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Big Band Report

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It's Off To Jazz We Go . . .

By Published: October 9, 2011
Just west of Albuquerque, across the Rio Grande River, lies the picturesque village of Corrales (population around 7,500). Among its residents (and natural resources) is world-renowned jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
. With a musician of his caliber within arm's reach, it would have been imprudent not to call upon him to take part in the village's Music in Corrales series, now in its twenty-fifth year, especially as Shew's home is within walking distance of the historic Old San Ysidro Church, where the annual event is held. The invitation was duly extended and accepted, and on September 10, Shew led a quartet through a delightful two-set program whose theme was music from Walt Disney films.

While that may seem an unlikely basis for a jazz concert, Shew and his sidekicks made it work, thanks in part to the presence of a frequent visitor to the area, Los Angeles-based pianist / singer John Proulx, who blended seamlessly with Shew, bassist Michael Glynn and drummer Cal Haines
Cal Haines
Cal Haines

drums
in an engaging session that began with a Snow White medley ("Whistle While You Work," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It's Off to Work We Go") and ended more than two hours later with the Academy Award-winning song from Disney's ill-fated Song of the South, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" (it's a shame that this marvelous film from 1946, the first to combine animated sequences and live actors, is no longer being shown, as moviegoers have thus been deprived of seeing and appreciating one of the most impressive screen performances ever given, by the incomparable James Baskett as Joel Chandler Harris's wise and wondrous story-teller, Uncle Remus).

But back to the concert. Proulx not only played piano but sang a number of Disney favorites including "Supercalafragilisticexpialadocious" (how's my spelling?),"Bibbity Bobbity Boo," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Beauty and the Beast," and Shew even sang a couple himself ("No, this is not a new career for me," he assured the audience). It's remarkable how many of these songs have become a familiar part of the cultural landscape, from "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "I've Got No Strings" (Pinocchio) to "Never Never Land" (Peter Pan), "The Bare Necessities" (Jungle Book), "Chim Chim Cheree" (Mary Poppins), "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" (the animated short The Three Little Pigs) and those others already mentioned. Together, they made for an offbeat but positively delightful evening of jazz.

Somewhat farther from home, Betty and I were in Prescott, AZ, the last weekend in August for the eleventh annual Prescott Jazz Summit (and our fourth or fifth; the memory is hazy). Trumpeter Mike Vax
Mike Vax
Mike Vax

trumpet
, who also directs the Stan Kenton Alumni Band, is the Summit's chief organizer (Vax and his wife Peggy now live in Prescott), and he invites musicians from the West Coast and beyond plus a few locals to take part in the weekend's concerts and other activities. Those activities included a "meet the musicians" dinner on Friday, a Saturday afternoon dance, a Sunday jazz brunch and Sunday evening jam session at a local restaurant. This in addition to three concerts, one a Friday noon freebie at Prescott's courthouse square. Betty and I stayed, as we always do, at a b&b, the Pleasant Street Inn, with our friends Norm and Mary Tompach, trombonist / singer / arranger Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
b.1963
trombone
and his wife, singer Ginger Berglund. This year we were joined by Scott's eight-year-old daughter, Grace, who says she wants to be a veterinarian.

As for the musicians, besides Vax, Whitfield and Berglund, they included Vax's friend since middle school, trumpeter Fred Radke, who now leads the Harry James
Harry James
Harry James
b.1916
trumpet
Orchestra; Rusty Higgins, one of the Los Angeles area's leading saxophonists; ex-Count Basie vocalist Dennis Rowland, who now lives in Phoenix; another Phoenix resident, the splendid tenor saxophonist Tony Vacca; former Kenton drummer Gary Hobbs; the well-known guitarist Jack Petersen, who lives in Prescott; Peggy Vax (who doubles as wife / trombonist) and a number of others who together comprised a big band for the Saturday evening concert. The Summit will return next year, again on the last weekend in August. If you'd like details, you can find them at www.prescottjazz.com

