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Big Band Report

Jazz Returns to Network Television

By Published: May 5, 2005
Just back from a brief vacation in IL, looking forward to Ken Poston's Neophonic Impressions event May 26-29 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel in Los Angeles, and gearing up for a great summer of Jazz right here in Albuquerque.

Perhaps the biggest news this month concerns the launch on June 16 of the first Jazz series on network television in forty years, Legends of Jazz, hosted by pianist and three-time Grammy Award winner Ramsey Lewis on PBS. The first program, an hour-long special, will showcase winners of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award. Thirteen weekly thirty-minute programs will begin next fall, produced in state-of-the-art HDTV and Dolby surround sound. The series will combine live performances, interviews and archival material to "provide a fascinating and entertaining first-hand account of some of the most memorable moments in Jazz, according to a PBS press release.

The hour-long special, sponsored by Verizon and NEA, spotlights five recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters award: vocalist Nancy Wilson, saxophonist James Moody, vocalist Jon Hendricks, Latin Jazz artist Paquito D'Rivera and entrepreneur George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival. Teen vocalist Renee Olstead, who made her major label debut last year, appears as a special guest.

Lewis, long a mainstay on the Chicago Jazz scene, hosts a syndicated weekly radio program, Legends of Jazz, that serves as a natural springboard for the television series, to be co-produced by LRSmedia and WTTW-TV's National Productions, as is Legends. "Since 1982, the NEA Jazz Masters program has honored many Jazz greats, says NEA chairman Dana Gioia. "We are delighted that this series, which will reach millions of viewers across the country, will begin with a tribute to the music's true legends.

Well, some of them, anyway. I hope it's not too long before big bands are given their due . . . but I'm not holding my breath.

Also on the calendar . . .
Summer Jazz Workshops 2005 will be held June 13-July 15 at the University of North Texas in Denton. Included are workshops for trumpet / trombone, Jazz combo, vocal Jazz and double bass. The trumpet / trombone workshop (June 13-18) is co-directed by trumpeter Mike Steinel and trombonist Tony Baker, the double bass workshop (June 13-17) by bassist Lynn Seaton. The vocal Jazz workshop (June 26-July 1) has a faculty that includes Paris Rutherford, Michele Weir, Jennifer Barnes, Rosana Eckert, Kerry Marsh, Bruce Wermuth and Gary Eckert, while the Jazz combo workshop (July 10-15) is presided over by Steinel; Baker; Seaton; saxophonists Jim Riggs, Will Campbell and John Murphy; pianists Dan Haerle and Stefan Karlsson; guitarists Fred Hamilton and Joe Lee; drummer Ed Soph and Jazz historian Bob Morgan. For information about any or all of the workshops, visit the Jazz Studies website,, e-mail or phone 940-565-3743.

The Woody Herman and Count Basie Orchestras and Mingus Big Band are among the headliners at the annual Wigan Jazz Festival to be held July 9-16. Others appearing include the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra and Wigan Jazz Club Big Band, the Elmhurst College (IL) Big Band, East Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Joey DeFrancesco Trio, Manhattan Transfer, Sweden's Lasse Lindgren with Sounds 2000, multi-instrumentalist James Morrison, Herb Geller with the Dave Newton Trio, lunchtime performances by the Dylan Howe Quintet and trios led by Alan Barnes, Dave O'Higgins, Enrico Tomaso and Duncan Lamont, and dinner Jazz by vocalists Lee Gibson, Paul Bentley, Kelly Dixon and Sarah Bennett plus the Sally Doherty Trio, the Trevor Owen and Steve Oakes Quartets, and the Kings Cross Hot Club. Those who've been to Wigan once mark it on their calendars each year as a "must-see event. If you plan to be anywhere near the Midlands in July, Wigan is definitely the place to be.

Closer to Home . . .
The University of New Mexico held a two-day Jazz Festival on April 1-2, two weeks before Flutology (Frank Wess, Holly Hofmann, Ali Ryerson) came to town for a one-night tribute to Herbie Mann and fund-raiser for the New Mexico Jazz Workshop.

