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Big Band Report

Gold Medalists Abound at Big Band Olympics

By Published: June 15, 2011
As this is being written, Betty and I are just back from a ten-day visit to California, the first six days of which would be of absolutely no interest to readers of this column. The last four, however, were spent at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel attending the L.A. Jazz Institute's "Big Band Olympics," which brought together bands from a number of countries around the world (well, the leaders at least were from various countries; the bands were comprised for the most part of world-class musicians from southern California and other parts of this country). As is true of any such event, it had its highs and lows, ups and downs, ins and outs, pleasurable components and tactical errors (more about that later). In sum, the Olympics embodied four days of high-quality big-band jazz, admirably performed by a series of all-star ensembles.

Overview

Fifteen concerts were presented from Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening including tributes to the legendary Clarke-Boland Big Band from France and Canada's peerless Boss Brass, amplified by four films, half a dozen panel discussions and a special presentation by the LAJI's Ken Poston on Howard Lucraft and Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
's Jazz International enterprise from the mid- to late 1950s. A sixteenth concert was scheduled but trumpeter Dusko Goykovich
Dusko Goykovich
Dusko Goykovich
b.1931
trumpet
, who was to lead his own big band, was taken ill and had to cancel, as did two key members of the Boss Brass, trumpeter Guido Basso
Guido Basso
Guido Basso
b.1937
and trombonist Ian McDougall. Four other members of the late Rob McConnell
Rob McConnell
Rob McConnell
1935 - 2010
trombone
's formidable ensemble—trumpeter John MacLeod, pianist Don Thompson
Don Thompson
Don Thompson
b.1940
multi-instrumentalist
, drummer Terry Clarke
Terry Clarke
Terry Clarke
b.1944
and French hornist Brad Warnaar—were on hand and able to perform in Sunday evening's final concert. Other bandleaders hailed from Australia (Tim Davies
Tim Davies
b.1972
composer/conductor
), France (Christian Jacob), Cuba (Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval
b.1949
trumpet
), Great Britain (John Altman
John Altman

saxophone
), Russia (Valery Ponomarev
Valery Ponomarev
Valery Ponomarev
b.1943
trumpet
), Japan (Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
b.1929
piano
), Hungary (Tommy Vig
Tommy Vig
Tommy Vig
b.1938
vibraphone
), Germany (Chris Walden
Chris Walden
Chris Walden

arranger
), Bulgaria (Milcho Leviev
Milcho Leviev
Milcho Leviev
b.1937
piano
) and the U.S. (Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
). The music, suffice to say, was as varied as their backgrounds.

Each day began with a film whose theme was "Big Bands Around the World." The clips were roughly chronological, spanning a period from the early '30s to the '70s (and perhaps beyond). Among the many highlights was an interview with Willis Conover, who for many years hosted a jazz program beamed around the world via the Voice of America's shortwave network and possessed one of the world's most exquisite speaking voices. It was a thrill to hear him again, even if only briefly. Aside from that, the films covered a potpourri of renowned groups and players, from Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
1910 - 1953
guitar
and Stephane Grappelli
Stephane Grappelli
Stephane Grappelli
1908 - 1997
violin
through Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller
1904 - 1944
trombone
, Ted Heath
Ted Heath
b.1900
, Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
, John Dankworth
John Dankworth
John Dankworth
1927 - 2010
saxophone
, Tubby Hayes
Tubby Hayes
Tubby Hayes
1935 - 1973
saxophone
, a young Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Boss Brass, Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
's big band with Arturo Sandoval, all-star sessions with Doc Severinsen
Doc Severinsen
Doc Severinsen
b.1927
trumpet
, Ed Thigpen
Ed Thigpen
Ed Thigpen
1930 - 2010
drums
, Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor
1921 - 2010
piano
, Rolf Kuehn, Bobby Jaspar
Bobby Jaspar
b.1926
, Eddie Safranski and many others including a brief clip (now available on YouTube) of Swedish baritone sax legend Lars Gullin
Lars Gullin
Lars Gullin
1928 - 1976
sax, baritone
.

The panel discussions, ably moderated by Kirk Silsbee, Ken Borgers, Larry Hathaway and bandleader Altman (who did a splendid job with Americans in Europe—Holman, Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
, Rick Keller
Rick Keller
b.1961
saxophone
—Friday afternoon), covered a wide range of topics both biographical and personal. Silsbee had one of the easier tasks, as he simply asked Arturo Sandoval a question, then relaxed for 15-20 minutes while the trumpet giant weaved tales that mesmerized his audience. The panelists from eastern Europe—Ponomarev, Leviev, Vig—acknowledged their debt to Conover and the Voice of America for introducing them to jazz at a time when the music was either banned or strongly discouraged in countries behind the Iron Curtain. Ponomarev and Leviev, it should be noted, are gifted storytellers, always ready with an appropriate quip or one-liner, as are Vig, Davies, Sandoval and Altman, among others. Poston's presentation on Jazz International began with its formation in 1954 by Lucraft, a journalist / radio personality from the UK who also led his own bands both here and abroad, in association with his friend and colleague, Stan Kenton. It was Lucraft's idea to form an organization that would promote jazz around the world, and with Kenton's name in the forefront it succeeded well for a number of years before the music began losing ground to new trends exemplified by Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
1935 - 1977
vocalist
, the Beatles and others.

Thursday, May 26

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
Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
b.1932
piano
'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
Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol
1900 - 1984
trombone
'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
Alex Budman
b.1973
saxophone
, 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
Bud Powell
Bud Powell
1924 - 1966
piano
," written for one of his pianistic role models and featuring bright solos by trumpeter Bob Summers
Bob Summers
b.1944
and tenor Bob Sheppard, vocalist Denise Donatelli
Denise Donatelli
Denise Donatelli

vocalist
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
Carl Saunders
Carl Saunders
b.1942
trumpet
and trombonist Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
b.1963
trombone
. 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
Rob Lockart
Rob Lockart

saxophone
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
Andy Martin
Andy Martin
b.1960
, 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
Wayne Bergeron
Wayne Bergeron

trumpet
on Gordon Goodwin
Gordon Goodwin
Gordon Goodwin
b.1955
composer/conductor
's "Maynard and Waynard" ("You play Maynard—no pressure," Bergeron said to Sandoval, "and I'll play Waynard"). And play them they did, with gusto. The songs that came after—Perez Prado
Perez Prado
Perez Prado
1916 - 1989
composer/conductor
'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

Another day, another film, this one much earlier (9:30 a.m.), followed by the first of two "meet the bandleaders" panels, moderated by Ken Borgers and including Jacob, Davies, Ponomarev and Altman. After lunch came the weekend's anomaly: the Montreal Jazz Kidz, ranging in age from six to sixteen, presenting a program of well-known standards whose renditions ranged from passable to slipshod. Not putting them down, simply reporting the facts. I enjoyed the concert, as the Jazz Kidz, formed in 2008, radiated energy and enthusiasm and were obviously having fun. As for the musical content, it sounded like kids ages six to sixteen who had recently been introduced to music and jazz. No Wunderkinds here. The youngters hurried through their book of fifteen numbers, roughly half of which were vocals, opening with "C-Jam Blues" and ending with the crowd-pleasing "Mambo Italiano." Few people were in the audience when they began, fewer still when the last notes of "Mambo" were struck. The Kidz, I was told, also performed during Wednesday's "bonus" event aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, a dinner / concert salute to Ted Heath by Altman's superb band.

Speaking of Altman, his band was next onstage, quickly erasing the memory of what had come before it with an electrifying hour-long session that swung lustily from end to end behind impressive charts by Altman and dynamic blowing by all hands including the leader himself who opened with a searing manifesto on the Gershwin brothers' "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Altman usually raised the curtain, he said, with the through-written second number, appropriately named "The Opener." Deftly switching gears, Altman next paid tribute to the prolific writer of operettas, Rudolf Friml, with a charming version of "The Donkey Serenade" (memorably sung by Allan Jones in the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera). The operatic solos were by trumpeter Summers, trombonist Martin and alto Sal Lozano. The rest of the program was equally spellbinding, consisting of the ballad "Lester Left Town," the lyrical "Mambo Inn," Gigi Gryce
Gigi Gryce
Gigi Gryce
1927 - 1983
saxophone
's boppish "Minority," Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
's buoyant "Joy Spring," a couple of Altman originals ("A Foregone Conclusion," the laid-back Mulligan-style "West Coast Chatter") and his arrangement of the lovely Mack Gordon / Harry Warren ballad "I Wish I Knew" (played here at a pleasing medium-up tempo). Besides those already mentioned, the top-drawer soloists included tenors Lockart and Brian Scanlon, alto Danny House, baritone Bob Efford
Bob Efford
b.1928
, trombonist Charlie Morillas and trumpeter Jeff Bunnell. The rhythm section, with drummer Adam Lacy sitting in for Gregg Field
Gregg Field
b.1956
and ably supervising guitarist Mike Higgins, pianist Mike Lang and bassist Chuck Berghofer
Chuck Berghofer
Chuck Berghofer
b.1937
bass
, was outstanding. Admirable as the concert was, Altman saved the even better news for later, disclosing that he'd soon be recording many of these same tunes on an upcoming album with his British big band.

There was one more concert before supper, this one a pleasant departure from the big-band format, an International Trumpet Summit spotlighting Shew and Ponomarev with a blue-chip rhythm section: pianist Rein De Graaff, bassist Chris Conner and drummer Kendall Kay. Needless to say, the front-liners were their usual expressive selves in a program that opened with the standards "There Is No Greater Love" and "But Not for Me" and included Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "In a Sentimental Mood," Brownie's "Joy Spring" and Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
's "Rhythm-a-Ning." The duo were joined on "Joy Spring" by a third trumpeter, a young man from Yugoslavia (I believe) whose name I would not attempt to pronounce (or spell). He was efficient, but hardly in a class with Shew or Ponomarev.

Friday evening's much-anticipated final performance was by the Bill Holman Band whose leader has been credibly described as the dean of American big-band arrangers. Holman celebrated a birthday four days before the concert, but discretion precludes my saying how many he has tallied. What can be said is that Holman's charts are an acquired taste, as they are invariably profound and elaborate and don't swing in the kind of open-handed manner favored by Basie, Herman or other mainstream bands. A case in point was the serpentine opener, "No Joy in Mudville," whose stout-hearted soloists were baritone Efford and twenty-year-old trombonist Eric Hughes. Hughes stepped into the breach again, this time with alto Bruce Babad, on a chart whose name sounded to me like "The Bandicoot Affair" (I could be wrong). Trumpeter Ron Stout was front and center on "Someday My Prince Will Come," trombonist Martin on "All the Way." The next tune, "Bemsha Swing" (solos by Stout, alto Billy Kerr, pianist Jacob, drummer Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
) was drawn from Brilliant Corners, Holman's recorded tribute to the music of Thelonious Monk. Alto Babad soloed eloquently on "Lover Man," trumpeter Summers and baritone Efford on "In Your Own Sweet Way." Nearing the end of the evening, Holman decided to don his "swinging cap" for the last two numbers, his own "Front Runner" and the standard "After You've Gone." The soloists on "Runner" were trumpeter Stout and alto Kerr, on "After You've Gone" Stout, Efford and tenor Tom Peterson. A lovely way to end a day and evening.

Saturday, May 28

After the morning film (which included clips of such relatively obscure European big bands as those led by Boy Edgar and Gustav Brohm) and a "meet the bandleaders" panel with Leviev, Walden and Vig, another group of young musicians (two groups, actually) came onstage as part of the Los Angeles Jazz Society's ongoing Bill Green
Bill Green
1925 - 1996
saxophone
Mentorship Program. The ensembles, one nine members strong, the other eleven, comprised of students ages 16-18, were co-directed by Scott Whitfield and Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
b.1941
sax, tenor
. The smaller band was up first, opening with "Stompin' at the Savoy" and continuing with "Blue Monk," "Li'l Darlin'" and "Autumn Leaves" before making way for the larger group, which performed "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Billie's Bounce," Clare Fischer
Clare Fischer
Clare Fischer
1928 - 2012
band/orchestra
's "Morning" and the standard "My Shining Hour." The ensembles were fairly together, the solos about what would be expected from high school kids ages 16-18.

Valery Ponomarev, the Russian trumpeter who first gained notice in this country as a member of the Jazz Messengers, led his big band later that afternoon in a program titled "Our Father Who Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
," which, as the name suggests, consisted of music associated with the Messengers and re-scored for a large ensemble. The band had only one rehearsal, which accounts in part for some ragged passages along the way, along with the fact that these bop tunes don't lend themselves readily to a big-band format. Nevertheless, the hard-working ensemble did its best to brighten Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
1935 - 1974
piano
' "Moanin,'" the flag-waving "Web City," the venerable "Caravan," Clifford Jordan
Clifford Jordan
Clifford Jordan
1931 - 1993
saxophone
's "Jor-du," the sunny bossa "Pensativa" and Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
's "Blues March." Ponomarev crafted some hip solos, as did trumpeters Shew and Saunders, altos Ann Patterson and Tom Peterson, pianist Jon Mayer
Jon Mayer
Jon Mayer
b.1938
piano
and especially tenor saxophonist Charles Owens
Charles Owens
b.1939
. High marks for diligence, slightly lower for content.

After another panel session featuring Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
b.1940
sax, tenor
and former members of their band—Shew, Peterson, Gary Foster
Gary Foster
Gary Foster
b.1936
reeds
, Steve Huffsteter, Rich Cooper, Mike Price
Mike Price
b.1941
trumpet
—Hungarian vibraphonist Tommy Vig and his band made a positive first impression with "Rise and Shine," a fast-moving express based on Sigmund Romberg's "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," on which Vig, trumpeter Bunnell and tenor Billy Kerr were the splendid soloists. As Vig's charts were extended with ample room for soloists to stretch, the band played only four numbers. The others were "In Memory of Monk," based on "'Round Midnight"; a riff on "Body and Soul" whose name sounded to me like "Buddy and Solito," and "In Memory of Dizzy," based on "A Night in Tunisia." As was true of every band, Vig presided over a number of engaging improvisers including saxophonists Kerr, Jeff Driskill and Keith Bishop; trumpeters Bunnell and Ron King; trombonists Bruce Otto and Charlie Morillas, pianist John Beasley
John Beasley
John Beasley

piano
and bassist Putter Smith (whose graceful duet with Vig on "Buddy" was among the highlights).

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
Bruce Fowler
b.1947
trombone
. 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
Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
, but arrived in time for the second, Walden's shapely arrangement of "Stella by Starlight," enriched by Bob McChesney
Bob McChesney
Bob McChesney

trombone
'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
Peter Herbolzheimer
Peter Herbolzheimer
1935 - 2010
trombone
, 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
Rick Keller
b.1961
saxophone
was center stage on Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
'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
Dave Grusin
Dave Grusin
b.1934
piano
'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.

There was time left before supper for Poston's summary of Lucraft / Kenton's Jazz International and one more concert, this one by Bulgarian pianist Milcho Leviev's band. These were compositions, according to the program, that were "commissioned by and contracted for the Bulgarian National Radio and TV Big Band," for whom Leviev worked before he was dismissed by the Communists in charge who took exception to some of his song titles, especially the "Anti-Waltz." ("Why must it be 'anti?'" they asked. "You must change the name.") Needless to say, Leviev did not change it, nor did he suppress his aversion to the Party and its bosses. Instead, he came to America and soon found himself working with the Don Ellis
Don Ellis
Don Ellis
1934 - 1978
trumpet
Orchestra. Leviev's program consisted of five of his originals and Ellis' composition "Simple Samba" (perhaps one of the brightest and most accessible tunes he ever wrote). The opening number, the well-named "Sturdy," brought to the fore Leviev, trumpeter Stout, trombonist Jock Ellis, guitarist John Chiodini and an emphatic coda by drummer Erskine. The "Anti-Waltz" was next, with acrobatic solos by trombonist Alan Kaplan ("Actually a written solo," said Leviev, "which is harder than improvising"), alto Fred Laurence Selden and Erskine. The glossy "Voyage Again" featured Chiodini and tenor Gary Herbig, the raucous "Blues in 10" Leviev and Selden (on flute). After "Simple Samba" (crisp solos by trumpeter Bunnell, tenor Herbig, trombonist Kaplan [not written this time], tenor Terry Harrington, Chiodini, Leviev and Selden on alto), the band wrapped things up with Leviev's "Golden Fleece." A generally pleasing concert that had far more ups than downs.

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 pleased—and 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 can—I 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
Kai Winding
Kai Winding
1922 - 1983
trombone
's "Slow Grind," spotlighting the trombone section, and the standard "Street of Dreams" (Shew, trumpet; Whitfield, trombone; Thompson, piano).

Alto saxophonist Babad dazzled on a Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
blues whose name escapes me (I keep thinking "Sack O' Woe" but can't be certain), while Thompson—who has to be one of the world's best unsung pianists—held everyone in thrall on Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
' "My Bells." McConnell's clever arrangement of Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
's "Take the 'A" Train" was next, followed in order by Shew's ballad feature, "A Time for Love," Harry "Sweets" Edison
Harry
Harry "Sweets" Edison
1915 - 1999
trumpet
'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."

