- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

The bass player in a band is usually like a ship’s engineer — not too visible down there in the boiler room, but without him the whole enterprise comes to a standstill. Tonight at Wolf Trap Tony Bennett will take the stage, and behind him will be the bass player who has kept his ship chugging along for 16 of the last 20 years, Paul Langosch.

For Mr. Langosch, playing at Wolf Trap is a homecoming. The bass player grew up in Bethesda and, when he isn’t on the road, still lives in the Maryland suburbs. “I’m a product of the Montgomery County school system,” he says. “I got my start playing bass in the school band at Whittier Woods Elementary.”

Mr. Langosch hit the road early in his career, traveling with another great jazz singer, Mel Torme. In January of 1985, he got the call from Mr. Bennett. Other than four years off in the ‘90s, he has been with the legendary singer ever since. “For a bass player it’s a dream job,” Mr. Langosch says. “Tony’s such an easy guy to play with.”

The road can be grueling — and as tiresome as it is tiring. For many musicians, playing the same repertoire night after night can be a chore that soon leads to phoning it in. Mr. Langosch is savvy enough not to fall into that trap. “I’m trying to focus on what I’m doing every night, savoring every moment playing with one of the greatest artists of our time,” he says. “Tony is making history every night he goes out on stage.”

What does Tony Bennett see or, rather, hear in Mr. Langosch? “I’ve chosen musicians I love to listen to,” says Mr. Bennett. “He stays musical all the time.” And, of course, if you’re going to be on the road with someone for a couple of decades, it helps if the chemistry’s right. “Paul is an intellectual, with thoughtful, humanistic brains,” says Mr. Bennett approvingly.

“I’ve learned so much from Tony,” says Mr. Langosch. And not just about music: “I go to see bands play, and so often they seem to have contempt for their audience rather than affection.”

With Mr. Bennett, he has learned to appreciate the audience as much as the audience appreciates what they do.

Being on the road so often, Mr. Langosch doesn’t get much chance to play with other bands. But when he is home, he enjoys playing with old friends. [He has worked with my band on occasion]. And when in town, he also tends to the collection of antique basses that he has assembled with National Symphony Orchestra bassist Bill Vaughn.

If you go to Wolf Trap tonight — and you should — look for the tall fellow with the string bass. And if Tony Bennett tosses him a solo or two, be sure to give an extra round of applause to the local boy in the band.

Eric Felten is a jazz singer and trombonist. He will appear with his big band at Blues Alley on Aug. 26.

WHAT: Tony Bennett in concert

WHERE: Wolf Trap, Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna.

WHEN: Today, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $42, lawn $25

INFORMATION: 703/255-1868

E-MAIL: wolftrap@wolftrap.org

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