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Wednesday, January 15,2014

Duke elegant

Tom Wopat talks jazz, Tarantino and ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ in HD

by Rich Tupica

It’s been 28 years since Tom Wopat squealed around the fictional roads of Hazzard County in that old Dodge Charger, The General Lee, in the hit CBS show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” These days, however, he’s committed to recording jazz music and acting on Broadway.

Since 1981, the 62-year-old, New York-based Tony Award nominee has recorded 10 albums, the latest being 2013’s “I’ve Got Your Number.” Friday, Wopat will perform songs from that album, along with the rest of jazz repertoire, at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center.

“We do a few Broadway tunes, but with our own jazz treatment so it’s really consistent,” Wopat said by phone from San Francisco, where he’d just performed a show. “I (also) do some original material that I’ve written. We do 30 to 50 shows per year.”

While he does look back fondly on his sitcom years, Wopat said he doesn’t depend on nostalgia.

“I don’t really dwell on ‘Dukes’ much,” he said. “There will be shows where I don’t even mention it unless it comes up, but a lot of times we will. I also always make myself available after the shows. People can come up, talk and take pictures. We have a really good time.”

Wopat said his concerts are often a mix ture of different types of fans.

“People are fairly hip to the singing thing,” he said. “(But) there’s still a certain percentage of ‘Dukes’ fans who show up for curiosity’s sake. By the end of the evening they are thinking of me as a singer, I’d like to think.”

His latest “Mad Men”-era album received a glowing rating from AllMusic. A deluxe edition was pressed on a retro, yet increasingly hip, format.

“We actually put out a vinyl version in October,” Wopat said. “It’s a double vinyl and has all of the songs from ‘I’ve Got Your Number,’ along with six songs from the previous album, ‘Consider it Swung.’ I haven’t had a vinyl record out in 20 years.”

When he’s not belting out jazz tunes, Wopat still picks up acting gigs. In 2012, he portrayed Marshall Gill Tatum in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”

“Quentin is a real character,” Wopat said.

“He’s an old-school kind of director. He sits right by the camera and shoots film, which is kind of unique in the business. Everybody else is doing digital but he shoots film be cause he likes the quality and vibe of it. When you run into guys like that who are passionate about their craft, it’s exciting.”

The CMT network is airing commercials for “The Dukes of Hazzard” in high definition. Wopat said he was unaware of the promotion.

“No! They’re not going to show it in hi-def,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s amazing. I’ll have to check it out.”

And according to Wopat, fans haven’t heard the last from Bo and Luke.

“John Schneider (who played Bo Duke) and I are working on a Christmas record for next year,” Wopat said. “We remain best of friends. We do some gigs together; he’s a great singer (and) we have an inordinate amount of fun together. We’re also getting together for an ad campaign … as the Dukes, so you’ll be seeing us again.”

Tom Wopat

7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 $38 Charlotte Performing Arts Center 378 State St., Charlotte cpacpresents.com, (517) 541-5690


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