A Letter from Los Angeles
That should have been enough for one day, but the Ballroom was filled again by nine o'clock that evening to hear Abene and the great Slide Hampton co-lead another rip-roaring alumni big band through "The Roulette / Cameo Years." To many (including the writer) this was the Golden Age of Maynard Ferguson, and the ensemble brought it vividly to life again via such magnificent charts as Hampton's stunning "Frame for the Blues," the gospel-tinged "Got the Spirit," a super-charged version of "Stella by Starlight," "The Fox," "Straight Out," "One for Otis," "Born to Be Blue," "Knarf" and Golson's "Whisper Not," ending with the seventy-year-old Morgan's jaw-dropping solo on Ray Noble's "Cherokee," every inch the equal of the one he had recorded roughly forty-five years ago. Even though my head was spinning, I realized that I was only halfway to the finish line.
There was no film on Saturday, so the day began with a fifth panel discussion, this one titled "Eli's Comin': The British Years" with panelists Ernie Garside, Brian Smith and Bob Efford, all of whom had played important roles during Maynard's years in Great Britain. Garside, a trumpeter and pub owner, became Maynard's manager and right arm during that time while saxophonists Smith and Efford played key roles on the band. Garside's extended remarks led to another sharp one-liner from Efford, who observed that "Ernie's the only guy I know who can begin his remarks with 'I really don't have much to say' and then take half an hour to say it."
A full string section was assembled in the Ballroom for the next concert, "The Ballad Style," featuring trumpeters Shew, Ingram, Acosta and DiSiena playing "If She Walked Into My Life," "Somewhere," "Girl Talk," "The Sound of Silence" and other ballads. If the audience was lulled by this, it was quickly jolted awake at poolside by the explosive Fullerton College Jazz Ensemble, which opened its set with Pete Meyers' definitive arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" and unveiled a superlative lead trumpeter, Joe Harris. Director Greg Woll's ensemble was joined on the last two numbers, "Lover Man" and "I Like You" (from Mr Rogers' Neighborhood ) by faculty member / alto saxophonist Bruce Babad.
After lunch, those who had registered for the full four days were able to attend a rehearsal in the California Ballroom by Maynard's Big Bop Nouveau, which turned out to be a fairly accurate preview of the Sunday evening concert, even down to the quips and one-liners. This was followed by Panel No. 6, "Got the Spirit: The 1970s," moderated by author Peter Levinson and including panelists Stan Mark, Bob Summers, Jay Chattaway, Dennis Noday and Nick Lane. Again, the banter was delightful and the gags and asides were flying thick and fast. The late-afternoon concert, "MF Horn: The London Years," introduced trumpeters Miyashiro and Bogart, saxophonists Smith, Jerry Pinter, Christopher Hollyday and Denis DiBlasio with Jacob, piano; Henry, bass; and the irrepressible Ray Brinker, drums. Songs from the period included "MacArthur Park," "Country Road," "The Summer Knows," "Spinning Wheel," the theme from the movie Shaft, "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and the ever-popular "Hey Jude."
Chattaway and Miyashiro co-directed that evening's alumni concert, "The '70s and '80s," which encompassed crisp solos by Miyashiro, Bergeron, Summers and Noday, among others, on charts that included "Nice 'n Juicy," "Maria" (featuring Noday's soaring trumpet), "Chameleon," "Superbone Meets the Bad Man," "Conquistador" and Maynard's best-selling hit, "Rocky."
I skipped Film No. 3, "The '80s and '90s," on Sunday morning (I plead exhaustion) but caught the seventh panel, "High Voltage: The 1980s," with moderator Jake Sommers from JazzPlayerRadio.com (more about them next month) and panelists Lane, DiBlasio, Bergeron, Brinker, Mark, pianist / composer Matt Harris and trombonist Alex Iles. DiBlasio who offered the best MF impression of anyone on the various panels aptly summed up the spirit of the event when he said, "This is like a Star Trek convention and Maynard is Captain Kirk!" That remark carried us poolside again for the last performance by a college band, this time from Cal State-Northridge. Harris, who usually directs, is on sabbatical but placed the ensemble in the capable hands of Gary Pratt who brought out the best in everyone. Another topnotch band with solid section work and strong solos, especially from trumpeter Chase Sanborn and the baritone saxophonist, whose full name I didn't catch but I think the last name is Ing.