Swingin' Into Spring, Poston-Style
Anyone who believed that Sunday should be a day of rest hadn't reckoned on Poston, who summoned everyone to the ballroom at eight a.m. for the fourth of five films, then to the San Diego Room for Panel No. 4. After the Youngest Jazz Band's well-received poolside concert it was time for another group of relative youngsters, the hand-picked Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California, to take center stage. Director Jack Wheaton had the ensemble well-prepared, and there were no missteps in a program that included two of Bill Holman's electrifying charts, "Limehouse Blues and "What's New, alongside "Perdido, Kenton's "Concerto To End All Concertos, James Moody's "Moody's Mood and Johnny Richards' "La Suerte De Los Tontos from the Kenton orchestra's Cuban Fire suite, among others. Soloists were bright and resourceful, especially saxophonists Andrew Balogh, Steve Horist and Fermin Chavez, trumpeter Brian Owen, pianist Hiroe Sekine, bassist Carter Wallace and drummer Jonathan Bradley. The saxophone section was especially impressive in recreating Moody's memorable solo on "Mood. The audience was small but the response was upbeat and appreciative.
Wayne Bergeron's band was next up, and if the students weren't taking notes they should have been. Bergeron featured himself on Bill Liston's "Friend Like Me, pianist Christian Jacob and alto saxophonist Rusty Higgins on Liston's adaptation of Tchaikovsky's "Waltz Of The Flowers from the Nutcracker suite. After a flag-waver whose long name sounded something like "You Ate What, Mr. Sousaphone?, Bergeron teamed with trumpeter Warren Luening on "Maynard and Waynard, which Wayne had recorded with his role model, Maynard Ferguson, on the band's recent album, Plays Well With Others. Andy Martin was featured on the standard "I Thought About You, which preceded Tom Kubis's arrangement of "You Go To My Head. After reprising the Ray Charles hit, "Georgia, the band closed with a pair of originals by Kubis, "High Clouds And A Good Chance Of Wayne (featuring guess-who) and "Rhythm Method. Another in a series of gratifying performances.
Following the last of the panel discussions, much of the late afternoon was set aside for the film Don Ellis: Electric Heart, a documentary that scans the life of the iconoclastic trumpeter who died twenty-nine years ago at age forty-four. If one managed to remain seated through the first twenty minutes or so, he or she may have gained some insight into Ellis' music while viewing vintage clips of his band that are palatable if not spellbinding. But those first twenty minutes are positively deadly! Ellis is seen performing (the term is used loosely) a train-wreck of a concert with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic that should have been left on the cutting-room floor. Sorry, Ellis fans, but it is travesties such as this one that have helped cause the undoing of Jazz as we know it. My opinion, of course. The rest of the film is appreciably better, even though the narrator (and I don't know who she is) has to be among the worst I've ever heard (where is Orson Welles when we need him?). Note to producer John Vizzusi: scrap the NY Phil and lead with the Bulgarian tune, which at least has energy and purpose. To his credit, Vizzusi says the film is a work in progress and is being trimmed and revised prior to an international tour.
The meter was already running overtime when Phil Norman's Tentet came onstage to hustle through an agreeable set that included two charts, "Sugar and "Claire De Lune, by the man who couldn't be there, Bob Florence; Sonny Rollins' "Doxy, smartly arranged by Roger Neumann; Kim Richmond's study of "The Outlaw and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds, and, once again, "La Suerte De Los Tontos from Cuban Fire. With the finish line within shouting distance, Betty and I joined Norm and Faye Tompach for supper and pleasant conversation, returning to the hotel in time to catch only a part of Adventures In Time, performed by an all-star band directed by Jack Wheaton and showcasing a number of Stan Kenton alumni. While we didn't hear enough to form an opinion, the reviews we heard were decidedly mixed.
By now Betty and I were feeling rather frazzled, and having seen and been less than inspired by the Don Ellis film decided to skip the last concert, performed by the Don Ellis Alumni Band directed by pianist Milcho Leviev, about which we heard glowing reports from a number of those who attended. Even so, I don't suspect it is something we would have especially appreciated. When all is said and done I'm a four-four guy who has trouble following anything more elaborate, even if it does swing, which Ellis surely did on occasion. On Monday, we left Swing Into Spring behind and swung onto a plane headed back to Albuquerque and home.
Some final thoughts....