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Big Band Report

Granddad Does Dallas

By Published: April 15, 2006
Having mentioned the Ken Poston/Los Angeles Jazz Institute event set for the last full week in May, it's worth repeating that this promises to be another outstanding big-band conclave, one that any big-band enthusiast should thoroughly appreciate. For starters, there are the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Terry Gibbs Big Band, and Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau.

While that should be enough to please almost anyone, it's only the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the Four Freshmen, "Big Band Broadway conducted by Lennie Niehaus, bands led by Bill Holman, Al Porcino, Mike Vax and Buddy Charles, the Collegiate Neophonic Jazz Orchestra, "Cuban Carnival: Artistry in Rhythm Meets Artisty in Gillespie, "Blowin' Up a Storm: The Music of Woody Herman's First Herd," concerts by a number of college ensembles, panel discussions and films, and you have a four-day event (May 25-28) that should satisfy even the most hard-to-please connoisseur. And I've heard that Bob Florence is scheduled to give a solo piano recital as well! All of that in only four days, and all at the Four Points Sheraton LAX Hotel. For information or to register, write to the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, P.O. Box 8038, Long Beach, CA 90808-0038, or phone 562-985-7065.

One week after the L.A. spectacular, the 16th Annual Kenton Klan Party (June 4) presents "Cuban Fire Revisited! at the Holiday Inn Ballroom in Monrovia, CA. Besides saxophonist Billy Root, who appeared on Kenton's Cuban Fire album fifty years ago, the musicians scheduled to perform (all Kenton alumni) include Carl Saunders, Kim Richmond, Jack Costanzo, Mike Vax, Bill Trujillo, Steve Huffsteter, Kenny Shroyer, Dave Stone, Roy Wiegand, Keith LaMotte, Mike Pacheco and others. This is the last-ever Kenton Klan gathering, and one that is not to be missed. Cuban Fire will be performed by a 22-member Kenton Kicks Alumni Orchestra exactly as it appeared on the original album, recorded in May 1956. The program will also include Kenton favorites from the '40s to the '70s, as well as a panel discussion on the Cuban Fire sessions. The cost is $50 per person ($70 with lunch), $10 off for students with ID. For information or to register, phone 626-793-1477, or e-mail

On a Sadder Note...

Jackie McLean, a bebop pioneer on alto sax who later became an outstanding Jazz educator at the Hartt School in Hartford, Connecticut, died March 31. He was seventy- three years old. As a young man growing up in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem, McLean met and became a lifelong friend of the legendary bop pianist Bud Powell. In the late '40s he worked with his friend Sonny Rollins, and while still a teen-ager made his first recordings with trumpeter Miles Davis. Later, he was the alto saxophonist of choice for drummer Art Blakey and bassist Charles Mingus. McLean also turned heads with his own series of innovative recordings on the Blue Note label.

"Every time you play, he once said, "you've got to play your best, give it everything you have as if it were your last solo. One of the few musicians of his generation to have beaten a heroin habit, McLean later devoted himself to community activism and educating young men and women, especially those from the inner city. He also continued to play, enjoying popularity in the States and superstar status in Japan, a country he visited frequently. In Yokohama, he jammed with Japanese musicians in the "Jackie McLean Coffeehouse. One of McLean's three children, Rene, is a well-known saxophonist in her own right.

There's one more death to report, that of Oscar Treadwell. If the name doesn't sound familiar, he wasn't a professional musician but was well-known among musicians as an ultra-hip disc jockey for many years and the dean of Cincinnati, Ohio's Jazz historians. He's also remembered for "An Oscar for Treadwell, a bop tune written for him by none other than Charlie Parker. Treadwell died at age seventy-nine, shortly after having donated his entire CD collection (6,226 discs) to the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library. One more sign that Jazz deejays are a dying breed...

Nothing to Do with Jazz But...

On Sunday, March 26, Betty and I attended our first zarzuela (Spanish opera), and it was quite simply marvelous—lovely costumes, great voices, splendid acting, and thoroughly entertaining in spite of its creaky plot (well, it was set in pre-civil war Spain in the early '30s, a time when a kiss was tantamount to an engagement). We saw it in the state-of- the-art Roy E. Disney Center for the Performing Arts at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

The opera was sung in Spanish but there were English "super titles on a wall above and to the right of the stage. They weren't at all intrusive but quite helpful, even though I suspect we were given an "edited version of what was being sung or spoken. The several leads in "La del Manojo de Rosas (The Woman with a Rose Bouquet, I think) were so good that I have to name names—Mabel Ledo, Armando Mora, David Robinson, Samantha Phillips, Vic Silva, José Daniel Apodaca, Nelly Maria Kirmer, Esteban Mariscal—and everyone else in the large cast, ably accompanied by members of the NM Symphony Orchestra. If you have a chance to see a zarzuela, grab it. If it's anything like this one, you'll find yourself smiling from ear to ear and wishing, as I was, that you'd discovered them years ago.

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

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