carla Heiney, dance instructor