Tennis Balls & WBEZ Balls
Another month has flown by, summer is in full bloom, and I'm in the middle of my annual "Wimbledon break." In spite of its worldwide popularity, soccer's quadrennial World Cup is of no more than passing interest in this household, but everything stops whenever one of the four major tennis tournaments gets under way.
As this is being written (July 2), only one American remains at Wimbledon, an almost unknown 21-year-old woman, Shenay Perry (world ranking 62), who has somehow reached the Round of Sixteen. Gone are former champions Venus Williams and Andre Agassi and twice runner-up Andy Roddick, along with newly rejuvenated James Blake and everyone else from the US. Even so, I remain glued to the screen, watching and appreciating such marvelous players as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, young Scotsman Andy Murray (who dismissed Roddick in straight sets) and others on the men's side, and top seeds Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova on the women's.
As a result, I've fallen somewhat behind in my reviewing, and have in the stack new releases by the Brian Pastor, Kit McClure, Buddy Collette and Ian Pearce big bands, Joey Sellers' Jazz Aggregation and Doug Lawrence Jazz Orchestra, along with the latest from Bob Brookmeyer and the New Art Orchestra and the debut album by the Montclair (California) Women's Big Band. I hope they don't mind waiting another week or so before I get to them!
Betty and I did manage to get out last evening to catch the Southwest Jazz Orchestra, an eleven-piece ensemble that plays for the most part the music of Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. The concert was part of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop's annual Jazz Under The Stars series at the Albuquerque Museum of Art's outdoor amphitheatre. The orchestra performed three sets, the second of which was (for me) the best, as it included two of Mulligan's splendid compositions, "Idol Gossip" and "Westwood Walk," along with director Jack Manno's excellent arrangement of Rodgers and Hart's "Where Or When," Oscar Castro-Neves' thumping "Tropical Heart" and a delightful samba, "Silent Fury," by guitarist Michael Anthony. The first set included "Sweet Georgia Brown" (which introduced the members of the band, each of whom took a sixteen-bar solo), Anthony's "Steps," Juan Tizol's "Perdido," Monk's "I Mean You" and Manno's "Soaring." The third set opened with two compositions by Mingus and a fine arrangement of "Dear Old Stockholm," after which Betty and I took our leave.
The SWJO, which plays on the first Monday of every month at the Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, isn't a big band in the usual sense of the word, as it consists of one trumpeter (Jan McDonald), one trombonist (Ed Ulman), four saxophonists (Cindy Tag, Arlen Asher, Aaron Lewis, Bill Wood) and a five-member rhythm sectionMcDonald (guitar), Chris Allen (vibes), Chris Ishee (piano), Rodney Rowe (bass) and Ryan Anthony (drums). The sound is a bit thin at times, but Manno emphasizes color over muscle, and the charts play to the band's strong points. Everyone is a respectable soloist, with the veteran Asher a standout on baritone or soprano sax.
On July 15, Jazz Under The Stars welcomes a jazz superstar, Bobby Shew, who is returning to Albuquerque, his hometown, after many years on the road and a career that has earned him a reputation as one of the finest lead/jazz trumpeters in the world. Bobby will be heading a quintet that includes saxophonist Glenn Kostur (former music director with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau, currently director of the UNM Jazz Studies program), pianist Pat Rhoads, bassist Milo Jaramillo and drummer Andy Polling.
Later this summer (August 24-27), Betty and I will be making a return trip to Prescott, Arizona for the sixth annual Prescott Jazz Summit. Trumpeter Mike Vax, the Summit's director, has assembled another crew of world-class musiciansincluding pianist Bob Florence, trumpeter Marvin Stamm, saxophonist Tony Vacca, drummer Gary Hobbs, trombonist Scott Whitfield and guitarist Jack Petersento complement a number of first- rate local players and school bands from several cities in Arizona.
It's a laid-back affair with an outdoor concert on the courthouse square (the same kind one would see in a film like The Music Man), afternoon clinics for the younger players, evening concerts on Friday and Saturday, a fund-raising dinner, and a Jazz Brunch on Sunday morning with performances by many of the weekend's guest musicians. If you'd like to make plans to attend you can learn more by phoning 928-771-1268 or 925-872-1942. Betty and I had a wonderful time there last year, and look forward to our return. It's an enjoyable three days of live jazz in a lovely setting that won't break the bank.
Last month I promised I'd say a few more words this time around about desert-island-list big-band albums, as I'd barely scratched the surface in May, limiting the discussion in that column for the most part to boxed sets containing two or more discs. Well, I've since gone back to the library, and find that it has become all but impossible to narrow a catalog that now numbers more than 1,850 albums to a stockpile small enough for a desert island, unless one were bringing a U-Haul van along with a suitcase, as so many terrific albums have been released since last I compiled such a list.
