Maynard Ferguson: Gonna Fly Now
After supper, we returned to the Ruth Street Theatre for the second of the weekend's concerts, this one opened by Prescott High School's Jazz Band One with guest soloists Vax, Whitfield and Vacca. The newcomers included Tidaback (trombone), pianist Joel Robin, drummer Cleve Huff and vocalist Delphine Cortez, while the highlights encompassed Florence's duets with Vacca ("You Don't Know What Love Is") and Stamm ("I'm Old Fashioned," "The Shadow Of Your Smile"), Vax's emotional tribute to Ferguson ("Danny Boy"), Whitfield's vocal on "Bye Bye Blackbird," Cortez's crowd-pleasing set, and group performances of "You And The Night And The Music" and the quickly improvised "Ruth Street Theatre Blues." The concert drew a much larger (but no more enthusiastic) audience than Friday's event at the Elks Theatre.
As Betty and I had to leave before noon on Sunday to catch our flight back to Albuquerque, we chose the earlier of two Jazz Brunches at the Hassayampa Inn. As we'd had trouble tearing ourselves away from Bob, Evie, Norm and Faye at the B&B, we arrived fifteen minutes late and were told that even though we had tickets, there were no seats available. It didn't look promising, but after several minutes of hemming, hawing and scrambling, two empty places were found and we were seated for breakfast. In the background I could hear a tenor saxophonist wailing on "Lester Leaps In." Not Tony Vacca, I surmised, so I turned to see who it was. None other than the great Dave Pell!
What an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Dave said he had been in Prescott for the entire weekend but was making his first appearance at the Festival. I was happy we'd chosen the early brunch, as Dave, now eighty-one years young, was driving back to southern California after the set. "I'm playing in a golf tournament tomorrow morning," he said. As for the trip, "it's only a ten-CD drive," he shrugged. Oh, to have only half of the man's energy! You couldn't pay me enough to drive from Prescott to Albuquerque.
One more thing happened at the Brunch that is worth noting, even though it means more to me (and especially to my brother Tom) than anyone else. While I was chatting with the AZA's Doug Tidaback, he mentioned that one of the new guys in town (Tucson) had played trumpet for about nineteen years with the Airmen of Note. Even before asking the name I had a hunch what the answer would be: Kenny Smukal.
That may not mean much to you, but for years my brother Tom (we both grew up in D.C.) has been telling me that Kenny is in his eyes the greatest trumpeter ever to play with the AON, and it was a pleasure to meet him and (I hope) put him in touch with Tom, who as this is being written is alive and well and preparing for a rendezvous with Hurricane (Tropical Storm?) Ernesto in Tequesta, Florida. When I told Tom I'd met Kenny Smukal it almost blew him away before Ernesto had a chance to do likewise.
After the Brunch, and a few parting words with Scott Whitfield, one of the classiest guys you'll ever meet, we took our leave and headed back to Phoenix, our spirits uplifted by three days of wonderful memories and our minds buoyed by the thought that this need not be our last visit to Prescott. Alas, we had to miss that afternoon's closing concert with vocalist Margo Reed but one can't have everything. It was a marvelous weekend, and we look forward to more of the same.
Ken Poston's Sure-Fire Cure For The Blues
Have you ever yearned to be in two places at once? If there were any way to make that wish come true, I'd save it for use during the first week in October, when Albuquerque's annual International Balloon Fiesta coincides with the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's tribute to Count Basie, Swingin' The Blues, at the Four Points Sheraton-LAX hotel in Los Angeles. The Balloon Fiesta is mandatory (Betty's sister June and her husband are visiting, for one thing) but oh, to be in Los Angeles when they honor the Kid from Red Bank!
Swingin' The Blues will showcase world-renowned alumni of the Basie orchestra leading their own groups and/or taking part in special concerts of music written for Basie. The sixteen concerts will feature a variety of big bands and smaller groups. Among the bands are two from New York City that are rarely seen and heard in Los Angelesthe Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the Thad Jones Legacy Project.
Others set to perform include Frank Foster's Loud Minority Big Band, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Frank Capp Juggernaut, the Johnny Mandel Big Band, Frank Wess, Joe Wilder, the Shorty Rogers Big Band Courting The Count, an Afternoon of Some Basie-ites, and (perhaps) the Clark Terry Big Band. Four university ensembles are scheduled to play music written for the Basie band by Benny Carter, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones and Sammy Nestico. And as always, there will be panel discussions, film showings and special presentations.
A Pioneer Jazz Educator Leaves Us