The Future Is Now
It’s a system that seems to be paying dividends, as the band has earned standing ovations at the Montreux, Syracuse and Bell Atlantic Jazz Festivals, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Swing ’n Dixie Jazz Jamboree in Sun Valley, Idaho, and the International Music Festival, also in New Orleans, where it was a gold medal winner. It has also caught the ear of prominent author and journalist Nat Hentoff, who has written the sleevenotes for The March of Jazz, and renowned musician / educator David Liebman, who writes: “Sonny LaRosa should be given a Medal of Freedom for the work he is doing with what must be the youngest Jazz musicians in the world. Not only has he taught them each on their own instruments, he has molded them into a truly remarkable unit. When you see the pride that is reflected in these youngsters’ faces, and the way they stand tall to strut their stuff, you will know why I give Sonny so much credit for what he has done for these budding Jazz musicians. This gives you hope for the future of culture and the arts in this country.” Adds Hentoff, “[Sonny] should be a model to many educators throughout the world.”
And at age seventy-six, LaRosa has no plans to slow down. “Why do I do it?” he says. “Well, first of all, I love kids, and to get them to perform with such professionalism and receive adulation not only from the audience but from the greatest musicians in the world makes me a happy man.” Almost as happy, one should point out, as those who are lucky enough to hear and appreciate America’s Youngest Jazz Band.
The Grammies Get It Right
The Grammy Awards, which I usually dismiss as vacuous rubbish, made at least one respectable choice this year in presenting the 2003 Grammy for Best Album by a Large Jazz Ensemble to bassist Dave Holland’s What Goes Around. While it’s far from the best big-band album I heard last year, it does have a lot to recommend it, and since the voters remain blissfully unaware of almost every working big band both here and abroad, they made the best decision they could under the circumstances.
And Speaking of Awards . . .
Composer / arranger Wally Dunbar, whose splendid big-band album Everything in Time (Consolidated Artists) was released last year, has been named Best Jazz Composer in the annual poll conducted by the newspaper BIS in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and placed fourth among arrangers behind Claus Ogerman, Lalo Schifrin and Don Sebesky. Everything in Time was fourth on the paper’s list of the top ten albums, with another album on Consolidated Artists, pianist Mike Longo’s Still Swinging, ranked first. Holland, who won the Down Beat readers and critics polls as top acoustic bassist, didn’t fare as well in Rio, placing fourth behind (the late) Ray Brown, Ron Carter and Richard Davis. Charlie Haden rounded out the top five. Other Brazilian favorites included pianist Roland Hanna, organist Tony Monaco, drummer Dennis Chambers, percussionist Airto Moreira, vibraphonist Joe Locke, guitarist Anthony Wilson, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, flutist Hubert Laws, clarinetist Kenny Davern, trumpeter Till Brönner, flugel Kenny Wheeler, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, alto Phil Woods, tenor Wayne Shorter, baritone (the late) Nick Brignola, singers Tony Bennett and Diana Krall, the vocal group Take 6, instrumental group Manhattan Jazz Quintet and big band, the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra (followed by the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band, the Dave Holland Big Band and Carla Bley’s orchestra).
A Warm Farewell
To bass trumpeter Cy Touff, who made that uncommon instrument dance and sing during his four-year tour of duty with Woody Herman’s thundering Third Herd in the early ’50s. A native Chicagoan, Cy returned home after touring with the Herd and became an important part of the city’s studio scene. For about a decade during the ’70s and ’80s he co-led with trumpeter Bobby Lewis the small band, Ears. Touff was seventy-five years old.
And that’s it for now. Until next time, keep swingin’!
NEW & NOTEWORTHY: February 2003
(Among the best of the recent big–band releases on Compact Disc)
- Mike Vax Big Band Live . . . On the Road Summit
- Taylor / Fidyk Big Band A Perfect Match no label
- DIVA Live in Concert no label
- hr Big Band The Three Sopranos hr Musik
- Dave McMurdo Orchestra Just for Now Sackville
- Dutch Jazz Orchestra So This Is Love Challenge
- San Diego State U Where’s My Hassenpfeffer? Sea Breeze
- The Orchestra (Denmark) New Skies Dacapo
- Bob Mintzer Big Band Gently dmp
- McGill U Jazz Orchestra Conundrum MUJE
- Tim Davies Big Band Epic Gower St. Music
- Global Jazz Orch (Japan) Global Standard Jasrac