The IAJE's Collapse: What Happened?
If I could be in two places at once on June 1, the second would be Studio City, CA, for the twenty-second annual Big Band Reunion Luncheon & Concert sponsored by the Big Band Academy of America. The main reason (besides the food) is that the special guest is one of my comedy heroes, the one and only Stan Freberg, whose quirky sense of humor I have enjoyed for many years. Also on the program are the Modernaires (featuring Paula Kelly Jr.) and singer and TV personality Peter Marshall (of "Hollywood Squares" fame), backed by the 18-member Big Band Academy Blue Ribbon Band directed by Pat Longo. Admission includes the luncheon and concert. To get in touch, phone 818-301-2378, or e-mail email@example.com
On October 17, the Pittsfield (MA) City Jazz Festival returns to the Colonial Theatre for "Jazz Meets the Symphony," featuring the New Black Eagles Jazz Band and the Pittsfield City Youth Orchestra. The festival itself, established in 2005, runs from October 10-19 with a "Jazz in the Schools" program from October 14-17. Details will be announced later this spring, with periodic news updates at www.PittsfieldCityJazz.org
Already under way and set to continue through May 9 is "Swinging Europe 2008," a series of concerts by the seventeen-member European Youth Jazz Orchestra, conducted this year by German bandleader/composer Niels Klein. The five-country tour began April 25 in Denmark and winds up at the Moers Festival in Germany. The ensemble also has concert dates in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Three concerts scheduled in Egypt had to be canceled for security reasons. The final concert, in Moers, should produce a CD, as is done every year.
The Monterey Jazz Festival has announced the membership of the 2008 Next Generation Jazz Orchesta, comprised of high school students from around the country. The NGJO is slated to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, July 9-11, and at Boston's Berklee School of Music on July 15. The twenty-one young musicians who comprise the orchestra hail from a dozen states. Among its former members are pianists Benny Green and Patrice Rushen, saxophonists Josh Redman and Dave Koz, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Chad Wackerman. More information about the NGJO can be found at www.montereyjazzfestival.org
Some Solemn Farewells
Happiness was tinged with inevitable sadness in the past month, during which a few more of the jazz world's brightest lights were extinguished. Taking them in chronological order:
Gene Puerling, a noted vocal arranger and former leader of the popular quartet the Hi-Lo's, died March 26 at age seventy-eight. Pianist and TV host Steve Allen called the Hi-Lo's "the best vocal group of all time," an observation with which few would argue. The group was formed in 1953, and three years later its album "Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's" was among the top twenty best-selling albums of the year. A follow-up, "And All That Jazz," was a critical if not a commercial success. Puerling won a Grammy Award in 1981 for his arrangement for the Manhattan Transfer of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Besides the Manhattan Transfer, other groups who cited the Hi-Lo's as an influence included the Beach Boys, the Gatlin Brothers, Take 6, and the Mamas and the Papas.
Allan Ganley, a first-call drummer for British groups large and small for more than half a century, died March 29, eighteen days after his seventy-seventh birthday. Ganley, wrote Steve Voce, was "the perfect Jazz drummer. He could play with faultless instinct and delicacy in any style and had what seemed to be a supernatural understanding of how the giants of Jazz wished to be accompanied." Among those giants were Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stephane Grappelli, Annie Ross and Peggy Lee. Ganley played in many British big bands and smaller groups led by John Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Ambrose, Jack Parnell, Kenny Baker and Ronnie Ross, among others. He was also a busy session player who worked with composers Nelson Riddle, Robert Farnon, Henry Mancini and others. Until the week of his death, Ganley had a regular Sunday lunchtime gig at Jag's in Ascot, where he lived.
Phil Urso, a smooth, Lester Young-influenced tenor saxophonist who was best known for his mid-50s association with trumpeter Chet Baker, died April 7 in Denver, CO. He was eighty-two years old. Earlier, he had played with Woody Herman, Miles Davis, Jimmy Dorsey, Terry Gibbs and Oscar Pettiford, and in 1954 co-led a quintet with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. Although little was heard from Urso nationally after the fifties, he remained active in his adopted home of Denver well into the 1990s. A few years ago, he and trumpeter Carl Saunders recorded an album titled "Salute Chet Baker" for Colorado's Jazzed Media label, and Urso was part of an all-star big band that played for KUVO Radio's 20th anniversary concert in 2005 whose headliner was pianist Marian McPartland.