Gold Medalists Abound at Big Band Olympics
Alto saxophonist Babad dazzled on a Cannonball Adderley blues whose name escapes me (I keep thinking "Sack O' Woe" but can't be certain), while Thompsonwho has to be one of the world's best unsung pianistsheld everyone in thrall on Bill Evans' "My Bells." McConnell's clever arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A" Train" was next, followed in order by Shew's ballad feature, "A Time for Love," Sweets Edison's groovy "Jive at Five" and Bird's rapid-fire bop classic, "Confirmation," by which time the clock had struck eleven. "Rob never did encores," MacLeod said of McConnell as the band received a well-deserved standing ovation from the survivors, "but he's not here tonight, so . . ." The band members returned to their seats and ended the concert, and the Big Band Olympics, with the late Loonis McGlohon's haunting balled, "Songbird."
In spite of that one puzzling misstep Sunday evening, the Olympics was an inspiring and pleasurable experience. After all, how could anyone not be thrilled by the opportunity to see and hear more than a dozen topnotch big bands performing music in various styles, reinforced by vintage films and interesting panel discussions. It's a shame that the audience for these events is apparently shrinking (time was when I'd have to scramble to find a seat at some concerts, an inconvenience that no longer applies, to say the least), but that's a fact of life. Let's hope that Poston and the LAJI can continue to buck the odds and present these exhilarating events, as they are an essential component in the ongoing effort to keep the flame of big-band jazz burning.
Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Better . . .
Poston has announced the theme and (partial) lineup for the LAJI's next event, October 20-23 at the Los Angeles Marriott Airport hotel. "Modern Sounds: Celebrating the West Coast Big Band Sound" will showcase twenty-eight big bands and large ensembles (how do they do it?) over the course of four days with no increase in the price for tickets or registration (again, how do they do it?). Here's the lineup (so far) with a few more to be added:
Concerts celebrating Shorty Rogers and the Roots of West Coast Jazz; the Woody Herman Alumni Band directed by Terry Gibbs; an all-star big band featuring Stan Kenton alumni; concerts celebrating the birth of the West Coast sound; the Shorty Rogers and His Giants Alumni; the Dave Pell Octet; concerts celebrating Gerry Mulligan on the West Coast; an all-star big band of Kenton alumni directed by Bill Holman; the Mulligan Tentet, also directed by Holman; the Bill Holman and Russ Garcia big bands; the Johnny Richards Orchestra directed by Joel Kaye; Sue Raney Sings Jimmy Giuffre; the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra playing the music of Marty Paich; the Pete Rugolo Orchestra; Orbits in Sound: the 12-Tone Compositions and Arrangements of Spud Murphy; the Carl Saunders Nonet playing the music of Don Fagerquist; the Duane Tatro Ensemble: Jazz for Moderns; the music of Bud Shank and Bob Cooper; the Bobby Shew Ensemble playing Chet Baker and Jack Montrose; Jazz Lab: the Music of John Graas; the music of the Clifford Brown / Jack Montrose Ensemble; Russ Garcia and the Wigville Band; concerts celebrating music in the movies; the Johnny Mandel Big Band; and special presentations on "Wigville Inc: Shorty Rogers / Shelly Manne and Modern Animation on the West Coast" and "Sleepy Stein, KNOB and the Birth of Jazz Radio."
See anything you like? For more information, go to www.lajazzinstitute.org or phone 562-200-5477.
Way to Go, Graham!
The International Telly Awards, which recognize excellence in the film and video industries, have given a 2011 Telly AwardBronze to the documentary film Stan Kenton: Artistry in RhythmPortrait of a Jazz Legend, produced and directed by Grammy-nominated and award-winning jazz filmmaker Graham Carter in association with the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. The DVD was released earlier this year on Carter's Jazzed Media label. The almost two-hour long documentary covers all aspects of Kenton's career and includes excerpts from much of the groundbreaking music performed by Kenton's orchestra over the course of nearly 40 years, from the early 1940s through the mid-70s. Besides being in the forefront of integrating Afro-Cuban rhythms into big-band jazz, Kenton was among the pioneers in introducing jazz education in colleges and high schools in this country and around the world. Hats off to Graham Carter and Jazzed Media!