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Big Band Report

"Modern Sounds," or: Running a Marathon in Full Body Armor

By Published: November 8, 2011
After a dinner break, the audience reassembled in the Marquis Ballroom for "An Evening of the Music of Shorty Rogers," which began in spectacular fashion with the Woody Herman Alumni Band led by vibraphonist Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
b.1924
vibraphone
playing arrangements written by Shorty for Woody Herman's renowned Second Herd. Needless to say, many of these tunes have become jazz landmarks, as brisk and exciting today as they were back in 1947-49. The band swung wide the gate with a trio of classics, "Keen and Peachy," "More Moon" and "Lemon Drop," pressed onward with "The Great Lie," "Keeper of the Flame," "Summit Blues," "What's New" and "Man, Don't Be Ridiculous!" before closing the scintillating session with the flag-waver "That's Right." Gibbs did his usual impression of the Energizer Bunny, driving the band with enthusiasm, soloing with verve and dexterity that belied his eighty-seven years, and even scatting with trumpeter Ron Stout on "Lemon Drop" (as he had with Rogers on the original recording). Gibbs's exuberance was infectious, prompting splendid solos by Stout, Neumann, drummer Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
b.1953
drums
, twenty-three year-old pianist Konrad Paszkudzki, baritone Adam Schroeder
Adam Schroeder
Adam Schroeder
b.1978
sax, baritone
(featured on "Don't Be Ridiculous!," written originally for Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
b.1923
sax, baritone
) and especially trombonist Paul Young, a dynamic newcomer to these events who I daresay will be invited to return.

While that band was indeed a tough act to follow, Joel Kaye's eighteen-piece ensemble did its best, performing music composed and arranged by Rogers for the Kenton Orchestra. Several of these charts were written especially for members of the Kenton ensemble; Glen Berger was the surrogate on "Coop's Solo," alto Fred Laurence Selden on "Art Pepper," while trumpeter Mike Bogart had the unenviable task of sitting in for the high-note master himself on "Maynard Ferguson." Even though Bogart gave it all he had, there has been only one Maynard Ferguson, and he wasn't here. Selden and trumpeter John Daversa
John Daversa
John Daversa

trumpet
shared solo honors on the lively opener, "Round Robin," trumpeter Kye Palmer was center stage on "Take the 'A' Train," while Selden and Berger had their say on "Viva Prado," pianist Rich Eames on "Jambo." The group also played "Autumn Leaves" before wrapping things up with another of Shorty's memorable themes, "Jolly Rogers" (featuring Selden and Daversa).

There was yet one more concert that evening, this one by a Selden-led octet performing "Modern Sounds: The Music of Shorty Rogers' Giants." The menu, with one exception, consisted of compositions and arrangements by Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre. Included were "Popo," "Apropos," "Over the Rainbow," "Sam and the Lady," "Four Mothers" and "Didi." The concert ended with the ballad "Musical Offering," written for and featuring Selden on flute and alto sax (I didn't catch the composer's name; it could have been Selden himself). The concert ended well after eleven o'clock, which was past time to catch a few hours' sleep before Round Two of the four-day marathon.

Friday, October 21

The theme of Friday morning's film, which began at 8:30, was "Mulliganesque: Gerry Mulligan and Pacific Jazz." Included were clips of Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Farmer
Art Farmer
Art Farmer
1928 - 1999
flugelhorn
, Chet Baker (in one of the weirdest Italian films ever made, and that covers a lot of ground), bassist Harry Babasin
Harry Babasin
b.1921
, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper
Bob Cooper
1925 - 1993
saxophone
, Russ Freeman
Russ Freeman
Russ Freeman
1926 - 2002
piano
and the only (known) surviving footage of trumpeter Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
, from a Soupy Sales TV show circa 1955. The film was followed by a discourse on "The Nocturne Records: Drum City Story," presented by Dr. Robert Gordon. Nocturne Records, which lasted less than a year in 1954, was nonetheless an important part of the West Coast jazz narrative, as pointed out by Dr. Gordon in his summary. Bassist Babasin was a founder of Nocturne, as was Roy Harte, one of the architects of Pacific Jazz.

At poolside, what was billed in the brochure as "Don Shelton and Three Trombones" morphed into the Don Shelton Quartet (John Beasley
John Beasley
John Beasley

piano
, piano; Kenny Wild, bass; Paul Kreibich, drums). No matter; it was still Don Shelton, one of the more underrated alto saxophonists on the West Coast and elsewhere, playing music by Bud Shank, Bob Cooper and Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
b.1925
arranger
. The group opened with Shank's "The King," continued with "Pavanne" ("The Lamp Is Low") and a Cooper tune whose name I didn't catch before returning to Shank for "Misty Eyes." Completing the elegant set (which was marred only by the thin and erratic sound; I had a pretty good seat near the front) were Ellington's "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," "Black and Blues," "Jubilation" and Mandel's "Emily." Shelton is consistently inspired, and even under less than respectable conditions is always a pleasure to hear.


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