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Big Band Report

Louie Bellson: Tasteful Drummer, Sweeter Guy

By Published: April 2, 2009
On March 26, Betty and I were at The Outpost Performing Space to see and hear the rapidly improving Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra directed by trumpeter Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
. The small venue was packed and the band was smokin' from the downbeat, scampering briskly through Belgian trumpeter Bert Joris' picturesque opener, "Magic Box." Other highlights in the first set included the engaging interplay between Shew and bassist Colin Dougall on Frank Mantooth's stellar arrangement of "Mean to Me," trombonist Ed Ulman (playing his last gig with the orchestra) taking command on Tom Garling's "Outside In," terrific charts by Tom Kubis ("When You're Smiling") and Pete Myers ("Love for Sale"), another Joris composition, the turbulent "Nuees D'Orage" (Storm Clouds), Ulman's charming "Emily's Gray Bossa," and splendid turns by the other soloists—trumpeters Brad Dubbs and Henry Estrada, alto Glenn Kostur, tenor Lee Taylor, baritone Aaron Lovato and pianist Chris Ishee.

The second set opened with Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
's "Song for Bilbao," followed by one of the evening's unequivocal high spots, Kostur's mind-blowing solo on Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
's arrangement of "Stella by Starlight" and Taylor's evocative feature, the Chris Walden
Chris Walden
Chris Walden

arranger
arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day." As we'd agreed to leave at 9:30, Betty and I stayed only for another Joris composition, "Blue Alert" (solos by Kostur and Shew), departing as Bobby introduced the next number, the Brazilian ballad "Pra Dizer Adeus" (To Say Goodbye). And with that we said our goodbyes, but not before agreeing with Shew that "the band sounds better than ever."

A Day at the Opera

There are times when a chance remark can lead one down pathways that are as inspiring as they are informative. Case in point: While attending a Metropolitan Opera simulcast of Lucia di Lammermoor in February, I happened to overhear a woman in the row ahead of us mention that she leads a jazz group, so I gave her my card and asked that she send an e-mail and let me know more about it. Her name is Susan Corley, and two years ago she formed Entourage, an ensemble that includes voices, piano, flute, trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass guitar and percussion. Here, mostly in her own words, is how it came about.

Corley, who was trained as a classical singer and has a master's degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston, had been studying for a number of years with Donna McRae in Albuquerque. Two years ago, she writes, "I was coming home from a voice lesson when two men [tried] to rob me at knife point. I realized then that what they say about one's life passing before one's eyes is indeed true." Corley spent the next few weeks in bed recovering from the ordeal, thinking all the while about what to do with the rest of her life. "One of the answers to my question," she writes, "was that I wanted to sing and revisit the music of the Carpenters [pop stars Karen and Richard Carpenter]. I not only wanted to sing it, but I wanted to create a group that could reproduce a similar sound instrumentally. I rounded up some of my classical friends...and from there went looking for some pop / rock musicians who would be interested...I also talked several of my singer friends into being back-up singers to try and [emulate] Karen and Richard's overdubbing....

"The original thought was that we would share a concert [performance] with one of our torch singer friends and that would be it. The actual result turned out to be a wonderful benefit concert for a young boy who had a rare genetic disorder. A few weeks before the concert, [a local television station] called to ask the name of the group. I drove around for a while and thought of the name Entourage, because I was hoping that perhaps someone would like us and we would eventually have people follow to hear us. The concert was well received and we had an absolute blast. Afterward, several people asked if we were playing anywhere around town. I turned to my fellow musicians and they said, 'Yeah, we're in! Let's keep it going!'

