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Big Band Report

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

By Published: November 8, 2011
Friday evening's three concerts were centered around "Gerry Mulligan on the West Coast," with Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
b.1941
sax, tenor
's octet reading the Gerry Mulligan Songbook, the eminent Bill Holman directing the Mulligan Tentet and presiding over an all-star big band featuring Kenton alumni playing Mulligan arrangements written for the Kenton orchestra. This was, to state the matter clearly, as impressive a three hours of West Coast-style jazz as could possibly be envisioned. The Mulligan Songbook, as enchanting and lyrical as they come, was handled with care by tenor saxophonist Neumann and his colleagues (who included altos Brian Scanlon and Keith Bishop, tenor Jerry Pinter, baritone Jennifer Hall, guitarist John Pisano
John Pisano
John Pisano
b.1931
guitar
, bassist Putter Smith and drummer Chuck Flores
Chuck Flores
b.1935
). After opening with "Disc Jockey Jump," written for the Gene Krupa
Gene Krupa
Gene Krupa
1909 - 1973
drums
Orchestra when Mulligan was a teen-ager, the group sailed easily through "Sextet," "Venus de Milo," "Revelation," "Four and One Moore," "Crazy Day" and "Turnstile," the last highlighted by Neumann and Hall's fiery two-baritone "duel."

Good as that was, it served merely as an appetizer for the main courses, beginning with the Mulligan Tentet and its cogent readings of such classics as "Westwood Walk," "Simba," "Walking Shoes" and "Jeru" (which was performed, impeccably, without benefit of a rehearsal!). Also on the appetizing menu were "My Funny Valentine" (featuring trumpeters Ron Stout and Carl Saunders), "A Ballad" (Stout, baritone Bob Efford) and "Taking a Chance on Love" (Stout, Efford, bassist Adam Cohen
Adam Cohen
Adam Cohen
b.1963
bass
, trombonist Derick Hughes, alto Bruce Babad). The tentet included in its ranks a tuba (Chuck Koontz) and French horn (Stephanie O'Keefe). Following a well-deserved standing ovation, the tentet replayed "Simba" as an encore.

As if that weren't enough "Simba," the larger ensemble, which convened after a brief intermission, opened with Mulligan's "Intro," which, Holman said, is another version of "Simba." The ballad "Where or When" preceded the exuberant "Swing House" (solos by trombonist Hughes, alto Babad, trumpeter Stout and tenor Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
, sitting in for Danny Janklow) and a second version of the easygoing "Walking Shoes" (Stout, Babad, tenor Doug Webb
Doug Webb
Doug Webb

saxophone
, trombonist Francisco Torres). After two more standards ("Dancing in the Dark," "Begin the Beguine"), the band launched into a sparkling version of what to these ears is one of Mulligan's most captivating themes, "Young Blood," which featured emphatic statements by trumpeter Saunders, tenor Webb and alto Billy Kerr. Trombonist Andy Martin was showcased on what was to have been the finale, "Limelight," but again the audience would not be placated without an encore, and the band responded to end the evening with a splendid reading of Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are."

Saturday, October 22

Saturday morning's film, "The West Coast Sound," was another winner with rare clips of Shelly Manne, Andre Previn
Andre Previn
Andre Previn
b.1929
piano
, the Lighthouse All-Stars, Buddy Collette
Buddy Collette
Buddy Collette
1921 - 2010
sax, tenor
, Barney Kessel, Art Pepper, Red Norvo
Red Norvo
Red Norvo
1908 - 1999
vibraphone
, Harold Land
Harold Land
Harold Land
1928 - 2001
sax, tenor
, Carmell Jones
Carmell Jones
Carmell Jones
1936 - 1996
trumpet
and Victor Feldman
Victor Feldman
Victor Feldman
1934 - 1987
multi-instrumentalist
. It was followed by Ken Borgers' audio-visual salute to disc jockey Sleepy Stein and the birth of the world's first all-jazz radio station, KNOB in Signal Hill. After Stein bought the station in 1957 it became known as the "Jazz Knob." Stein sold the station in 1966 and began a successful career as a stockbroker.

The invariably smooth and spectacular Carl Saunders was next up at poolside, performing the music of one of his early role models, trumpeter Don Fagerquist, with an octet that included alto Bob Sheppard, tenor Jerry Pinter, baritone Doug Webb, trombonist Andy Martin, pianist John Campbell, bassist Dave Stone and drummer Santo Savino, with arrangements by the ubiquitous Marty Paich. Saunders, who plays a few more notes than Fagerquist, was on his game, as were the others on an all-standards program that opened with "Aren't You Glad You're You" and continued with "Easy to Love," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Lullaby of Broadway," The Song Is You," "Easy Living" and "Time After Time." Even with the anemic sound system, Saunders' virile trumpet came through loud and clear.


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