Sonny Rollins Elected as Member of American Academy of Arts & Sciences
While some may scoff at the idea of a Jazz Camp for girls, they are living in the past, as even a cursory glance at today's jazz scene will confirm that talented women are rapidly moving to the forefront in what was once a male-dominated realm. No longer confined to the role of vocalist or pianist, women in 2010 are excelling on every instrument in groups of all shapes and sizes, playing music from traditional to straight-ahead to avant-garde. They've even formed big bands that are as taut and swinging as almost any that one can namenot only Montclair but DIVA, Maiden Voyage and the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra, as well as "mixed" bands led by Carla Bley, Jill Townsend, Anita Brown and others. And when an ensemble like the Army Blues names Liesl Whitaker to lead its trumpet section, one knows that women have arrived and are here to stay. Let's hope that Jazz Camps for girls are here to stay too.
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Noted in Passing
Romanian-born trombonist Peter Herbolzheimer, who became one of Germany's best and most popular big-band leaders, died March 27 in Cologne. He was 74 years old.
After honing his chops in the U.S., Herbolzheimer's long and distinguished career moved into high gear in 1969 when he formed the Rhythm Combination & Brass, a semi-big band (trumpets, trombones, rhythm and one saxophonist, Herb Geller) that was later expanded to include a full saxophone section, much like Rob McConnell's Boss Brass in Canada. In 1987, he became founder and music director of the German Youth Jazz Orchestra, BuJazzO, a position he held through 2006.
Herbolzheimer amassed many honors, performed with a who's who of jazz greats from the States and Europe, and recorded a number of superb big-band albums with the RC&B and BuJazzO. Some are out of print but among those still available, one can easily recommend Colours of a Band, Masterpieces, Smile, Friends and Silhouettes and (with BuJazzO) Calling South Africa, Focus on Vocals and On Tour.
Ellis, whose smooth, blues-inflected style endeared him to generations of fans, is perhaps best known as a member of the acclaimed Oscar Peterson Trio in the mid- to late-1950s. He was the last surviving member of that particular group, Peterson having died in December 2007 and bassist Ray Brown in July 2002. In the 1960s, Ellis became a busy studio musician in Los Angeles, performing mainly on television variety shows. He returned to jazz in 1973, joining fellow guitarists Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd in the group Great Guitars. He recorded frequently over the next two decades, with that group and as a leader, on the Concord Jazz label.
Bunch, an elegant stylist who was at home playing swing or bop, performed most recently with the trio New York Swing, whose other members were guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and bassist Jay Leonhart. That was the latest stop in a career that began when Bunch was a teen-ager in Tipton, Indiana, and included time in bands led by Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa and six years as pianist and music director for singer Tony Bennett. He played almost to the end, appearing with New York Swing less than a month before his passing.
North of the border, Canada lost a fine musician in March with the passing of saxophonist Eugene Amaro, a longtime stalwart with Rob McConnell's Boss Brass who more recently led the Eugene Amaro Quartet. He also co-led the Eugene Amaro / Sam Noto Quintet and performed with the Ron Rully Sextet and Ian McDougall Dectet.
Mike Zwerin, who gave up the presidency of an American steel company to play Jazz trombone and later became a noted critic in Europe, died April 2 in Paris. He was 79 years old. As a trombonist, Zwerin played with big bands led by Maynard Ferguson and Claude Thornhill, and recorded with musicians including Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Earl Hines and Bob Dylan He worked for his father at the Capitol Steel Corp. and became president when his father died in 1960. From 1964-69, Zwerin was jazz columnist for the Village Voice in New York, and in 1977 became a music critic for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Zwerin wrote a number of books including five about jazz, most notably Close Enough for Jazz and The Parisian Jazz Chronicles: An Improvisational Memoir.