Yet Another "Dream Band"
If the band leans toward modern, that's because I first became interested in jazz in the late 1940s, when bebop was in flower and Bird and Diz ruled the world, and have only a passing knowledge of what came before it (hence the omission of such icons as Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, and so on). Even so, I know there are those who may be displeased by some of my choicesperhaps even all of them. That's what makes the world go 'round. If you do have a bone (or two) to pick, I'd like to hear from you. Let me know who you'd want in your "dream band," and why. I may even print your comments, and if they are persuasive enough, perhaps there'd be some changes in the JB All-Star Band, Version 2.0. My e-mail address is email@example.com
'I'm Diggin' in the Rain...'
Betty and I were invited to attend a Jazz Under the Stars program June 28 at the Albuquerque Museum of Art. On our arrival, we were greeted, to paraphrase the Tom Kubis composition, by "high winds and a good chance of Wayne"er, rain. The winds were indeed fierce but the rain chose to move in another direction and ended shortly before the concert by Los Angeles-based pianist Rob Mullins and his trio (Adam Cohen, bass; Evan Stone, drums). The trio was actually a quartet, as Mullins added a second keyboardist, young Louis Schwartz, an Albuquerque Academy grad who's in his freshman year at the University of Southern California and is one of Mullins' private students.
Mullins, who used to gig around Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the early 1980s, has had a successful career on the West Coast playing, teaching and writing for television (where his credits include "The Proud Family," "Moesha," "King of Queens," "Soulfood" and "The Parkers"). He recently released his seventeenth album, Storyteller, from which much of the material in the first half of the concert was taken (we stayed only until intermission, as the winds and occasional rain had given Betty a chill). The first three numbers"In the Sun," "Storyteller," "Escher's Etude"were long on design and technique but short on improvisation, perhaps a step (or less) removed from smooth jazz (about which I'm no expert). That changed on the fourth selection, as the group was joined by local tenor saxophonist Kanoa Kaluhiwa for Mullins' "B-Flat Major Etude," Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and one of Mullins' earlier compositions, a funk / rock piece entitled "Red Shoes." Everyone was given solo space except Schwartz (nicknamed Napolean Dynamite by Mullins) who played a rhythmic "Freddie Green" role behind the others and was for the most part inaudible. Even though Mullins' style isn't my cup of tea, it was a pleasant enough session, enhanced by the leader's amusing commentary, and it was especially generous of him to allow a local player who's still in his teens to gain some valuable performing experience with a group of seasoned pros.
A Last Farewell to Bob Florence
A memorial service was held June 15 at Catalina's in Hollywood for pianist Bob Florence who died a month earlier, only five days before his seventy-sixth birthday. The standing-room-only audience was treated to music by Florence's Limited Edition (whose piano chair was vacant); the Phil Norman Tentet, with whom Bob had also been the pianist (Christian Jacob assumed the unenviable task of sitting in for him); and singer Vicky Carr, backed by the Limited Edition conducted by her music director, Andy Howe. In addition to the music, there were remembrances by longtime friends and colleagues including Norman, Mike Vax, Kim Richmond, Norm Tompach, Don Shelton, Paul Myers and Tom Peterson, and written messages from Julie Andrews and Johnny Mandel. A granddaughter, Merrisa Marcucella, read an original poem, and a daughter, Melanie Funsten, presented a slide show of Bob's life. Those who've reported on the service have described it as a memorable afternoon, one that honored and celebrated the life of a brilliant musician and devoted family man who will be greatly missed.
The Philadelphia Music Project will present a symposium October 31-November 1 focused on the presentation, celebration and documentation of the life, music and legacy of legendary trumpeter Clifford Brown. Brownie's son, Clifford Brown Jr., will serve as master of ceremonies, with performances by Terence Blanchard, Benny Golson (composer of "I Remember Clifford"), Lou Donaldson, Marcus Belgrave and the UArts Jazz Ensemble, and a new John Fedchock composition dedicated to Brownie and performed by the Lars Halle Jazz Orchestra.