Gold Medalists Abound at Big Band Olympics
After supper, those who hadn't caught an early flight or were otherwise unable to stay to the end gathered in the Marquis Ballroom for the Olympics' most eagerly awaited event, the all-star tribute to Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. And it is here that the "tactical error" alluded to earlier emerged. Instead of the Boss Brass, there onstage, unannounced and largely unwelcome, were Montreal's Jazz Kidz who proceeded to replicate more than half their concert from Friday afternoon as audience members squirmed uneasily in their seats. Call me a curmudgeon, but putting the Jazz Kidz in that spot, with or without prior notice (there was none) was, in my opinion, clearly a mistake. I can't say whose mistake it was but can report that those with whom I spoke afterward were not pleasedand that is putting it mildly. Seeing the Kidz onstage in lieu of the Boss Brass was akin to ordering filet mignon and being served a Big Mac. Before any rash conclusions are drawn, I should make it unequivocally clear that I have no ax to grind with youngsters who are trying to play jazz, even those whose skills are at best rudimentary, and applaud them whenever and wherever I canI even put my money where my mouth is, having made a donation as some of the Kidz roamed the auditorium, instrument cases wide open, their tiny voices pleading, "Won't you help support the Jazz Kidz?" There is, however, a proper time and place for everything, and this was definitely not that time or place. The audience was told and believed it had come to see and hear the Boss Brass, not the Jazz Kidz, who had already performed twice, at the "bonus" event on Wednesday and in the ballroom on Friday (same program each time, by the way, as that's all they have learned). As noted, I don't know why the Kidz were inserted as an unbilled "opening act" for the Boss Brass, but their impromptu recital was unwarranted and earned the LAJI no friends. Now back to the music . . .
Although the concert had been slated to begin at 8:30, it was well after nine before the Boss Brass alumni and colleagues made their way onstage and the audience settled in to enjoy some exhilarating big-band fare. Imagine their surprise when the band was joined for the first two numbers"Georgia on My Mind," "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen"by vocalists from none other than the Jazz Kidz! Betty, who was barely hanging in there by this time (which I suspect was also true of others in the audience), lasted through those numbers and a couple more before heading upstairs to bed. At 9:20, the Brass finally opened its "share" of the concert with McConnell's tasteful arrangement of "Just Friends," and it was smooth sailing from there on. Trumpeter Shew and tenor Keller were the soloists on "Friends," while tenor Neumann was featured on "What Are We Here For?" One of McConnell's most buoyant compositions, "The Waltz I Blew for You," came next (solos by tenor Keller and leader MacLeod on flugel), followed by Kai Winding's "Slow Grind," spotlighting the trombone section, and the standard "Street of Dreams" (Shew, trumpet; Whitfield, trombone; Thompson, piano).