UNM's Jazz Band 1 capped its festival with an evening performance at the Lobo Theatre with guest artists Scott Whitfield on trombone, Chip McNeill on tenor and soprano sax, and Reggie Thomas on piano. Whitfield, as you may know, leads his own Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestras East and West, and has recorded with both. McNeill, an associate professor and chairman of Jazz Studies at the University of Illinois, has recorded with a number of groups large and small, and is a former member of Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau. Thomas, who has recorded prolifically with a number of Jazz artists from Eddie Daniels and Slide Hampton to Nicholas Payton and Clark Terry, is a professor of Jazz Studies at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. They helped guide the UNM band through an exciting program that included "Take the 'A' Train, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, "Mood Indigo, "Stardust, "Come Rain or Come Shine, Mike Tomaro's "Del Corazon and two by Whitfield, "Till Next Time and "S.S.T.

I was only able to stay for the first half of Flutology's program, which consisted of Dizzy Gillespie's "Be Bop, Lee Morgan's "Ceora, Denny Zeitlin's "Quiet Now and a Wess original, "Equal Parts, based on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps. Hofmann, Ryerson and Wess were ably supported by pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Sherman Ferguson.

Saxophone legend Bud Shank was in town the following day, April 17, to check things out before bringing his long-running Jazz Workshop to UNM in mid-July, and seemed pleased with what he saw. He arrived on the same day as the NM Jazz Workshop's Spring Jazz Party, featuring the Workshop's middle school honor band, adult big band, adult Jazz chorus, and high school honor bands I and II. Bud will be leading his own big band at the Neophonic Impressions event in L.A., and it will be recorded by Graham Carter for later release on his Jazzed Media label.

The world bade farewell to another celebrated Jazz musician last month when Danish bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen died in Copenhagen at the relatively young age of 58. NHOP, as he was commonly known, was recognized as one of the world's leading bassists for more than thirty years, since he joined the Oscar Peterson Trio in 1973. "In reality, says Cim Meyer, editor of the Danish music magazine Jazz Special, "he was Denmark's best-known musician regardless of the genre. Orsted Pedersen appeared on hundreds of records (including more than fifty with Peterson), recording with such giants as Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Toots Thielemans, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Count Basie, Lee Konitz, Kenny Drew Sr., Brew Moore, Ella Fitzgerald and Martial Solal, among others. From 1964-82, he was a member of the acclaimed Danish Radio Big Band (now the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra). In 1991, NHOP was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize, one of many awards garnered during his distinguished career.

And as this is being written, news has arrived of the passing of another great musician, trumpeter Benny Bailey, an American who spent much of his career in Europe including a dozen years with the legendary Clarke-Boland Big Band. Bailey was 79. Like NHOP, he'll be greatly missed.

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!

New and Noteworthy

  1. Spokane Jazz Orchestra, It's About Time (SJO)
  2. Galen Jeter and Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra, Big 30 (JazzMark)
  3. Rodger Fox Big Band, A Rare Connection (T-Bone)
  4. Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, WJO (WJO)
  5. Sherisse Rogers's Project Uprising, Sleight of Hand (no label)
  6. Cal State Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble, The Unlikely Event (CSLA)
  7. Kevin Mahogany Big Band (Mahogany Jazz)
  8. Phil Woods & the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, Groovin' to Marty Paich (Jazzed Media)
  9. Chris Walden Big Band, Home of My Heart (Origin)
  10. City Rhythm Orchestra / Joey DeFrancesco, Vibrant Tones (Limehouse Records)
  11. NewYorkestra Big Band, Urban Soundscapes (Sea Breeze)
  12. Pratt Brothers Big Band, 16 Men & a Chick Singer Swingin' (Consolidated Artists)
  13. McGill University Jazz Ensemble, Ostinatocious (FMJ Records)
  14. Sammy Nestico, A Portrait of Sammy (Fenwood Music)
  15. Craig Raymond / Next Generation Big Band, Let's Dance Band Stand (Alanna)

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