Even if I were to name those US albums I regard as essential, that would overlook the many from overseas (there are now 274 such bands in the library), the hundreds of others by topnotch college and university ensembles, and the large number by our outstanding armed forces bands (Airmen Of Note, Army Blues and Jazz Ambassadors, Navy Commodores and so on). I started making a list but stopped when the number passed fifty, as I'd made only a dent in the collection and realized it was ridiculous to continue. It pains me to have to say this, but if you are ever stranded on a desert island, I'm afraid you're on your own.
Jazz For Peace? Perhaps it's a movement whose time has come. The campaign, whose motto is "uniting people through the art form of jazz," was founded by pianist Rick DellaRatta, whose JFP group has performed during the past year in many cities in the US as well as in Toronto, Mexico City and Cancun. In September 2002, DellaRatta led a group of musicians from the US, Israel, Europe, Asia and the Middle East in a concert at UN headquarters in New York City. JFP has sponsored a benefit concert series that has raised funds for more than 250 non-profit groups, brought music into schools and donated musical instruments to underprivileged children around the world. Besides DellaRatta, the group's new CD, Jazz For Peace, features Paquito D'Rivera, Eddie Gomez, Lenny White and the London Symphony Orchestra. Sounds like it may be catching on. If you'd like to learn more about Jazz For Peace, visit the web site, jazzforpeace.org.
Guitarist John Pizzarelli's big band is among the performers at this year's JVC Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The band will appear on Friday, August 11, with vocalist Jane Monheit, in a concert entitled "Dear Mr. Sinatra." Details from www.Ticketweb.com or 866-468-7619. Others scheduled to appear are George Benson, Al Jarreau, Arturo Sandoval, the Robert Glasper Trio, guitarist Marc Ribot, Dr. John, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Savion Glover, the Bad Plus, George Wein and the Newport All-Stars, the Marty Ehrlich Sextet, the Andy Bey Quartet, the Avishai Cohen Trio, Luciana Souza, and last but certainly not least, the Cyrus Chestnut Quartet featuring tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander.
ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) has added the names of six renowned musicians to the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame at its offices in New York City. The group includes living legends Frank Foster, Horace Silver and Clark Terry, and posthumous honorees Freddie Green, Fletcher Henderson and Sarah Vaughan. Also recognized is composer/guitarist Ken Hatfield, who received the ASCAP Foundation's Vanguard Award for his "innovative musical activity as a composer, instrumentalist and performer in the field of jazz." The ceremony was held June 21 at the ASCAP Gallery in NYC.
Speaking of awards, Black and White Boston's Henry Hampton Award, created in 2001 to honor a minority business with a long and positive history in the community, has been presented to Wally's Café CEO Elynor Walcott, daughter of the original Wally. Wally's has become nationally known for providing music to jazz-loving audiences in New England since 1947, while also giving young music students a chance to play with seasoned professionals. Joseph L. Walcott, a native of Barbados who came to the US in 1910, was the first African American to own a nightclub in New England. While most of the other clubs in the area including the High Hat, Savoy Ballroom, Chicken Lane, Wig Wam, Connolly's and Big M, among others, have closed, Wally's helps keep the jazz flame burning in Boston and the surrounding area.
On a more somber note, Chicago's NPR affiliate, WBEZ, long the home base of one of the country's foremost jazz hosts, Dick Buckley, has announced plans to curtail its music programs starting next year, focusing instead on news and cultural affairs presentations. In spite of a lot of double-talk by WBEZ brass, it looks like jazz programming is pretty definitely being shown the door. That includes Buckley and other evergreens such as Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. Chalk up one more victory for the blue suits.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!
New and Noteworthy
- Phil Woods/Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, Unheard Herd (Jazzed Media)
- Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, Port Chicago (Noir Records)
- Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Up From The Skies (Planet Arts)
- Bud Shank Big Band, Taking The Long Way Home (Jazzed Media)
- Millennium Jazz Orchestra, Oatts Notes (Jazz 'n Pulz)
- Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra East, Diamonds For Nat (Summit)
- Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Sacred Music Of Duke Ellington (Origin)
- Dutch Jazz Orchestra, The Lady Who Swings The Band (Challenge)
- Manhattan School Of Music, Contemporary Jazz Composition (MSM)
- Rick Holland Little Big Band, In Time's Shadow (BluJazz)
- Vic Vogel Big Band, Hangin' Loose (VV Records)
- Northern Illinois U Jazz Ensemble, Swinging Every Which Way But Loose (UNI)
- US Navy Commodores, Three Shades Of Blue (USNC)
- Magnus Lindgren/Malmo Opera Orchestra, Music For The Neighbours (Amigo Musik)
- Shenandoah University Jazz Ensemble, SU Jazz 2005 (SU)