"A Swingin' Affair" Outshines Its Name
There was one more concert before the supper break, this one by Londoner Altman's band. We'd read that Altman is an Emmy-winning soundtrack composer, as well as an arranger, orchestrator and conductor who has worked on a dozen platinum albums by various artists. What his bio didn't say is that he's also a world-class saxophonist, as he proved on a curved soprano on the impulsive opener, "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Oddly, the band's second number was titled "The Opener," followed by a Jazzed-up version of Rudolf Friml's "Chansonette" (perhaps better known as "The Donkey Serenade") and the venerable "Lester Left Town," showcasing Pete Christlieb on tenor and Andy Martin on trombone. The next two numbers, Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" (whose melody was played by tubaist Doug Tornquist) and Mario Bauza's "Mambo Inn," are always a pleasure to hear. Altman's "West Coast Chatter," composed especially for the occasion, is a medium-tempo charmer written in the style of Gerry Mulligan. The band wrapped up its session with the Harry Warren standard "I Wish I Knew" (with Altman returning on alto), his "Foregone Conclusion" and Gigi Gryce's "Minority." Besides those mentioned, there were handsome solos by altos Sal Lozano and Danny House, tenor Rob Lockart, baritone Bob Efford, trombonists Otto and Charlie Morillas, pianist Tom Ranier and bassist John Belzaguy.
After supper it was the Frank Capp Juggernaut's turn to swing, thundering zestfully through two sets' worth of luminous charts from the Count Basie book and elsewhere, mainly by arrangers Neal Hefti, Sammy Nestico and Frank Foster. The band showed up with one tenor chair empty; Pete Christlieb had been delayed. Capp asked, "Is there a tenor in the house?" and Roger Neumann responded, saxophone in hand, to sit for the first two numbers until "the late" Mr. Christlieb arrived in time to take his seat for Nestico's "A Warm Breeze." Trumpeter Bob Summers was showcased on Nestico's "Katie" and Foster's "Shiny Stockings," the trombone section (Morillas, Alan Kaplan, Bob McChesney) on Hefti's aptly named "Bag o' Bones." Carl Saunders crafted the first of many mind-blowing trumpet solos on "It Might as Well Be Spring," pianist John Proulx was out front on Hefti's "Girl Talk" (arranged by Nat Pierce), and the band wrapped up Set 1 with a buoyant version of the standard "It Could Happen to You," on which Proulx doubled as vocalist.
Hefti was in the forefront on Set 2, which opened with his "Flight of the Foo Birds" and included "Dinner with My Friends" and "Li'l Darlin.'" Christlieb was featured on the plaintive ballad "We'll Be Together Again," fleet-fingered alto Lanny Morgan on a typically frenetic reading of Ray Noble's "Cherokee," Summers on Benny Golson's "I Remember Clifford." Juggernaut then rang down the curtain on opening day with Basie's "One O'Clock Jump" (solos by Proulx, baritone Adam Schroederwho stepped in at the last moment for an ailing Jack Nimitztenor Terry Harrington, guitarist Barry Zweig and drummer Capp).
Friday, May 22, 2009
Friday's session got off to a more customary start with the first of three engaging film presentations, "Big Bands in the Movies," highlighting onscreen appearances by Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Cab Calloway, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. The film was followed at 10:45 by a second panel discussion as moderator Ken Borgers guided bandleaders Neumann, Ann Patterson and Chris Walden through a series of sharp and humorous reminiscences about their careers and the music profession in general.
At noon, it was back to poolside for a hurried snack and a performance by the UCLA Jazz Ensemble led by Charley Harrison. After opening with a couple of Jazz standards (Duke Pearson's "Jeannine," Thad Jones' "Mean What You Say") and Frank Mantooth's definitive arrangement of "Young and Foolish," the band embarked on a three-song salute to Ellington that included "Harlem Airshaft," "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" (splendid vocal by Alexandra Isley) and a movement from the Duke's Far East Suite that featured clarinetist Anna Kent. The ensemble exited stage right with Frank Foster's blistering "Hey Jim" from the Basie book.