Max Weinberg earlier this summer

With the help of risers, the Dakota stage could accommodate 14 of the 15 members of the Max Weinberg Big Band on Wednesday night. The upright bassist had to stand on the floor next to the stage. No problem. This swinging big band rocked the full house at the Minneapolis jazz club.
The lineup was a bassist, pianist and Weinberg on drums, with the leads played by five saxophonists,  four trumpeters and three trombonists. The repertoire was Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, the Beatles, TV series themes and, of course, some tunes by Weinberg’s longtime boss, Bruce Springsteen. It was the right songbook for these top-notch musicians.
The ensemble favored aggressive, swinging arrangements that emphasized Weinberg’s naturally muscular drumming rather than his finesse (he’ll tell you he’s not a jazz drummer). The band was crisp and forceful, with each and every player getting a chance to solo. (None of these musicians had played with the Max Weinberg 7 on Conan O'Brien's two talk shows.)
Highlights of the 85-minute late set included a Beatles medley borrowed from a Count Basie recording (“Kansas City” was smokin’);  “Swinging Shepherd’s Blues” featuring two flutes; the token mellow number made famous by Sinatra, “Only the Lonely”; a swingin’ but decidedly Southern “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”; the aptly named “Groovin’ Hard”; and Quincy Jones’ fast and furious “Rat Race” featuring a torrid saxophone duet.
The five-man sax section got to show off on Springsteen’s “Born To Run,” which was offered without guitar or vocals. Horns were the lead instruments and the part where E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons takes a saxophone solo, all five saxophonists played that familar blast together. More impressive from the Springsteen catalog, as Weinberg called it, was “Kitty’s Back.” It started out moodily melancholic and ended up swinging with intensity. Props to trumpeter Brian Pareschi for a terrific arrangement.
After the concert (the last on a month-long tour), Weinberg told me that Springsteen has yet to see Mighty Max’s Big Band because he’s been on a three-week tour of equestrian events with his daughter, Jessica, 18, a champion rider. “Bruce has been acting as roadie, trainer, whatever,” Weinberg said.
And proud papa.

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