DATE: Monday, May 26, 1997                  TAG: 9705260040

SECTION: LOCAL                   PAGE: B3   EDITION: FINAL 

TYPE: Music Review 


DATELINE: VIRGINIA BEACH                    LENGTH:   58 lines


Let's be frank. As home-listening, the music of John Tesh sometimes comes off as better tailored for your local forecast.

Let's also give credit where it's due. Live, Tesh is a different animal. Fueled by the accomplished musicianship and unbridled joy in performing that he and his band bring to the stage, his compositions are dynamic and surprisingly multi-textured.

And infectious. Clearly, his lengthy tenure as co-host of ``Entertainment Tonight'' taught him the first rule of show biz: Always leave 'em wanting more.

Tesh did exactly that on a cool, clear Saturday night at the GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater. Drawing largely from the recent ``Avalon'' album, which topped Billboard's New Age charts, he delivered on his promise to take the small but enthusiastic audience - one of all ages and backgrounds - on a trip around the world.

Some pieces had a Celtic lilt to them; others an earthy, gypsy flavor. ``L'aquila'' and ``Spanish Steps,'' both inspired by a trip to Italy, highlighted the first set.

The latter, which takes its title from the tourist site in Rome, got a considerable charge from Charlie Bisharat, Tesh's co-writer and co-producer. A kinetic violinist, he accounted for most of the evening's color and nuance. ``L'aquila'' refers to the ancestral home of Tesh's wife, actress Connie Selleca. ``Translated,'' he deadpanned, ``it means, `You're not going to get a word in edgewise, pal.' ''

A lullaby, written for his toddler daughter, Prima, featured some nice interplay between Tesh on piano, Bisharat, saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa, guitarist Wayne Johnson and Tim Landers, who played a bowed electric bass.

The Virginia Symphony accompanied the band for the first half of the program. The musicians were bunched too far back on stage, and Tesh's crew generated enough decibels on its own, for them to have much effect. Tesh took time, though, to put in a plug. In a climate where symphonies are folding daily, he said, it's vital that this orchestra is supported by the community. Amen, John.

Another nice touch: A portion of the ticket sales at each stop on this world tour goes to support music education at a local elementary school. The school also receives a portable keyboard, sheet music and credit toward the purchase of music books.

That sincerity is real. Tesh, a native Long Islander, studied communication and music at North Carolina State. He put both to good use Saturday, affably sharing anecdotes about his family and inspiration, joking with his band and, in best rock-star fashion, leaving the stage to perform for the patrons sprawled on the amphitheater's rolling lawn.

More than once he thanked the audience for helping him reach this point in his career. The standing ovation he received attests that there wasn't a doubter in the house.

Finally, kudos to the tiresome morning guy from WJCD-FM, the local contemporary jazz station. After introducing Billy Taylor as Billy Cook during the recent Virginia Waterfront International Arts Festival, he managed to get Tesh's name right.

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