Albuquerque held its annual Jazz Festival in February. The format was the same as it has been for the past several years: performances by high school and middle school bands on Thursday and Friday, with a concert Saturday evening (February 17) at the downtown KiMo Theatre featuring the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and this year's guest artist, John Fedchock.
Fedchock, a stellar composer/arranger/trombonist who leads his own big band in New York City, graciously stepped in for Andy Martin who was unable to make the gig, and gave an outstanding performance that included several charts from his band's soon-to-be-released fourth CD for Reservoir Records, Up And Running. The AJO opened each half of the concert with three selections, and played as though inspired by Fedchock's presence.
The orchestra's first set included Fedchock's arrangement of "Limehouse Blues, Mike Tomaro's "Tears In Her Eyes (a showcase for trumpeter Bruce Dalby) and Luis Bonfa's theme from Black Orpheus. A highlight of the second set was alto saxophonist Glenn Kostur's enchanting solo on Quincy Jones' "Quintessence, which followed Dave Metzger's "Bang That Wall, Harvey! and preceded Rob Boone's "Caja de Arena. Tenor saxophonist Lee Taylor added a number of impressive solos, complementing those by trombonist Ed Ulman, trumpeter Brad Dubbs and others. Drummer Chase Ellison, a sophomore at the University of New Mexico, made a splendid AJO debut.
Fedchock, who spends a good deal of his solo time in the upper register, opened his first segment with "Up And Running and played two more of his compositions, "Elvin's Empire and "Breakthrough, alongside an arrangement of David Raksin/Johnny Mercer's "Laura that he had written for the Woody Herman orchestra (Fedchock was a member of Herman's last Herd from 1980-87). The second half included two more of his lively compositions, "The Ariztocrat and "Latin Import, sandwiched around Lee Morgan's lovely samba, "Ceora.
Attendance was pretty good (there were some empty seats but not many) and the audience sustained its applause and standing ovation for several minutes, pleading for an encore, but apparently no one had planned for that eventuality. Maybe next year . . .
The SJO Comes to Albuquerque
The Southwest Jazz Orchestra, based in Santa Fe, has landed a semi-regular gig at The Cooperage in Albuquerque, and we were there for opening night on Monday, February 26. The orchestra, led by Jack Manno, is actually a tentet (four saxophones, trumpet, trombone and rhythm) but sounded like a full-fledged big band in the relatively small confines of the nightspot. The SJO opened the first set with Monk's "I Mean You (neatly introduced by pianist John Rangell), glided through Charles Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love, backed Mark Weber as he read his poem, "Warne Marsh (Meets Kenny B), and closed with a pair of original compositions, Michael Anthony's groovy "Steps and Manno's flag-waver, "The Real McCoy. The ensemble was bright and able, and there were splendid solos along the way by Rangell, trumpeter Jan McDonald, trombonist Ed Ulman, tenor saxophonist Bill Wood, baritone saxophonist Arlen Asher, guitarist Tony Cesarano and two or three newcomers whose names I didn't catch. Bassist Rodney Bowe was his usual tower of strength, keeping everyone sharp and in sync.
I left after the first set (it was past my bedtime) but look forward to hearing the SJO again in Albuquerque, as I seem to recall that the band is to appear more often at The Cooperage, perhaps on the last Monday of each month. If that is indeed the case, attendance should pick up as word gets around, even though it was pretty good for a first performance.
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