Jacksonville: Big City, Big Band, Big Plans
After more than twenty years at the helm, trumpeter Rob Partonhas decided to deactivate his superb Chicago-based JazzTech Big Band. Future plans, he says, may include either bringing back his nonet, Ensemble 9, or putting together a new big band "with different strengths," although how one could be stronger than his current ensemble is a premise that's hard to comprehend. In any event, Parton has made his decision, and the JazzTech Big Band has been terminated, leaving as a part of its legacy seven high-quality CDsJazzTech Big Band with Conte Candoli, The Count Is In!, What Are We Here For?, Fascinatin' Rhythm, Just One of Those Things, Eleventh Hour Live and Two Different Days. As Dorothy said to the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, "I think I'll miss you most of all . . ."
Bill Finegan, a composer / arranger who produced hit songs for Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey and was co-leader of the groundbreaking Sauter-Finegan Orchestra in the 1950s, died June 3 at his home in Bridgeport, CT. He was 91 years old. Finegan arranged Miller's first big hit, "Little Brown Jug," and virtually everything the Miller band recorded in 1938-39 before becoming a regular arranger for Dorsey. The innovative Sauter-Finegan Orchestra enjoyed great popularity among music-lovers who were charmed by its quirky arrangements and unusual instrumentation. At its peak, the orchestra's twenty-one musicians played a combined seventy-seven instruments. In its arrangement of the "Troika" from Serge Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije Suite," Finegan emulated the pounding of horses' hooves by beating out the rhythm on his chest. The orchestra also made extensive use of flutes, chimes, bells and other lesser-heard instruments.
Alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, who was a standout in a number of big bands including the Stan Kenton Orchestra before settling in Europe in the early 1970s, died June 16 at age 85. Mariano joined Kenton's orchestra in 1953 and stayed for two years before joining drummer Shelly Manne, with whom he recorded several albums including The Gambit. Mariano returned to his hometown, Boston, in 1958, where he began teaching at the Berklee School of Music while performing in various groups with trumpeter Herb Pomeroy. It was there that he met and married pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, forming a quartet that first recorded in 1960. The group (and the marriage) lasted for seven years. Mariano also arranged for Akiyoshi's Japanese All-Star Big Band. Also in the 1960s, Mariano recorded with Charles Mingus, most notably on the album The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Mariano's interest in fusion was growing, and he worked with the European free jazz / fusion band Pork Pie Hat with guitarist Philip Catherine and pianist Jasper Van't Hof. In 1975, Mariano was invited to join the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, where he played reeds alongside British saxophonist Barbara Thompson. Also in the band were trumpeters Kenny Wheeler and Ian Carr, bassist Eberhard Weber and drummer John Hiseman. From the late 1980s on, Mariano was a widely sought freelance artist, returning to his earlier bop-style of playing for occasional reunions of Kenton alumni and gigs with Al Porcino's German-based big band.