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Big Band Report

Are You Sure, Bobby?

By Published: April 5, 2011
In late March, I received an e-mail from trumpeter Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
. He said he'd performed a gig in West Palm Beach, FL, and had met my brothers, whom he described as "nice guys." My first impulse was to write back and ask if he could have been mistaken. My brothers? Nice guys? Well, the fact is that my brothers, Tom and Ed, do live in Tequesta, FL, and Bobby did indeed meet them at the concert in West Palm. "Your brother Ed," he wrote, "gave me his card! Is that a family thing?" He had good reason to ask. Whenever I'd see Bobby at concerts and other events, before he moved back to New Mexico three or four years ago and I got to know him better, I'd always hand him my business card. Finally, after about a dozen such episodes, Bobby stared at me and said, "What? Another card?" To which I replied, "Don't tell me you actually keep them!"

Bobby was in Florida for a "tribute" to Chet Baker
Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
" with John Proulx, a pianist from Los Angeles whose voice approximates Chet's. They'd presented a similar concert a year or two ago in nearby Corrales. Proulx handles the vocals while Bobby emulates Baker's laid-back trumpet style. They were accompanied in West Palm by a group that included drummer Danny Gottlieb
Danny Gottlieb
Danny Gottlieb
b.1953
drums
, bassist Dave Clark, guitarist Jason Ennis and tenor saxophonist Fred Haas
Fred Haas
Fred Haas

saxophone
.

Speaking of Bobby Shew . . .

He'll be in Los Angeles in late May, 2011 to take part in the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's "Big Band Olympics," performing as part of the Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
b.1929
piano
-Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
b.1940
sax, tenor
Big Band's West Coast Reunion and in an International Trumpet Summit with Dusko Goykovich
Dusko Goykovich
Dusko Goykovich
b.1931
trumpet
, Guido Basso
Guido Basso
Guido Basso
b.1937
and Valery Ponomarev
Valery Ponomarev
Valery Ponomarev
b.1943
trumpet
. The Olympics, "celebrating the big band sound from around the world," is to be held May 26-29 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Other bands set to appear include those led by Goykovich, Ponomarev, Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval
b.1949
trumpet
, Rob Pronk, Tommy Vig
Tommy Vig
Tommy Vig
b.1938
vibraphone
, Chris Walden
Chris Walden
Chris Walden

arranger
, John Altman
John Altman

saxophone
, Christian Jacob, Tim Davies
Tim Davies
b.1972
composer/conductor
and the incomparable Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
band/orchestra
. Also slated are tributes to the Clarke-Boland Big Band (by the Cal State-Long Beach Concert Jazz Orchestra) and Rob McConnell
Rob McConnell
Rob McConnell
1935 - 2010
trombone
's Boss Brass (with alumni including Basso, Terry Clarke
Terry Clarke
Terry Clarke
b.1944
, Don Thompson
Don Thompson
Don Thompson
b.1940
multi-instrumentalist
and Ian McDougall), plus concerts by the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California, the Los Angeles Society Big Band and the Jazz Kidz from Montreal, Canada. That's in addition to the usual films, panel discussions and a special presentation by Ken Poston, "Howard Lucraft and Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
's Jazz International." For more information, go online to www.lajazzinstitute.org or phone 562-200-5477.

Out and About

Only one straight-ahead concert was held locally in March, but it was a good one. The Arlen Asher—Paul Gonzales Quintet played two delightful sets March 17 at The Outpost Performance Space. Gonzales, who has known the 81-year-old Asher since he was a first-grade student in Albuquerque and Asher brought some instruments to his wife's class for "show and tell" (Gonzales chose to "audition" on baritone sax), played trumpet and flugelhorn, while Asher, a master of every reed and wind instrument, brought only his soprano, alto and tenor saxophones and flute. The front-liners were ably backed by pianist Brian Bennett, bassist Michael Glynn and drummer John Trentacosta (Asher's co-host on a weekly Jazz program in Santa Fe). The quintet played mostly standards with a few originals by Gonzales inserted to keep the sellout audience engaged. A good time was had by all.

Two More Giants Are Gone

Sir George Shearing
George Shearing
George Shearing
1919 - 2011
piano
, the well-loved pianist who wrote the classic jazz standard "Lullaby of Birdland," died on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, at age 91. Shearing, blind since birth, arrived in the U.S. from his native England in 1947, and two years later scored a big hit with his quintet's version of the standard "September in the Rain." Shearing remained active well into his 80s, recording a CD, "Lullabies of Birdland," and releasing a memoir, Lullaby of Birdland, in 2004. In 2007, Shearing was knighted for his many contributions to music. Shearing and his quintet worked with many stars over the years including Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
b.1937
vocalist
, Mel Torme
Mel Torme
Mel Torme
b.1925
vocalist
(with whom he recorded twice), Marian McPartland, Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
1920 - 2002
vocalist
, Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor
1921 - 2010
piano
, Don Thompson, Stephane Grappelli
Stephane Grappelli
Stephane Grappelli
1908 - 1997
violin
, Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
and, perhaps most notably, Nat "King" Cole
Nat
Nat "King" Cole
1919 - 1965
piano
. Shearing wrote "Lullaby of Birdland" (in ten minutes, he later said) in 1952. Introducing it during his 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, he said, "I've been credited with writing 300 songs. Two hundred and ninety-nine enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here's the other one." Of all Shearing's well-known and oft-repeated quips, my favorite has always been his response to a reporter who asked if he'd been blind all his life. "Not yet," Shearing replied.

Drummer Joe Morello
Joe Morello
Joe Morello
1928 - 2011
drums
, another musician who had sight problems from an early age, died March March 12 at his home in Irvington, NJ. He was 82 years old. Morello was best known for his 12-year association (1955-67) with the Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
Quartet whose trademark was varying time signatures. At his suggestion, alto star Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond
1924 - 1977
sax, alto
wrote the jazz classic "Take Five" in 5/4 time. The song sold more than a million copies, rising to No. 25 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart in 1962. After Brubeck's quartet disbanded, Morello worked mainly as a drum clinician and teacher. He returned to performing in the 1970s and '80s, including reunions with Brubeck in 1976 and 1985. Later, he led his own group that featured tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama
Ralph Lalama
Ralph Lalama
b.1951
saxophone
. By that time, Morello was playing virtually blind, an affliction that never stopped him or lessened his love for the music.

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin' . . . !

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