Brett Favre Isn't The Only Comeback Kid
The ink was barely dry on last month's report that trumpeter Rob Parton had decided to break up his superlative Chicago-based JazzTech Big Band after more than twenty years at the helm before Parton was back with a brand new ensemble, one whose purpose, he says, "is to mirror that of the European Radio Orchestras where new music is the focus rather than that of the repertory bands that are so popular in the U.S." In making the announcement, Parton writes that the music "will feature the sounds of the electric guitar, electric bass, percussion and musical styles outside of the traditional swing setting, hitting upon funk, hip hop and Latin grooves." Uh-oh.
"In some ways," Parton adds, "[the band] might be very similar to Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band intersecting with Maria Schneider's Jazz Orchestra." Instead of playing lead trumpet, as he has in the past, Parton will instead supervise the band from out front, playing trumpet solos and conducting. His replacement, it's good to report, is one of the best in the business, Roger Ingram, who presently leads the Harry Connick Orchestra's trumpet section. Other blue-chip sidemen already on board include saxophonists Mark Colby, Ken Partyka and John Wojciechowski, trombonists Tom Garling and Tom Matta, trumpeter Scott Wagstaff, pianist Kevin O'Connell and drummer Bob Rummage. Parton's wife, Kristy, will handle the vocals, as she did with the JazzTech ensemble.
As for writers, Parton mentions Schneider, Jim McNeely, Chuck Owen, Bob Mintzer and Tim Hagans as among those on whose concepts the band will be patterned, with plans to commission Chicago composers to write "new [and] diverse music outside of the traditional big band composer / orchestration template." As was the case with the JazzTech Big Band, the new Rob Parton ensemble is set to perform regularly at FitzGerald's in suburban Berwyn, sharing the stage starting in October with area college bands and in December with high school jazz bands. Parton's group will also perform at Chicago's Jazz Showcase with the hope of recording live within the next year or so.
After two decades, one must concede that Parton is entitled to go in a new direction of his choosing. On the other hand, the JazzTech Big Band was (and may remain) clearly in a class by itself, standing head and shoulders above most other bands, not only in Chicago but anywhere else, here and abroad. Listeners should wish Parton the best in his new venture and hope he never needs to look back someday and wonder why he ever decided to disband the JazzTech Big Band.
Les Paul: Renaissance Man
Les Paul, who was best known as a guitarist and played regularly almost to the end of his life in August, was a musician whose influence extended far beyond performance. Besides inventing one of the most widely used guitars in the industry (the Les Paul model), Paul was a pioneer in multi-track recording, which enables artists to record various instruments at different times, sing harmony with themselves, and balance tracks in the finished recording. Paul also introduced overdubbing, using the technique with his then-wife, Mary Ford, on such gold record songs as "How High the Moon," "Tennessee Waltz" and "Vaya con Dios." Long before transistors or microchips, Paul was tweaking the guitar with electronic effectswarping notes, adding echo and feedback, and twiddling knobs to alter its sound. In 1941, he launched a prototype solid-body electric guitar dubbed The Log, a forerunner of the Les Paul model. In the late 1950s, Paul, who was known as "the Thomas Edison of the music industry," retired from performing to devote more time to his inventions (in 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame).