Gold Medalists Abound at Big Band Olympics
After supper, the evening's marquee concert brought together several former members of the Toshiko Akiyoshi / Lew Tabackin Big Band (see panel above) for an open-hearted West Coast reunion that must have awakened many fond memories among band members and audience alike. Speaking of the audience, the Marquis Ballroom was slightly more than half filled for Toshiko's performance, which was about as large as it was for a few other concerts and larger than most (even the Bill Holman band played to an almost half-empty house). Toshiko opened with two numbers from her album Desert Lady / Fantasy, "Harlequin Tears" and the title song. Tabackin was prominently featured, as he usually is, on tenor ("Harlequin") and flute ("Desert Lady"), with other solos on the opener by Akiyoshi and trumpeter Huffsteter, on "Desert Lady" by trombonist Bruce Fowler. Akiyoshi's "March of the Tadpoles" (a.k.a. "All the Things You Are"), a fast-moving feature for the trombone section, encompassed nimble solos by Fowler, Whitfield, Randy Aldcroft and alto saxophonist Foster. Shew ("The best lead trumpeter I ever had," said Toshiko) was front and center on the ballad "Flower," which preceded Toshiko's warm "Farewell to Mingus" (solos by the co-leaders, Tabackin on tenor) and Tabackin's crowd-pleasing tenor showcase, "Chasing After Love" (based on the standard "Lover"). Akiyoshi ended the concert, as she often does, with an encore, her lovely tone poem "Hope," written in memory of those Japanese who perished in (and survived) the World War II atomic bomb devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sunday, May 29
Those members of Canada's Boss Brass who were able to attend the Olympics (Clarke, Thompson, MacLeod, Warnaar) took part in the sixth and final panel discussion, appropriately named "Remembering Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass." The panel followed the last of the four films depicting "Big Bands Around the World" and preceded the afternoon's opening concert by the superb Chris Walden Big Band. I missed the opening number, "Moment's Notice," which featured alto saxophonist Kim Richmond, but arrived in time for the second, Walden's shapely arrangement of "Stella by Starlight," enriched by Bob McChesney's eloquent trombone solo. Walden, a German-born musician who has been in this country for a number of years working in the Hollywood studios, next paid tribute to one of his mentors, the late bandleader / trombonist / educator Peter Herbolzheimer, with Herbolzheimer's "Just Like That," notable not only for its catchy theme but for one of the weekend's more impressive solos, earnestly crafted by tenor saxophonist Lockart. Tenor Rick Keller was center stage on Michael Brecker's "Slings and Arrows," pianist Steinberger on "Someday My Prince Will Come," Lockart on his own composition, "Parallel Lines," trombonist Andrew Lippman on Walden's "Gatsby." Walden wrote most of the charts, and they were invariably resplendent. Three more were to follow: Dave Grusin's "Mulholland Falls" (from the film of that name, spotlighting Ron King's flugelhorn), Walden's deft arrangement of Christopher Cross's "Rainy Day in Vancouver" (Keller, tenor) and David Foster's theme for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, "Winter Games" (Keller again). One of the weekend's more well-balanced and rewarding performances.