What will it take to ensure the future of big–band Jazz in this country? When all is said and done, the issue really boils down to those time–honored standbys, dedication and hard work (a little foresight doesn’t hurt either). First, of course, those who are in a position to do so must see to it that young people are exposed to big–band music as early as possible, thus increasing the chances that they’ll become drawn to its orbit; next, they must find someone who’s both willing and able to work with the students to broaden their basic musical skills; and last but not least, an organization must be established to coordinate the efforts and lend those aspiring young musicians the unwavering support they need and deserve. San Diego County, CA, seems to have gotten it right, creating the non–profit music research and development program San Diego Horns Inc.
to organize and develop the San Diego Youth Swing Band for young musicians chosen by audition from schools throughout the county. Best of all, there is no cost to the young musicians for this invaluable training. Veteran West Coast composer / musician / Jazz broadcaster Dan Terry, the founder, president and CEO of San Diego Horns, doubles as music director / mentor of the Youth Swing Band. Two reasonable questions that spring to mind are (a) how does the band sound and (b) what kind of job does Terry seem to be doing sculpting them into an harmonious ensemble. The answers are (a) pretty good and (b) outstanding. While there’s no doubt that these are high school–age players, they show considerable promise, and one must respect their teacher for that. The SDYSB has cut its teeth in concerts and on radio, and in each case, we are told in the liner notes, has surpassed the expectations of its audience while practically stealing the show from more seasoned groups. Bein’ Green,
while less than a show–stopper, finds the youngsters in respectable form in a program of standards and originals ranging from the familiar (Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” and “Caravan,” Chuck Mangione’s “Children of Sanchez” and three ’40s–era theme songs — Benny Goodman’s “Let’s Dance,” Charlie Barnet’s “Skyliner,” Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade”) to the offbeat (“Tico Tico,” “Kiss of Fire,” Billy May’s “Fat Man Boogie”). Joe Raposo’s “Bein’ Green” is from the children’s television series Sesame Street,
and the band also plays its well–known theme song. Completing the progam are Rob Pronk’s “Frosted Black,” Sammy Nestico’s “Warm Breeze,” Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing” and Ernie Wilkins’ “Nervous Charlie.” Guest trumpeter Bill Caballero solos on “Frosted Black” and “A Warm Breeze,” guest trombonist Michael Dressen on “Nervous Charlie” and “Fat Man Boogie.” The point here is not whether the ensemble plays this music as well as anyone else but rather that a group of young musicians is being given a chance to play it at all. The rest will come with time and experience. Hats off to Dan Terry and San Diego Horns for bringing these kids together in a big–band setting, for taking them to a recording studio, and for letting them sharpen their claws on such challenging charts as “Tico Tico,” “Sesame Street,” “Mood Indigo,” “Sing Sing Sing,” “Nervous Charlie” and the others. This is the sort of worthwhile endeavor that should serve as a model for others.
Track listing: Tico Tico; Frosted Black; Sesame Street; Mood Indigo; A Warm Breeze; Sing Sing Sing; Bein’ Green; Kiss of Fire; Nervous Charlie; Fat Man Boogie; Caravan; Let’s Dance; Skyliner / Dreamsville; Children of Sanchez; Moonlight Serenade (57:44).