Swingin' Into Spring, Poston-Style
Returning to the music, the Vax ensemble continued with Ray Brown's "Neverbird, the late Frank Mantooth's breathtaking arrangement of "Young And Foolish (showcasing pianist Jeff Colella who was sitting in for Florence), Kim Richmond's "Horizon Under, Gene Roland's "The Blues Story, and closed the first set with the ever-popular "Peanut Vendor, during which the members of the trumpet section left the stage and circulated among the audience while nailing the high notes. After a break, the band returned with Richmond's "The Big Sur, the Marty Paich arrangement of "My Old Flame, Kenton's "Reed Rapture and Bill Russo's treatment of "Over The Rainbow. Scott Whitfield left the 'bone section to team with vocalist Ginger Berglund on the Jackie Cain-Roy Kral favorite, "You Inspire Me, and fellow trombonist Kenny Shroyer soloed on Cole Porter's "Get Out Of Town, as he had on Kenton's album Back To Balboa nearly half a century ago. The band wrapped things up with Richmond's lively arrangement of Ray Wetzel's "Intermission Riff. Besides Vax, Saunders, Colella and Shroyer, the band's group of impressive soloists included Whitfield, Richmond, Huffsteter, alto saxophonist Keith Bishop and tenor Billy Kerr.
Following the return trip to L.A., supper and a good night's sleep, we were ready for the "official opening Thursday morning of Swing Into Spring. Each of the four days was begun with a film, the first of which was "Drop Me Off In Harlem (the pre-swing era). It was followed on Friday by "The Swing Era, on Saturday by "Big Bands In Transition, and on Sunday by "Music For Moderns. In keeping with the event's "baseball theme, the "first pitch was delivered (in the San Diego Room) by Tommy Hawkins, actually an ex-basketball star (All-American at Notre Dame, pro career with the L.A. Lakers and Cincinnati Royals), a lifelong jazz fan, motivational speaker and weekend deejay at KJAZ in Los Angeles. His humorous and provocative discourse preceded the first of the weekend's four poolside concerts, presented by the Los Angeles County High School for the Performing Arts under director Jason Goldman. I'll admit that I caught only parts of each noontime concert (lunch plans kept getting in the way), but what I heard was quite good.
Scott Whitfield's Jazz Orchestra West was first up in the California Ballroom and delivered a solid hour-long set that included Hank Mobley's "This I Dig Of You, Lee Morgan's lovely "Ceora, four of Whitfield's compositions"To Be There, "The Minute Game, "Splat!, "Hiccups and a duet by Scott and Ginger Berglund on Frank Loesser's "Slow Boat To China. Bob Summers, making his first appearance of the weekend, was one of a number of splendid soloists that included Whitfield, trumpeter Larry Williams, alto saxophonist Rusty Higgins, tenor saxophonists Roger Neumann and Andy Martinez, bassist Jennifer Leitham and drummer Kendall Kay. The trombone section (Whitfield, Gary Tole, Bryant Byers) bared its formidable chops on "Splat!
The afternoons were partly given over to panel discussions, the first of which, "The Big Leagues, was moderated by Larry Hathaway with panelists Whitfield, Neumann, Huffsteter and drummer Frank Capp. As usual, each one showed a sharp sense of humor that isn't always evident when he is busy leading a band. As the door has been opened, let's quickly survey the other panels as well. Friday"Grand Slam, moderated by Kirk Silsbee with panelists Ann Patterson, Mike Barone, Carl Saunders (another funny cat) and Gordon Goodwin. Saturday"Murderer's Row with Silsbee overseeing Gene Norman, Don Menza, Tom Kubis, Gerald Wilson, Bill Watrous, Buddy Collette and Gerry Gibbs. Sunday"Around The Horn with Poston (moderator) and panelists Phil Norman, Jack Wheaton, Wayne Bergeron and Sonny LaRosa (the first question, directed to Bergeron, was "how did you get started? Wayne gave a five-minute reply worthy of a Jerry Seinfeld standup comedy routine, and that was only for openers). A fifth panel discussion, "Remembering Don Ellis, was held Sunday afternoon with Nick DiScala moderating panelists Patterson, Milcho Leviev, Fred Selden and Sam Falzone.