Bud Shank: A Voice for the Ages
Shank continued to record with his quartet and other small groups as well as with Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, Japanese kotoist Kimio Eto, and London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (in a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra). In May 2005, Shank led his own big band for the first time in a concert date that was later released as a Jazzed Media CD titled Taking the Long Way Home. Before moving to Tucson for health reasons, Shank had served for a number of years as director of the Centrum Jazz Workshop in his former home, Port Townsend, WA.
On a personal note, the first time I saw Bud Shank was on an album cover. He was slender, crew-cut and better-looking than many a matinee idol (which could also be said of his contemporaries Chet Baker and Art Pepper). Bud presumably didn't know that, as friends describe him as an extremely shy young man owing in part to a problem he'd had since childhood with one of his eyes. To help overcome that, Bud Shank made music his "voice." It was a wise decision, as that voice is one that will continue to be heard and appreciated by countless listeners for many years to come.
If the Shew Fits...
Since returning "home" to Albuquerque more than two years ago, trumpeter Bobby Shew has been busy whipping the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra into shape and playing other gigs in and around town, besides continuing his busy career as a tireless globe-trotting trumpet star. On April 5, Betty and I caught Shew in a septet setting with the group Salsa Caliente, performing at the Albuquerque Center for Spiritual Living. The music, if not the musicians, was hot and sweaty, starting with Ray Bryant's impassioned "Cubano Chant." Shew was featured prominently with two fellow members of the AJO, tenor saxophonist Glenn Kostur and trombonist Christian Pincock. Rounding out the group were pianist Stu MacAskie, bassist Milo Jaramillo, conguero Cesar Bauvallet and drummer Arnoldo Acosta. Other numbers (we stayed for only the first set) included "Elation," "Linda Chicana," "Esto es Nuevo," "Paunetto's Point" and "Serengeti." The large audience was most appreciative.
Two weeks later, on April 19, we were at The Cooperage steakhouse to see and hear the rapidly improving Albuquerque Jazz Orchesta at the first of two Sunday dates they've lined up there (the second is in mid-May). I've always thought the band sounded good, but since Shew has taken the reins the renovation is unmistakable. With two subs in the trumpet section, another two among the trombones, the orchestra didn't miss a beat, following Shew's instructions to the letter through a brace of sharp and exhilarating sets. The choice of music was exemplary, starting with the standard "Alone Together" and proceeding (first set) through Tom Kubis' "Just Monkin' Around," his stellar arrangement of "When You're Smiling," Dave Grusin's theme from the film "Mulholland Falls," "Blue Alert," and closing with Pete Meyers' definitive arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale." The second set began with "Green Dolphin Street," Chris Walden's lush arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day" and a medium-up version of "Cherokee." Shew and bassist Colin Deuble were featured on "Mean to Me," which preceded Bert Joris' "Nuees d'Orage," Pat Metheny's "Minuano" and "Song for Bilbao" and the bustling finale, Nathan Tanouye's "Russ Job."
If the orchestra was better than ever, the soloists were no less so. Alto saxophonist Kostur was dazzling on "Cherokee," as was tenor Lee Taylor on "Smiling" and "Rainy Day." Others making their presence felt included Deuble, pianist Chris Ishee, trumpeters Kent Erickson and Henry Estrada, and two of the newcomers (trumpet, trombone) whose names I didn't catch, as Shew for some reason had no microphone and was almost inaudible. That, however, was the only blemish in an otherwise outstanding big-band performance.
Swinging Europeand Elsewhere
The European Jazz Orchestra, sponsored by Swinging Europe and the European Broadcasting Union, has begun its 2009 tour of nine European countries under the baton of world-renowned Romanian-born bandleader Peter Herbolzheimer (the 21-member orchestra, comprised of 18-20-year-old musicians from eighteen countries, has a new director each year). The tour ends May 6-7 in Romania after stops in Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. Since the EJO was formed in 1988, 226 European musicians have taken part in 175 concerts in thirty-three countries in Europe, North and South America and Asia. Past music directors have included Pierre Dorge, Francois Theberge, Helge Albin, Benjamin Herman, Django Bates, Bruno Tomasso, Pedro Moreira, Vic Vogel, Barrie Forgie, Lars Moller and Niels Klein.