Issue 16.5: October/November 2013

Pop Goes the Cat

Story by Lynn Cook
Photo by Alex Federowicz

Honolulu’s coolest cat, maestro Matt Catingub, is back in the Islands to jazz up the music scene as the artistic director and conductor of the newly created Hawaii Pops. Son of the famed jazz vocalist Mavis Rivers, Catingub is known for stepping on stage in a Zoot-suit-length jacket, snapping his fingers and bringing an audience to its feet on the downbeat. “Now,” he says, “it’s time for Honolulu to get out of the seats and dance.”

Catingub’s got the brass to launch a new orchestra in a historically orchestra-challenged town. He conducted the Honolulu Symphony Pops for twelve years, followed by the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawaii and his original Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack. When the Honolulu Symphony Pops folded, Catingub left Hawai‘i for a while to conduct orchestras in New Mexico, Nashville, Florida, Cincinnati, Omaha, Canada and Japan, eventually settling in with the Glendale Pops Orchestra. Calling all that his “research,” he says, “I believe that the time has come when our audience wants to do more than sit and listen.”

Donna Bebber, executive director of the new Pops, says the theme for the Pops’ October 20 concert is the Hawaii International Film Festival’s celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of James Bond (the show will feature the original singer of “For Your Eyes Only,” Grammy Award-winner Sheena Easton). In December Jim Nabors and Hawai‘i songstress Amy Hanaiali‘i sing out the holidays. In January, March and May, the full forty-piece Hawaii Pops will rock the Hawai‘i Convention Center ballroom with two dance floors and dinner and cocktail seating. The Pops’ twelve-piece orchestra will play the ballroom or the center’s amphitheater, and the intimate four-musician Pops’ combo will gig in Lewers Lounge at the Halekulani Hotel, with guest stars to include Jack Jones, Robert Cazimero and jazz singer Tierney Sutton. Al Jarreau will appear in the season finale on May 31.

Catingub cut his teeth with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. He conducted, arranged and recorded with Rosemary Clooney, then wrote music for her nephew George Clooney’s film, Good Night and Good Luck. Putting on his tongue-in-cheek punster best, Catingub says he “just might get sentimental” when the Pops plays the title track from the album on which he played every instrument while his mother sang, “I’m Getting Cement All Over Ewe.”