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Big Band Report

That's Ten Down, And...

By Published: March 11, 2008

Lest one assume that I must be a workaholic, nothing could be further from the truth. Even though I still spend most weekdays at the computer, staring at blank pages, thumbing frantically through my dog-eared thesaurus and praying for inspiration, I've never really considered that to be work but more akin to a labor of love. While I'd spent much of my working life as a newspaper writer/editor and loved jazz since I was a teen, the thought of writing about music, let alone reviewing CDs, had never crossed my mind until someone asked me to appraise an album, as a personal favor. That review was written for Cadence, which didn't publish it, but that's another story. . . .

Looking for Jazz in the Big Apple?

The Baha'is of New York City have begun their fifth year of semi-regular Tuesday evening jazz concerts in the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium at the NYC Baha'i Center, 53 E. 11th St. (between Broadway and University Place). Pianist Mike Longo, who served for many years as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's pianist/music director, is the man behind the concerts, and his NY State of the Art Jazz Ensemble featuring vocalist Hilary Gardner has performed on a number of occasions. Other big bands that have appeared regularly include those led by Jamie Begian, Art Lillard, George Gee, Jamie Baum and Lou Caputo, plus Jabbo Ware and the Me, We and Them Orchestra, Daoud David Williams and the Spirit of Life Ensemble, Charli Persip and Super Sound, Warren Smith and the Composers' Workshop Big Band, Jack Jeffers and the NY Connection, and Gary Morgan and Panamericana.

The auditorium, which was renovated before the concert series began, has a seating capacity of 140. For information about the concerts, phone Mike Longo, 212-222-5159, or send an e-mail to bebopyo@aol.com The ensembles led by Morgan, Longo and Ware are scheduled this month, Persip's band on April 29 (preceded that month by the Warren Chiasson Quartet, the Ted Curson All-Stars and the Cecilia Coleman Quintet).

Closer to Home...

Albuquerque held its thirty-second annual Jazz Festival in February, a two-day event centered mainly around high-school and middle-school ensembles with a closing concert on Saturday evening featuring the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and an invited guest artist. This year's guest was drummer Dennis Mackrel whose c.v. includes four years with the Count Basie Orchestra and stints with, among others, Slide Hampton and the Jazz Masters, the Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra, Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Classic Jazz Orchestra, American Jazz Orchestra, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and Hank Jones Trio. Until recently, Mackrel was the drummer with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band, directed by Hampton.

The concert was held at the recently opened African American Performing Arts Center at Expo New Mexico whose auditorium is acoustically superb. As Betty and I were there to enjoy ourselves I took no notes but can report that the AJO was inspired by Mackrel's presence and played about as well as I've heard them. Trumpeter Bobby Shew, the orchestra's new music director, soloed on one number, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," and was his usual brilliant self, earning a long and enthusiastic ovation from the near-capacity audience. Mackrel was up next, and added fire and spice to three numbers by McCoy Tyner ("Update," "Blues on the Corner," "Passion Dance"), his own composition "Just Your Average Blues in C" and the standard "Body and Soul" (the last played by Mackrel with piano and bass).

Shew reappeared after intermission, this time as guest soloist with trumpeter Gabriel Alegria's sextet, which plays music described by the leader as Afro-Peruvian Jazz. Whatever it's called, it is high-energy, mind-blowing music, led by a pair of phenomenal percussionists, Freddy "Huevito" Lobaton and Hugo Alcazar, who dazzled the audience with near-supersonic exchanges that had everyone gasping and cheering for more. Alcazar played drums, Lobaton everything else. Rounding out the sextet were tenor saxophonist Laurandrea Leguia, guitarist Yuri Juarez and bassist Ramon Debruyin. While Shew was a guest on Alegria's first album, Nuevo Mundo (as were Bill Watrous, Tierney Sutton, Russell Ferrante and Lisa Harriton), this was the first time he'd played with the group in a concert setting, and was clearly enjoying himself. Mackrel, seated in the audience, was duly impressed by the ensemble and its percussionists, and hurried onstage afterward to shake their hands. The album, by the way, is available from Saponegro Records (www.saponegro.com). If that doesn't work, send an e-mail to Alegria (info@gabrielalegria.com)

Later this month, Shew and fellow trumpeter Wayne Bergeron (another former student, as is Alegria) will perform with the AJO in a fund-raising concert for the Manzano High School Jazz Band. We'll say more about that later.

