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Big Band Report

Jazz Festival At A Distance

By Published: August 8, 2007
The second annual New Mexico Jazz Festival has come and gone, and I blush to admit that I was totally uninvolved. This year's headliner was saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and as I've never been a big fan, I decided not to attend either of his performances, at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe and the Kiva Auditorium here in Albuquerque. Others appearing at the Lensic were singer/guitarist John Pizzarelli and his quartet, clarinetist Eddie Daniels' quintet with vibraphonist Joe Locke, Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra, the gospel group Mighty Clouds Of Joy, pianist Michel Camilo's trio, bassist Richard Bona and vocalist Dianne Reeves.

I was tempted to drive to Santa Fe to see Eddie Daniels but we had tickets to a play that evening, which ruled it out. Here in Albuquerque, the Festival kicked off August 19 with the great trumpeter Bobby Shew's quintet and special guest saxophonist Gary Foster from Los Angeles in concert at The Outpost Performance Space. We'd have gone to that one but it didn't occur to me until two days before the event that we'd need tickets (Betty and I had always simply showed up and walked in at The Space, whose seating capacity is quite limited—less than 150, I believe—and quite naturally was sold out for Shew's performance). The good news is that we have a second chance to catch Shew's act, on August 2, again at The Outpost with guest saxophonist Rick Keller, and we won't pass that up.

The Festival accommodated free concerts at Albuquerque's Civic Plaza and in Old Town as well, but we were unable to attend any of them, for various reasons. Also tied in were the Jazz, Blues and Salsa Under the Stars events at the Albuquerque Museum of Art. Performers there included Son Como Son, the Albuquerque Blues Connection, and the annual Women's Voices event. I wish the Festival well, and hope next year to be able to attend at least some of the events.

We did manage to get to the Albuquerque Museum on July 7 to see and hear director Jack Manno's Southwest Jazz Orchestra from Santa Fe. As noted before, this is not a full-fledged big band but a tentet, and a pretty good one at that. The first of three sets opened with "Dear Old Stockholm and included Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love (a feature for multi-instrumentalist Arlen Asher, this time on soprano saxophone), Juan Tizol's "Perdido, Charles Mingus' "Peggy's Blue Skylight and "Boogie Stop Shuffle, guitarist Michael Anthony's "Silent Fury and a poem about Mingus read by Lauren Kamp accompanied by bassist Rodney Bowe. The second set got under way with splendid readings of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five and the standard "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To, after which Betty and I had to take our leave (we do need our beauty sleep). But we look forward to seeing the SJO again.

Farewell, Tony

Clarinetist Tony Scott, who played with and led a number of big bands during his long career, died March 28 in Rome, Italy. He was 85 years old. Scott began as a swing clarinetist in the image of Benny Goodman but changed his style to bebop after hearing saxophonist Charlie Parker in the early 1940s. In 1959, Scott left the U.S. to travel in Europe and Asia, became a star in Japan, and in the 1970s settled in Italy, where he lived for the rest of his life, touring and playing with groups large and small. On his seventy-fifth birthday, in 1996, he recorded The Old Lion Roars in Milan, and four years ago returned to the U.S. for a series of concerts with fellow clarinet legend Buddy De Franco in what would be the lion's last roar. RIP, Tony.

Looking Ahead . . .

More than seventy jazz artists and three big bands are scheduled to take part August 30-31 and September 1-2 in the thirteenth annual West Coast Jazz Party at the Irvine (CA) Marriott Hotel near the John Wayne/Orange County Airport. The Jazz America Big Band is set to perform on Friday, trumpeter Carl Saunders' Bebop Big Band on Saturday, and the West Coast Jazz Party All-Star Big Band on Sunday. Others enlivening the party include the Tony Monaco/Bruce Forman Trio, the Jeremy Pelt Quartet, the Terry Gibbs Sextet featuring Ken Peplowski, a West Coast Tribute to Gerry Mulligan with saxophonists Jennifer Hall and Roger Neumann, the Kristin Korb Trio with special guest Andy Martin, the Steve Turre Quintet with Harry Allen, the Mike Melvoin Trio, "Heavy Juice with Harry Allen, Scott Hamilton and pianist Tamir Hendelman, and the Scott Hamilton/Lanny Morgan Quintet with Jon Mayer, Lynn Seaton and Clayton Cameron. James Moody will also be there, as will Byron Stripling, Butch Miles, Jay Leonhart, Chuck Redd, Nancy Kelly, John Proulx, Tom Ranier, Chuck Berghofer, Frank Capp, Ron Eschete, Dewey Erney and many others. For more information, phone 949-759-5003 or go to www.westcoastjazzparty.com

