Yet Another "Dream Band"
As there's not much happening jazz-wise this month, I thought it would be fun (not to mention controversial) to put together a "dream band" comprised of many of my all-time favorite players. Not based on big band tenure per se, even though all of these gentlemen (alas, there are no ladies) enriched many a large ensemble during their long and illustrious careers. No, this is strictly personala list of those who, if I had a big band, I'd love to hear playing in it night after night, year after year. And so, as the saying goes, without further ado, here's the JB All-Star Dream Band, Version 1.0:
The trumpet section: Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Carl Saunders.
The reed section: Art Pepper, Sonny Stitt, alto sax; Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, tenor sax; Lars Gullin, baritone sax.
The trombone section: Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, J.J. Johnson, Bob Brookmeyer.
The rhythm section: Oscar Peterson, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Buddy Rich, drums.
For better or worse, there you have it. I only regret that there wasn't room to include many more of the outstanding musicians I've heard over the years, but the line must be drawn somewhere. One may reasonably question the absence of a guitar (or vibes) in the rhythm section, a partial answer to which is that the three giants named above certainly need no help. Another is that there have been so many great guitarists I couldn't possibly narrow the list to only one. And to me, the addition of a vibraphone would serve only to unsettle the balance of as perfect a rhythm section as one could envision. If there had to be one, the choice would come down to three: Terry Gibbs, Lionel Hampton or Milt Jackson.
But let's take it from the top, namely the trumpet section. Many eyebrows surely will be raised by the inclusion of Conte Candoli and Carl Saunders alongside such legends as Brown, Gillespie and Ferguson. All I can say is, they are among the best I've ever heard, playing lead or jazz, so they earned their seats on the bus. Yes, I can hear the irate chorus now: "How could you have an all-star trumpet section without (fill in the blank)?" The answer is, there are only enough chairs for five, and I chose the ones I'd want in my dream band. Those who'd deign to argue will have to form their own band. And FYI, if I were to add a sixth trumpet strictly for jazz solos, the name Marvin Stamm leaps to mind.
Moving on to the reed section, some may shake their heads and wonder, "Who's Lars Gullin?" A Swede, actually, who died in 1976 before reaching age fifty and who also happens to be my favorite baritone saxophonist. "But you (gasp!) left out Gerry Mulligan?" Sadly, yes, as he's my second favorite baritone and there is only room for one. If the band had a Stan Kenton-style section with two baritones, Mulligan definitely would be the other. To me, Art Pepper was a lock for one alto chair, whereas Sonny Stitt barely squeezed into the second, ahead of Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, Bud Shank and a host of others including, of course, the peerless Bird, Charlie Parker. Why not Parker? For one thing, he wasn't at his best in a big-band setting; for another, even as I recognize his unquestioned genius, I don't think even he swung harder than Stitt, whose earnestness and artistry I've always admired. In an extremely close call, Stitt by a whisker.
Filling the tenor chairs, on the other hand, was a piece of cake. I simply penciled in the first two names that came into my head, then searched the memory bank for anyone I'd rather have in their shoes. No one came even close. More than happy, I'd be grateful and honored to have Sims and Getz in my band. Same goes for the trombonesRosolino, Fontana, Johnson, and for variety, perhaps the best valve trombonist in the business (with apologies to Rob McConnell and Bob Enevoldsen, who made the choice difficult), Bob Brookmeyer. No bass trombone; they'd just have to handle the lower register themselves.
Oscar Peterson is my pianist. Always has been, always will bewhile Buddy Rich is without a doubt in my mind the greatest big band drummer I've ever heard. As for bassists, all the best ones sound basically alike to my untrained ears, so I picked one who almost everyone agrees was one of the best in any surroundings, Ray Brown. I don't think that's a bad choice.