It's Time for the News! But First, a Brief Report from Sick Bay...
Bang the Drum Slowly
First we lost young lion Chris Dagley, then old pro Martin Drew, and now the one and only Jack Parnell, making the summer of 2010 the most horrendous for British drummers in recent memory, if not for all time. Drew was a still-active 66, Dagley only 38, Parnell 87 when he succumbed to cancer on August 8. Newspapers headlined Parnell's five-year tenure as music director of television's Muppet Show, but I'll remember him best as the driving force behind Ted Heath's turbo-charged jazz / dance band in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Parnell, a Londoner and the son of vaudevillians, left Heath's band to form his own ensembles before assuming a position as music director of Associated Television (ATV), in which capacity he supervised music for the long-running variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium, produced specials featuring Tom Jones, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr. and others, and served as music director for comedian Benny Hill's show.
In 1976, ATV began producing The Muppet Show, which had inexplicably been snubbed by American television. Parnell conducted the orchestra for the series' 120 episodes, although its "on-screen" bandleader was the pop-eyed Muppet conductor, Nigel. It was Parnell who persuaded the peerless drummer Buddy Rich to appear on the show and engage in a memorable "drum duel" with the Muppets' resident time-keeper, Animal (whose actual drumming was done by Parnell's good friend, Ronnie Verrell). Parnell retired in 1982 after 22 years at ATV and returned to his first love, jazz performance, fronting his own groups and playing in clubs and other venues with such friends as cornetist Ruby Braff, trumpeter Kenny Baker and clarinetist Bob Wilber and appearing with the Ted Heath Tribute Band. He continued performing until 20007, when ill health forced him to pack away the drum kit for good.
News We've All Been Waiting to Hear
At long last, Ken Poston has announced the lineup for the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's Come Swing with Me: A Jazz / Big Band Tribute to Frank Sinatra, to be held October 21-24 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Included are 13 concerts, half a dozen Sinatra films, three panel discussions and three special presentations, one ("The Voice: Sinatra in the Forties") by Poston and two ("Sessions with Sinatra: Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording" and "Sinatra at the Movies") by Charles Granata. On Sunday, there'll be an optional bus tour of "Sinatra's Hollywood" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
As for the concerts, no less than the Pied Pipers (with big band) kick things off Saturday afternoon in the Marquis Ballroom. Successive concerts will showcase singers Kurt Reichenbach, Steve Lippia, Frankie Randall, Michael Andrew, Dennis Rowland and Dena Martin; the Mike Melvoin Trio; the Montreal JazzKidz; the Shades of Tony Morelli Big Band; the Patrick Williams Orchestra; the Frank Capp Juggernaut with guest Michael Wayne Deese; the Nelson Riddle Orchestra with guests Gary Williams and Sue Raney; the Plas Johnson Quartet; the Ron Jones Jazz Influence Orchestra; the Ray Anthony Orchestra, and the Johnny Mandel Orchestra with guest Michael Andrew.
As always, that's quite a lineup. And as always, more information can be found at www.lajazzinstitute.org or by phoning 562-200-5477.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin' . . . !
New and Noteworthy
1. Les Hooper Band, Live at Typhoon (Hooperman Records)
2. Stan Kenton, This Is an Orchestra! (Tantara)
3. Phil Woods / DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, Solitude (Jazzed Media)
4. Des Moines Big Band, Landmark (No Label)
5. The Timucua Jazz Orchestra, Live at Timucua (Timucua Arts Foundation)
6. Big Crazy Energy NY Big Band, Inspirations, Vol. 1 (Rosa Records)
7. Vince Norman / Joe McCarthy Big Band, Bright Future (OA2 Records)
8. Riverside Community College, A Minor Case of the Blues (Sea Breeze)
9. Makoto Ozone / No Name Horses, Jungle (Verve Japan)
10. Toronto Jazz Orchestra, The Path (TJO)
11. David Berger Jazz Orchestra, Sing Me a Love Song (Such Sweet Thunder)
12. Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, The Ikaros Suite (Sittel)
13. Fredonia Jazz Ensemble, Still Kickin' (FJE)
14. Waco Jazz Orchestra, Untitled (WJO)
15. Northeastern State University, Portrait (NSU Jazz Lab)