A Photographic "Jam Session"

Meridian International Center, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization that promotes international understanding through the exchange of people, ideas and the arts, is presenting Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace The World, an exhibit that opens to the public April 4 in Meridian's Cafritz Gallery. Jam Session consists of more than eighty photographs of legendary jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and others as they traveled the world for the U.S. State Department during the Cold War (from the mid-50s until 1978).

Brubeck himself will be at Meridian on April 11, offering insights on his goodwill visits overseas and performing with the Dave Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet. In August, the exhibit will begin a two-year tour to venues around the country. Meridian is working with the Brubeck Institute at California's University of the Pacific to arrange an event marking the fiftieth anniversary of Brubeck's first State Department tour. The DC exhibit will remain open until July 13. Viewing hours are 2-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and admission is free. For information, phone 202-483-0429.

Teo Macero

Teo Macero, a record producer, composer and saxophonist who was best known for his work with trumpeter Miles Davis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, died February 19 in Riverhead, NY. He was eighty-two years old.

Although Macero produced most of Davis' catalog for Columbia Records including the albums Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain, Someday My Prince Will Come, Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way, that was only a part of his musical career, as he worked also with such luminaries as Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Johnny Mathis, Dave Brubeck, J.J. Johnson, Tony Bennett, Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz and many others while at Columbia. He produced the first Columbia recordings by Monk (Monk's Dream) and Mingus (Mingus Ah Um), as well as Brubeck's most popular album, Time Out.

Macero worked as a tenor saxophonist with Mingus, Teddy Charles and others while composing modern classical music and Third Stream Jazz before joining Columbia Records as a music editor in 1957. He later produced a number of Broadway original cast recordings including A Chorus Line and Bye Bye Birdie, which introduced Dick Van Dyke to Broadway audiences. After leaving Columbia in 1975, Macero continued composing orchestral works and ballets for various symphony orchestras and ballet companies, and worked as a producer for Brubeck, Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Michel Legrand, Wallace Roney, Shirley Maclaine, Vernon Reid, Robert Palmer and others. He also released a handful of his own albums before founding his own label, Teorecords, in 1999. A documentary film, Play That, Teo, is currently being produced by Olana DiGirolamo, daughter of Macero's friend and collaborator, Orlando DiGirolamo.

One More Reminder

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute is presenting another four-day Jazz event, "The Stage Door Swings," May 22-25 at the LAX Four Points Sheraton Hotel in LA. The theme is Broadway musicals, and the performers include many of the West Coast's leading jazz musicians including Jack Sheldon, Marty Paich, Lennie Niehaus, Helen Merrill, Pinky Winters and Tierney Sutton, along with part-time West Coasters Bud Shank, Bobby Shew, Ken Peplowski and Joel Kaye. An early-bird concert on May 21 will feature music by the Dave Pell Octet. For information and reservations, phone 562-985-7065 or log on to lajazzinstitute.org.

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


New and Noteworthy

1. Bobby Burgess Big Band Explosion, Live At Rosenau (Mons)
2. Jim Widner Big Band, Out Of This World (Chase Music Group)
3. Rob Parton's JazzTech Big Band, Just One Of Those Things (Sea Breeze Jazz)
4. Gerald Wilson Orchesta, Monterey Moods (Mack Avenue)
5. Jason Lindner Big Band, Live At The Jazz Gallery (Azica Records)
6. Dietrich Koch Big Band, Berlin Cookbook (Mons)
7. Texas Tech University, Glimmer Of Night & Day (Sea Breeze Vista)
8. National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Out Of Hamelin (DVD) (Stanza Music)
9. Charles Tolliver Big Band, With Love (Mosaic)
10. Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band, Portology (OmniTone)
11. Mt. Hood Jazz Band and Combo, I'm Still Here (Sea Breeze Vista)
12. Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Blues Man From Memphis (Blue Canoe Records)
13. Michael Berkowitz/Gene Krupa Orchestra, Thinking Of Gene (Sea Breeze Jazz)
14. Johnny Holloway Big Band, Just Friends (Diaspora Connections)
15. Illinois Jacquet, Swingin' Live (Jacquet Records)



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