Ken Poston's Big Band Showcase: You Had to Be There
Following the first of five lively and entertaining panel discussions (Richmond, Urwin and King with moderator Kirk Silsbee), Richmond's Concert Jazz Orchestra came out swinging in the ballroom with the fast-paced "B.B., spotlighting altos Phil Feather and Billy Kerr, trumpeter Steve Huffsteter, Bill Roper's tuba and vocal effects by pianist John Proulx, who later sang on his own composition, "My Love for You. Also on the engaging program were Richmond's "Cloud Fields (John Yoakum, tenor sax), "Horizon Under (John Daversa, trumpet; Glen Berger, tenor sax), the opulent group enterprise "Poetry and nimble "Peace of Change (Huffsteter, trumpet; Joey Sellers, trombone). The orchestra closed with Richmond's tasteful arrangement of "America the Beautiful.
Before the dinner break, everyone was treated to a splendid performance by the Buddy Childers Big Band directed by Ron King. After an opening groover whose name I didn't catch, the ensemble scored points with the cleverly named "Band of Buddys, the ballad "Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Oliver Nelson's "Yearnin', Billy Byers' "Tetanus Sets In (written for Eddie "Lockjaw Davis), John Coltrane's "After the Rain, Michael Brecker's "Slings and Arrows and the standard "Out of This World. Besides trumpeter King, there was strong blowing by tenors Christlieb and Garnett, trumpeters Ron Stout and Jeff Kaye, alto Kerr, baritone Charlie Arena, trombonist Jacques Voyemant and pianist Yoon Seung Cho.
Completing the Thursday program was a concert devoted to the film music of Duke Ellington, performed by a fifteen-piece orchestra conducted by Charley Harrison, introduced by legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell and featuring former Ellington drummer Louie Bellson (Louie hasn't been well, and the less said about that the better). The film scores surveyed were Anatomy of a Murder, Assault on a Queen and Paris Blues. In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I heard only the first one, then went upstairs to bed. While I've nothing against Ellington (and love classic films), the truth is that (many) film scores lose much of their spirit and substance unless accompanied by the images on screen. From what I heard, that was certainly the case herealthough things may have improved later on.
Friday 5 October...
Friday was Bill Holman Day, and after viewing film clips of Holman's writing, arranging and/or playing for bands led by Charlie Barnet, Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan and Woody Herman, everyone moved to the California Ballroom for an exhilarating (almost) all-Holman concert by the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California led by Jack Wheaton with special guest Bruce Johnstone. After opening with Wheaton's "2001 Fanfare, the students scampered eagerly through Holman's arrangements of "Limehouse Blues, "What's New, "Stairway to the Stars and "Tico Tico before introducing Johnstone, a formidable presence on the challenging "Concerto for Baritone Sax and Neophonic Orchestra. The CNO wrapped the package with Holman's off-center treatment of Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train. The orchestra was tight and focused, the soloists admirable.
After lunch came the long-awaited opening performance by the Bill Holman Big Band led by Holman himself ("Ken's putting me to work on my day," he joked)in a Kenton Showcase that highlighted his compositions and arrangements for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. The band roared out of the starting gate with "Bill Holman's Works, a composition that Holman said hadn't been recorded (but has, as "Kingfish ). Tenor Christlieb and trumpeter Bob Summers were the soloists. Alto Bruce Babad was featured on "In Lighter Vein (written for Lee Konitz), alto Lanny Morgan on a mercurial version of "Stella by Starlight, Morgan, trumpeter Ron Stout, tenor Doug Webb and trombonist Dave Ryan on "What's New. Holman wrote "Fearless Finlay and "Zoot! for one of his favorite players, the unrivaled tenor stylist Zoot Sims. Christlieb sat in for Zoot on the first, Webb on the second. The familiar "Theme and Variations, as it turns out, is one of three such motifs composed by Holman, with the others to be heard later. After another breathtaking solo by Christlieb on "Yesterdays (written for Bill Perkins), the band closed the concert in the only way possible, swaggering through Holman's classic arrangement of "Stompin' at the Savoy.