On September 21-23, the Monterey Jazz Festival will launch a celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, showcasing renowned jazz artists including Diana Krall, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Dave Brubeck, Gerald Wilson, Jim Hall, Ernestine Anderson, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chris Potter and others. As a part of the celebration, commissioned artist Gerald Wilson and his orchestra will premiere his new composition, "Monterey Moods," while artist-in-residence, trumpeter Terence Blanchard will perform "Requiem For Katrina with the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra. For more information phone 925-275-9255 or go to www.montereyjazzfestival.org

In October, Ken Poston and the L.A. Jazz Institute return to action with a Cavalcade of Big Band Jazz, showcasing twenty-one of the West Coast's finest ensembles in a three-day marathon. As usual, the event will be held at the Four Points Sheraton LAX Hotel, and the dates are October 4-6. Among the highlights: Primal Scream: An All-Star Tribute to Maynard Ferguson; 7.5 on the Richter Scale: Alumni of the Stan Kenton Orchestra Focusing on the 1970s; A Bill Holman Retrospective featuring his works for Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, plus rarely heard compositions and arrangements for his own big band; Miles Ahead: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans Classic Collaboration; and the Film Scores of Duke Ellington played by the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra. And that's just for starters. Bands scheduled to perform (with others to be named later) include the Bill Holman Band, the Bob Florence Limited Edition, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Jack Sheldon, Gary Urwin and Chris Walden big bands, Kim Richmond's Concert Jazz Orchestra, and the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California directed by Jack Wheaton. As was the case in May, when early birds took a bus trip to Balboa to reprise the origins of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, there will be a "bonus event on October 3: a performance by the Buddy Rich Alumni Band directed by Bobby Shew. To contact the L.A. Jazz Institute, phone 562-985-7065 or go to www.lajazzinstitute.org

And later in October, the Los Angeles Jazz Society presents its 24th annual Jazz Tribute Awards dinner and concert at the Marriott Downtown Hotel, 333 South Figueroa St. The date is October 21, the Tribute honoree composer Johnny Mandel, the honorary chairs Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the host Leonard Maltin. Oher awards will be presented to Marla Gibbs (Lifetime Achievement), Linda Hopkins (Jazz Vocalist), Bob Florence (Composer/Arranger), Ken Poston (Founders Award) and Greg Samuel (Jazz Educator). For information, phone 818-994-4661.

Moving to the East Coast, Jazz Improv Magazine is hosting its first JI Convention October 25-28 at the New Yorker Hotel, 418 8th Avenue. There'll be exhibits, panels, lectures and workshops in addition to performances by a host of well-known artists including McCoy Tyner, Pat Martino, Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy Heath, Wallace Roney, Geri Allen, Sonny Fortune, Vic Juris, Valery Ponomarev, Ron Blake, Jimmy Bruno, Mark Elf, Hal Galper, Mike Longo, Tim Horner, Michael Weiss, Dom Minasi, Marvin Stamm, Frank Catalano and many others. You'll find more information at www.jazzimprov.com

If ever there were a Jazz cruise I'd like to sail on, it's happening November 11-18 on Holland America's m/s Westerdam. The week-long Caribbean excursion, whose ports of call include Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Half Moon Cay, will feature performances by the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band with vocalist Roberta Gambarini, special guest Arturo Sandoval, the Eric Alexander Quartet, the Lynne Arriale Trio, the Cyrus Chestnut Trio, the Jeff Hamilton Trio, the Charles McPherson Quintet and the Lewis Nash Quartet, plus Shelly Berg, Clairdee, Wycliffe Gordon, Ann Hampton Callaway, Eddie Higgins, Red Holloway, Jay Leonhart, Victor Lewis, Ken Peplowski, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Patti Wicks, Rickey Woodard and others. Dizzy's alumni band, by the way, includes in its lineup James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Antonio Hart, Steve Davis, Dennis Mackrel, Claudio Roditi, director Slide Hampton and others. Wow! What a way to sail the ocean blue. Phone 800-762-6737 or go to www.thejazzcruise.com for more information.

Betty and I will be in Prescott, AZ, August 24-26 for the seventh annual Prescott Jazz Summit (our third). Trumpeter Mike Vax is the director, and he has assembled a lineup that includes pianist Bob Florence, trumpeter Marvin Stamm, trombonist Scott Whitfield, drummer Gary Hobbs, saxophonist Tony Vacca, guitarist Jack Petersen, bassist Dwight Kilian and this year's prominent newcomer, trumpeter Carl Saunders. Musicians from Prescott and Phoenix will also perform, as will big bands from Prescott High School, the Arizona Jazz Academy and Prescott Jazz on the Rocks. For information phone 928-771-1268 or 925-872-1942.

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!



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