Coming Events

If there is anything that could lure me across the country to East Stroudsburg, PA, it would be a festival honoring my all-time saxophone hero, Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
1925 - 1985
sax, tenor
—which is why I'm sorry I can't be there November 13 for ZootFest, an afternoon of jazz and memories in honor of Zoot and his longtime colleague Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn
1925 - 1988
sax, tenor
, whose memorial collection is housed on the campus of East Stroudsburg University. Musicians scheduled to appear include Phil Woods
Phil Woods
Phil Woods
b.1931
sax, alto
, Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
b.1923
piano
, Bill Crow
Bill Crow
Bill Crow
b.1927
bass, acoustic
, Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin
b.1940
sax, tenor
, Bill Goodwin
Bill Goodwin
Bill Goodwin
b.1942
drums
, Sam Stephenson, Ronnie Free
Ronnie Free
b.1936
and the COTA Festival Orchestra. If it were more than a one-day event I'd seriously consider going, but that's a long way to fly for an afternoon, especially on the heels of our trip to Los Angeles in October for the LAJI's four-day "Modern Sounds" event and day-long tribute to Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
. If you'd like details about ZootFest, phone 570-422-3828 or go online to www.jazzatesu.com

The Westchester (NY) Jazz Orchestra opened its 2011-2012 concert season September 24 with Grammy-winning saxophonist / composer Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
as its special guest. Other concerts include Master Keys (December 3), a tribute to the music of Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
and Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
; Bossa! Tango! Flamenco! (January 28), hosted by WJO music director Mike Holober
Mike Holober
Mike Holober
b.1957
piano
; and The Music of Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
and Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
(April 14). For details, go to www.westjazzorch.org.

Composer / arranger / bandleader Russell Garcia
Russell Garcia
Russell Garcia
1916 - 2011
composer/conductor
, long a resident of New Zealand, returns to the States this fall to celebrate his ninety-fifth birthday (that's not a typo!) with visits to (and concerts in) Los Angeles and Oakland, CA, and New York City. Garcia will be onstage at Catalina's Bar & Grill in Los Angeles (October 26), Yoshi's in Oakland (November 1) and the Iridium Jazz Club in NYC (November 6), accompanied by singers Shaynee Rainbolt
Shaynee Rainbolt
Shaynee Rainbolt

vocalist
and Terese Genecco
Terese Genecco
Terese Genecco
b.1965
vocalist
, among others. As an aside, Garcia will also be leading his big band at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's salute to West Coast jazz, "Modern Sounds," October 20-23. A rare chance to see and appreciate a living legend who has not only been a celebrated Hollywood studio composer and arranger but has worked over the years with Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
, Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
, Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
, Mel Torme
Mel Torme
Mel Torme
b.1925
vocalist
, Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr.
1925 - 1990
vocalist
, Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
1919 - 2006
vocalist
, Julie London
Julie London
Julie London
1926 - 2000
vocalist
, Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
1920 - 2002
vocalist
, Judy Garland, Cleo Laine
Cleo Laine
Cleo Laine
b.1927
vocalist
, the Gershwin brothers, Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
, Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
1928 - 2006
trumpet
, Harry James, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, Mickey Rooney, Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
b.1924
piano
, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Marvin Hamlisch, Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
b.1930
piano
and Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
. Mind you, that's only a partial list!

The 29th annual Frank Mantooth Jazz Festival will be held Saturday, February 4, at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, with special guests Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
b.1973
trumpet
and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble plus performances by the Marquis Hill Black-Tet, the Michigan State University Jazz Orchestra and the New Trier Jazz Ensemble. For details, go to www.ntjazz.com

Rollins, Jazzed Media Honored

Saxophonist / composer Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
is one of five outstanding artists chosen to receive the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors, to be presented December 4 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, as a part of the 34th annual national celebration of the arts . The other honorees are singer Barbara Cook, singer / songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo Yo Ma and actress Meryl Streep. Other jazz artists who have received the Kennedy Center honors are Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
1909 - 1986
clarinet
, Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
, Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
1908 - 2002
vibraphone
,Benny Carter
Benny Carter
Benny Carter
1907 - 2003
sax, alto
, Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
and Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
. The Honors gala will be recorded for broadcast as a two-hour primetime special Tuesday, December 27, on CBS-TV. Rollins' latest CD, Road Shows, Vol. 2, was released September 13 on Doxy / Emarcy Records.