"We then decided that as much as we loved the Carpenters, we would branch out into other types of music. We began working on jazz standards, having great fun doing some of Diana Krall

Diana Krall
Diana Krall
b.1964
piano
's and Sammy Davis Jr.'s arrangements. We...added a trumpet player and now do a sweet version of Chet Baker
Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
's 'Let's Get Lost.' When I sat back and looked at all the talent in the group, I realized that we had the ability to [play] a broad spectrum of music. [To date] we've performed everything from Nat "King" Cole
Nat
Nat "King" Cole
1919 - 1965
piano
to the Beatles to zydeco to Mozart. We're an eclectic ensemble that can perform classical music at a wedding, then turn around and perform jazz or rock at the reception. The group has performed for promotional events, memorial services, benefits, private parties and other events. We have a larger ensemble of twelve and a smaller jazz ensemble, The Entourage Quartet. I am truly blessed to be working with such talented and incredibly spirited people. You can check us out at our website, www.entourageabq.com"

Thanks, Susan, for sharing the captivating story behind Entourage. I'm glad I asked.

On the Horizon...

In May, big-band enthusiasts from across the country (and elsewhere) will gather at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel for the semi-annual concert marathon sponsored by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. "A Swingin' Affair," set for May 21-24, will feature twenty big bands plus the usual films and panel discussions that help make these get-togethers so entertaining. Among the bands are those led by Les Hooper

Les Hooper
b.1940
, John Altman, Frank Capp
Frank Capp
Frank Capp
b.1931
drums
, Ann Patterson, Chris Walden, Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
b.1941
sax, tenor
, Gordon Goodwin
Gordon Goodwin
Gordon Goodwin
b.1955
composer/conductor
, Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
b.1939
trombone
, Carl Saunders
Carl Saunders
Carl Saunders
b.1942
trumpet
, Emil Richards, Med Flory
Med Flory
Med Flory
1926 - 2014
sax, tenor
, Alf Clausen, Tom Kubis and Ron Jones, plus a tribute to the late Bob Florence
Bob Florence
Bob Florence
1932 - 2008
band/orchestra
by Florence's Limited Edition ensemble. Even though the time is growing short, you may still try to register by calling 562-985-7065 or going online to www.lajazzinstitute.org

One week earlier, from May 13-16, composer / arranger / saxophonist Kim Richmond

Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
, always one of the mainstays at the LAJI big-band events, will host the annual Northwoods Jazz Camp / Jazz Party at the Holiday Acres Resort in Rhinelander, WI, continuing the big-band format that was started last year.

A faculty of jazz professionals will teach instrumental and vocal master classes, improvisation, Jazz listening, combo and big-band playing, with combo concerts each evening (open to the public) wherein advanced students will sit in with the pros. On the final night, the big band will perform. A major "perk" will be students hanging with the faculty at meals, story sessions and jam sessions. Afternoons are reserved for such activities as boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, hiking, tennis, cookouts, volleyball and shuffleboard (with golf, horseback riding and a campground nearby).

Besides Richmond, faculty members include trumpeter Clay Jenkins

Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
b.1964
trumpet
, trombonist Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
b.1963
trombone
, guitarist Tom Hynes, guitarist Lee Tomboulian, bassist Jeff Campbell
Jeff Campbell
b.1963
bass
, drummer Tim Davis and vocalist Betty Tomboulian. Tuition (meals included) is $795 for students, single occupancy room, $665 for students, double occupancy. No prior experience is required, and spouses are welcome free of charge except for meals. The camp can accommodate a maximum of 25-30 students ages 21 or older.

Rhinelander is three hours north of Madison, four hours east of Minneapolis and an hour north of Wausau. Holiday Acres is a year-round vacation resort on the shores of Lake Thompson, four miles from Rhinelander. For questions or information, e-mail JazzKim@kimrichmond.com

More Honors

In February, Marilyn Bergman, president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, announced the twenty-six winners of the 2009 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards, a program established in 2002 to encourage talented young jazz composers from across the U.S. The recipients, ages 15-29, are chosen through a juried national competition. This year's composer / judges were John Fedchock

John Fedchock
John Fedchock
b.1957
trombone
, Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart
b.1940
bass
and Phil Markowitz. The competition has been sponsored for the past four years by the Gibson Foundation, the philanthropic division of Gibson Guitar Corp. One of the winners, twenty-nine-year-old Rob Mosher
Rob Mosher
Rob Mosher

sax, soprano
of Brooklyn, recently released his debut big-band album, The Tortoise.

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


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