Gold Medalists Abound at Big Band Olympics
After the opening film and a brief lunch break, the first band onstage was director Jeff Jarvis's well-schooled Cal State-Long Beach Concert Jazz Orchestra, fondly remembered for their electrifying presentation at poolside of Stan Kenton's "Cuban Fire" suite a couple years back, this time presenting a tribute to the Clarke-Boland Big Band, the multi-cultural ensemble that reigned in Europe from 1969-81. The program consisted mainly of standards, opening with a blazing rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "Johnny One Note" and closing with a tasteful version of Cole Porter's "All Through the Night." Sandwiched between were the standards "Get Out of Town" (also by Porter), "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Lullaby of the Leaves," "Love for Sale," Sweet and Lovely," "My Favorite Things" and one original, Michel Legrand's "I'm All Smiles." The orchestra was tight and swinging, the soloists likewise.
Drummer Tim Davies' band was next up, echoing his sunny personality with a snappy program that opened with a smooth ride on Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and included several of Davies' original compositions, not all of whose names I was able to decipher from my usual seat in the back row of the Marquis Ballroom. I do know the second number was the groovy "Gubernatorial Recall" (written during the California by-election several years ago and retitled, in light of more recent events there, "Gubernatorial Withdrawal"), the third "Pythagara," featuring the fine trombonist Nick Daley. "Saraband" may have been the name of a ballad whose soloist was tenor saxophonist Andrew Park. The next name I missed completely, and can say only that it was a flat-out barn-burner (with a blistering solo by alto saxophonist Mike Acosta), as was the finale, "Blacknail," whose shouting brass brought the session to an exhilarating close. The soloists were alto Alex Budman, tenor Lee Secard and keyboardist Alan Steinberger. As I wrote in the darkness of the hall, "good band, good charts" with emphasis on dynamics and shifting tempos.
Following the Sandoval interview, Christian Jacob's Big Band Theory (representing France) opened (and closed) with music by the German composer Kurt Weill, beginning with the overture and "Ballad of Mack the Knife" from Weill / Berthold Brecht's Threepenny Opera. "Mack" was enhanced by a typically enchanting solo by alto Rusty Higgins. Following Jacob's original composition "Bud Powell," written for one of his pianistic role models and featuring bright solos by trumpeter Bob Summers and tenor Bob Sheppard, vocalist Denise Donatelli was invited onstage for two numbers, Cole Porter's "True Love" and "Love for Sale." More music from Weill's Threepenny Opera followed including a concert highlight, the "Jealousy Duet" between trumpeter Carl Saunders and trombonist Scott Whitfield. Other soloists were Jacob, trombonist Derick Hughes and drummer Ray Brinker. Jacob's brisk arrangement of "Moment's Notice" (fine solos by trumpeter Summers and alto Higgins) led to the tender finale, Weill's "Lost in the Stars" (from Street Scene), on which Jacob played piano and sang. Another first-class session.
After supper, Sandoval ushered his all-star band onstage for the evening's final concert. The ensemble opened in a bright Latin groove with a number whose name, alas, Sandoval never announced. Suffice to say it was a dandy, with forceful statements by Sandoval, tenor Rob Lockart and pianist Wally Minko. Dizzy's "Woody 'n You" (solos by altos Dan Higgins and Rusty Higgins [no relation], trombonists Jacques Jacques Voyemant and Andy Martin, guitarist Dusty Higgins [no relation] and Minko) preceded Sandoval's ballad feature, "The Man I Love," and another original by Gillespie, "And Then She Stopped," which showcased Sandoval and Gary Grant on trumpet, muted and open. Sandoval was out front again, this time with Minko, on Dizzy's "Tin Tin Deo." The highlight came next: Sandoval's fiery duet with fellow high-note maestro Wayne Bergeron on Gordon Goodwin's "Maynard and Waynard" ("You play Maynardno pressure," Bergeron said to Sandoval, "and I'll play Waynard"). And play them they did, with gusto. The songs that came afterPerez Prado's schmaltzy "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," a slow bolero called "Closely Dancing"were largely anticlimactic, even though Sandoval offered a splendid solo on the latter. Time for bed.
Friday, May 27