The Colorado-based record label Jazzed Media has won two more awards for its documentary Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, these from the American Pixel Academy, a coalition of professionals and educators in the field of electronic moving pixels. The documentary earned EMPixx Platinum Awards in the documentary and best use of music categories. It was produced and directed by Graham Carter, founder of Jazzed Media, and had previously won a 2011 Telly Award and 2011 Videographer Award of Excellence. The 168 EMPixx Platinum awards were chosen from a record-breaking field of more than 1,100 entries from the U.S. and Canada.

Horns to Havana

Thanks to JAZZEd, the magazine of the Jazz Education Network (whose third annual Conference will be held January 4-7 in Louisville, KY), we've learned about a splendid program called Horns to Havana, which this month is sending a planeload of donated musical instruments to four Cuban music academies. Also on board will be a team of jazz musicians and brass, percussion and woodwind repair technicians. Horns to Havana was set up as a cultural interchange between the American jazz community and Cuban music students following a visit to the island in October 2010 by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a week of performances and workshops. For information about the program, go to www.hornstohavana.org

The Last of the Freshmen Are Gone

Bob Flanigan and Ross Barbour, the last remaining members of the groundbreaking Four Freshmen vocal quartet, died within a three-month span this summer. Flanigan, 84, passed away May 15 in Las Vegas; Barbour, 82, August 20 in Simi Valley, CA. Flanigan, who retired from performing in 1992 but continued as the Freshmen's manager until his death, was the group's original lead singer and doubled as trombonist. Barbour, whose brother Don was also a member of the group when it was formed at Butler University in Indianapolis, was a baritone who doubled on drums. The Four Freshmen played their first club date in Fort Wayne, IN, in September 1948. Two years later, bandleader Stan Kenton heard them singing in Dayton, OH, and arranged to have them record for Capitol Records. The Freshmen scored a hit in 1952 with "It's a Blue World" and followed that with other chart-toppers including "Mood Indigo," "Day by Day," "It Happened Once Before," "How Can I Tell Her?" and, in 1956, "Graduation Day," later covered by such groups as the Beach Boys. Besides the Beach Boys, the Freshmen are credited with having influenced the Lettermen, the Four Preps, the The Manhattan Transfer and other vocal groups. Between 1953-58 the Freshmen won DownBeat magazine's Readers Poll as best vocal group five times. The group continues performing today with new members Vince Johnson, Brian Eichenberger, Bob Ferreira and Curtis Calderon.

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

New and Noteworthy

1. John MacLeod Rex Hotel Orchestra, Our First Set (no label)

2. Sammy Nestico / SWR Big Band, Fun Time and More Live (Haenssler)

3. Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, That's How We Roll (Telarc)

4. Dave Stahl Band, From A to Z (Abee Cake)

5. Fred Hess Big Band, Into the Open (Alison)

6. Tempest Little Big Band, 'Round Midnight (Tempest Jazz)

7. Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Fleet Street (Max Frank Music)

8. Peter Tenner Jazz Orchester, 10117 Berlin (Mons)

9. Dave Grusin, An Evening with Dave Grusin (Heads Up)

10. Tim Davies Big Band, Dialmentia (Origin)

11. Mt. Hood Jazz Band & Combos, Gan Bei (Sea Breeze Vista)

12. Magnetic Big Band, Repetition (Black & Blue)

13. Cal State-Long Beach Concert Jazz Orchestra, Great Northern Express (No Label)

14. Tromso Big Band, In Traffic (Turnleft)

15. U.S Naval Academy Band, Next Wave (USNA)


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