The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra Gets "Thrasched"
All of that is in addition, of course, to the usual films and panel discussions, which this time around will focus on big bands on film and television as well as on the Hollywood career of Frank Sinatra. For more information, go online to www.lajazzinstitute.org or phone 562-985-7065.
On June 5-15, the U.S. capital is host to the fifth annual Duke EllingtonJazz Festival, billed as a Salute to New Orleans and honoring one of its favorite sons, pianist Ellis Marsalis, scion of the award-winning Marsalis brothers. Featured artists will include Terence Blanchard, Irma Thomas, the Rebirth Brass Band and Buckwheat Zydeco. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 347-726-8325.
Speaking of Ellington...
According to the U.S. Mint, the Duke is to be the first African-American to appear on an American coin. His likeness will adorn the D.C. commemorative quarter which depicts Ellington seated at the piano. He won the honor by a vote of D.C. residents, beating out abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astronomer Benjamin Banneker. Also on the coin is the phrase "justice for all." During his long career as composer / pianist / bandleader, Ellington, who was born in D.C., earned thirteen Grammy Awards and composed more than three thousand songs.
And Yet Another Honor
Drummer Sherrie Maricle, the leader since its inception of the superb all-woman big band DIVA, is the 2009 recipient of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award for her lifetime of service to jazz. Maricle will receive the honor on May 15 at the Kennedy Center in D.C. She's also scheduled in June as a guest on pianist Marian McPartland's popular radio program, Piano Jazz, on National Public Radio. DIVA's sixth recording, Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, is now available.
And Lest We Forget . . .
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's newest CD (actually a two-CD set), Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard, has won a Grammy Award as Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, while Song for Chico by Arturo O'Farrilland the Latin Jazz Orchestra won similar honors as Best Latin Jazz Album.
You Heard It Where?
On a recent visit to the Olive Garden restaurant in Albuquerque, my ears were drawn to the nearly inaudible speaker system, from which ushered forth songs by June Christywith the Stan Kenton Orchestra (can't recall the name of the tune), plus jazz versions of "All the Things You Are" (piano trio), "Taking a Chance on Love" (violinist, sounded like Stephane Grappelli), "I Won't Dance," "As Long as I Live" and "Almost Like Being in Love," plus Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa." As always, I complimented the management on its choice of music, letting them know that at least one customer listened to and appreciated it. Next time you're at an Olive Garden, see what you can hear. You may be pleasantly surprised, as I was.
From the Department of Distressing News...
Two members of Chuck Mangione's band, saxophonist Gerry Niewood and guitarist Coleman Mellett, were among the fifty persons killed when Continental Airlines flight 3407 crashed into a home in suburban Buffalo, NY, on Thursday, February 12. Forty-nine of the victims were on the plane, one in the home that was struck. Niewood and Mellett were flying to Buffalo to perform the following evening with Mangione and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Mellett, 33, was a relative newcomer, while Niewood and Mangione's partnership and friendship dated to their high school days in Rochester, NY. Niewood first joined the band in 1968, stayed until 1976, and rejoined in the mid-1990s after a career as a freelance / studio musician and leader of his own groups.
Jazz in general and big bands in particular lost a staunch advocate February 9 when bandleader / guitarist / entrepreneur Vic Lewisdied in London at age 89. Lewis was a firm supporter as well as a close friend of Stan Kenton, whose orchestra he conducted at Carnegie Hall in 1950. Lewis was also one of the West Coast jazz school's strongest allies. After recording Mulligan's Music Lewis and his band toured the U.S. in 1956-57, recorded Basie-inspired compositions by Nelson Riddle in 1962, and a bossa nova album the following year. That date featured an all-star lineup that included Shorty Rogers, Jack Sheldon, Bob Cooper, Bud Shank, Victor Feldman, Laurindo Almeida, Don Bagley and Shelly Manne. Over the next four decades, Lewis recorded dozens of big-band albums in London. His last album, recorded in 2000, was With Love to Gerry.
Also on February 9, the jazz world lost one of its most original artists, singer Blossom Dearie, who helped pioneer vocalese in the 1940s and early 1950s. She was 82. And on January 20 we bade farewell to saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, a longtime member of the Ray Charles Band who later had a successful career as a solo performer. Newman was 75.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!...