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Big Band Report

We Get Letters . . .

By Published: May 1, 2003

My thanks to Terry for taking the time to write. His letter is not only interesting but informative, and I learned a lot by reading it. I meant no slight by writing that Brienn Perry’s back-up band wasn’t “actually the Woody Herman Orchestra,” but was referring to those who’d toured regularly and recorded with the band. Except for Paul McKee and Roger Ingram, I didn’t know that several of the guys backing Perry had played with the Legacy Band outside their home turf, even touring Europe with the band, but given the economics of keeping a large ensemble together these days, it makes perfect sense to have a number of top-drawer players available in every area of the country who are familiar with the book and can sit in whenever needed. As I wrote, they are “some of the Chicago area’s most in-demand sidemen,” and for good reason. They are among the best that area has to offer, which is why I also wrote that “it sure sounds like [Woody’s] band.” Having lived in the Chicago area myself for twenty years before moving to Charlotte in ’97, I’m well aware of the high caliber of musicianship in that city and am especially familiar with the talents of Tom Matta, Joey Tartell, Lou Stockwell, Tom Garling, Richard Drexler, Scott Wagstaff and Bob Rummage, among others. And I remember John Wojciechowski as a star soloist at Western Michigan University.

Of course, I am a member of the Woody Herman Society and receive my quarterly issues of The Herds from Al Julian. There’s a list of Herman alumni in every issue but I don’t think it includes the members of the current Legacy Band, as they’re not quite alumni yet. I’ll have to double-check the next issue. If you are interested in becoming a member, you can find out more by contacting the Woody Herman Society, c/o Al Julian, 12854 SW Doug Drive, Lake Suzy, FL 34266 (phone 941-255-9881). The web site is

My thanks again to Terry Douds for writing and setting me straight about the Legacy Band. You can rest assured that no matter’s who’s sitting in what chair, music director Frank Tiberi won’t settle for less than the best. Long live the Herds!

Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains . .
It’s hard to believe that sixty years have passed since Richard Rodgers / Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! burst on the Broadway scene to change the face of musicals forever (and even harder to believe that I was almost eight years old when it happened). Oklahoma!, whose original title was Away We Go!, is known as “the show that saved the Theatre Guild,” which was about to go belly up during WWII when Rodgers and Hammerstein rode to the rescue. This was the first of their nine Broadway shows (you may have heard of Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and some of the others). After opening to mixed reviews on March 31, 1943, Oklahoma! ran for a remarkable 2,212 performances and made stars of Alfred Drake, Celeste Holm, Howard Da Silva, Joan McCracken, choreographer Agnes de Mille and some of their replacements (Howard Keel as Curly, Shelley Winters as Ado Annie). In the 1955 film version, Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones starred as young lovers Curly and Laurey, Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie, Gene Nelson as Will Parker, Eddie Albert as the peddler Ali Hakim and Rod Steiger as the menacing Judd Frey. Nothing to do with big bands, just an interesting historical note.

And on that note we’ll close for now. Until next time, keep swingin’!

(Among the best of the recent big–band releases on Compact Disc)

  1. Buselli / Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, Heart & Soul (BWJO)
  2. The Dino / Franco Piana Orchestra, Interplay for 20 (Pentaflowers)
  3. Ryles Jazz Orchestra, Live at Ryles (Vee Records)
  4. Peter Herbolzheimer, 50 Jahre Live (Mons)
  5. University of North Florida, Second Thoughts (Sea Breeze Vista)
  6. The Dutch Jazz Orchestra, So This Is Love (Challenge)
  7. The Claude Bolling Big Band, Paris Swing (Milan)
  8. The Stan Kenton Orchestra, Stompin’ at Newport (Pablo)
  9. The Walt Harper Big Band, West Coast Online (Birmingham)
  10. The Gary Urwin Big Band, Living in the Moment (Sea Breeze)
  11. The Craig Raymond Big Band, It’s Our Time (Alanna)
  12. North Texas University One O’Clock Band, Lab 2002 (UNTJE)

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