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Big Band Report

Tennis Balls & WBEZ Balls

By Published: July 9, 2006

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,


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 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'!

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