Epilogue

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
Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
1924 - 1994
trumpet
and the Roots of West Coast Jazz; the Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
Alumni Band directed by Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
b.1924
vibraphone
; 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
Dave Pell
Dave Pell
b.1935
saxophone
Octet; concerts celebrating Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
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 Russell Garcia
Russell Garcia
Russell Garcia
1916 - 2011
composer/conductor
big bands; the Johnny Richards Orchestra directed by Joel Kaye; Sue Raney
Sue Raney
Sue Raney
b.1940
vocalist
Sings Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
1921 - 2008
clarinet
; the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra playing the music of Marty Paich
Marty Paich
1925 - 1995
composer/conductor
; the Pete Rugolo
Pete Rugolo
Pete Rugolo
b.1915
composer/conductor
Orchestra; Orbits in Sound: the 12-Tone Compositions and Arrangements of Spud Murphy
Spud Murphy
b.1908
; the Carl Saunders Nonet playing the music of Don Fagerquist; the Duane Tatro Ensemble: Jazz for Moderns; the music of Bud Shank
Bud Shank
Bud Shank
1926 - 2009
saxophone
and Bob Cooper
Bob Cooper
1925 - 1993
saxophone
; the Bobby Shew Ensemble playing Chet Baker
Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
and Jack Montrose
Jack Montrose
b.1928
; Jazz Lab: the Music of John Graas
John Graas
John Graas
b.1924
; the music of the Clifford Brown / Jack Montrose Ensemble; Russ Garcia and the Wigville Band; concerts celebrating music in the movies; the Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
b.1925
arranger
Big Band; and special presentations on "Wigville Inc: Shorty Rogers / Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
1920 - 1984
drums
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 Award—Bronze to the documentary film Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm—Portrait 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!

Fond Farewells

Trumpeter Eugene "Snooky" Young, whose long career included time with bands led by Jimmie Lunceford
Jimmie Lunceford
Jimmie Lunceford
1902 - 1947
composer/conductor
, Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
and Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
/ Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
and three decades with Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show band, died May 11 in Newport Beach, California. He was 92 years old. Young, whose stamina was almost beyond belief, played most recently as a member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Young was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2009.

Bob Flanigan, one of the founding members of the Four Freshmen vocal group, died May 15 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 84 years old. Flanigan, a tenor who was the group's original lead singer, sang with the Freshmen until 1992, making him its longest-serving member. Besides singing, he played trombone and bass with the group. Over the years, the Four Freshmen recorded more than fifty albums and received six Grammy Award nominations. The other members of the original Four Freshmen were Flanigan's cousins, Don and Ross Barbour, and Hal Kratzsch, a classmate a Butler University.

Coming Events

The 2011 Jazzschool Girls' Jazz & Blues Camp for grades 6-12 will be held August 8-12 at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, California. As was true of last year's inaugural camp, the faculty is comprised of musicians from the excellent Montclair Women's Big Band and the Jazzschool itself, coordinated by Jean Fineberg and Ellen Seeling. For information, phone 510-758-2200 or e-mail girlscamp@jazzschool.org

The Delaware Gap (Pennsylvania) Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival is set for September 9-11, this year celebrating the music of vocalist Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
b.1923
piano
. For more information, phone Lauren Chamberlain, 973-769-9246, or go online to www.cotajazz.com

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

New and Noteworthy

1. DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Johnny Mandel: The Man and His Music (Arbors)

2. Rick Holland—Evan Dobbins Little Big Band, Trilby (Self Published)

3. George Stone, The Real Deal (Self Published)

4. Stan Kenton / DePaul University, Double Feature (Tantara)

5. Andy Farber Orchestra, This Could Be the Start of Something Big (Black Warrior Records)

6. Rick Wald 16 / NYC, Play That Thing (Glowbow Records)

7. Mike Cato Tentet, Nimmons 'n' Nine . . . Now (MCCO Records)

8. Jazz Conceptions Orchestra, Untitled (151 Records)

9. U.S. Air Force Academy Band, Sharing the Freedom (Self Published)

10. Harmonie Ensemble New York, Sketches of Spain (Sheffield Lab)

11. Madison Mellophonium Orchestra, Young at Heart (Blue Heron Music)

12. Heart of North Carolina Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Encounters (Self Published)

13. Jazz Composers Workshop Orchestra, Detour! (Self Published)

14. Oster / Welker Jazz Alliance, Detour Ahead (Jazzed Media)

15. Cal State University—Northridge, CSUN Originals 08 / 09 (Self Published)


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