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Big Band Report

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

By Published: November 8, 2011
Back in the ballroom, Duane Tatro supervised an octet that performed music from his album Jazz for Moderns, released in 1956. Tatro's writing is based on the twelve-tone model (don't ask me), which apparently was quite innovative for the time. His octet ran through eight numbers, only one of which—"Folly"—Tatro bothered to name. The others were anonymous and about as interesting, even though the musicians were diligent and seemed to be having a good time. And they did have names—Danny Janklow, alto sax; Jerry Pinter, tenor sax; Tom Peterson, baritone sax; Bob Summers
Bob Summers
, trumpet; Joey Sellers, trombone; John Dickson, horn; Dave Stone, bass; Ray Brinker, drums. Nice try, gentlemen, but despite your best efforts, Tatro's abstract and elaborate themes left me more disconcerted than engaged (appraisal valid for intractable ears only; other opinions may vary).

More twelve-tone music followed Ken Poston's colorful and informative audio / visual presentation, "Jazz and Modern Animation on the West Coast," this time from Russ Garcia's Wigville Ensemble, directed in his absence by Ann Patterson. The ten selections, from Garcia's album Wigville, while generally more melodic and accessible than Tatro's intricate compositions, were nevertheless a tad too enigmatic and radical for these ears, even though, as in the earlier session, the musicians who performed them were splendid. Besides Patterson (alto sax) they included soprano Rick Keller
Rick Keller
, tenor Gene Cipriano, baritone Joel Kaye, trumpeter Bobby Shew, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Paul Kreibich. The songs also had names: "Wigville," "Butterduck," "Rocky Road" (one of the best), "Floating," "Tone Row," "Livin' It Up," "Lonely One," "Smogville" and "The Lid Blew Off."

As I was preparing to write off the afternoon session and prepare for that evening's "Jazz Goes to the Movies" program, alto saxophonist Lanny Morgan
Lanny Morgan
Lanny Morgan
rode to the rescue with a bright and swinging recital of the music of Jimmy Giuffre (the pre-free form Giuffre, that is). Morgan, the quintessential cooker, spurred a lively octet whose other residents were trumpeters Bob Summers and Ron Stout, trombonist Andrew Lippman, tubaist Jim Self
Jim Self
Jim Self

, pianist John Campbell, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Steve Schaeffer. Besides Morgan, the animated soloists included Lippman and Self ("NYC Blues"), Campbell and Stout ("Laura") and almost everyone else ("Giuff," "Sonny Boy," Downtown," "Two for Timbuktu"). Jazz as it was meant to be written and played, pleasurable enough to erase any lingering memories of twelve-tone intemperance.

After supper, the hallway outside the Marquis Ballroom was thronged as the doors remained closed well past the scheduled 7:30 starting time for the first of three concerts, a performance by the Johnny Mandel Big Band of music from the film I Want to Live! "and more." As it turns out, the band was conducting a run-through (its only one) onstage, as it received no music to rehearse until six o'clock that evening. The doors were eventually opened and the concert got under way shortly after eight o'clock, with Mandel, who had suffered a recent fall, conducting from a wheelchair. As promised, the ensemble played music from Susan Hayward's heart-rending vehicle, I Want to Live! ("Black Nightgown," the main theme), reinforced by a number of Mandel's "greatest hits" ("Close Enough for Love," "Not Really the Blues," "Emily," "The Shadow of Your Smile," the theme from "M*A*S*H"). The band opened with a piece called "Bowlegs" (I think) and closed with the late drummer Tiny Kahn's explosive "TNT." The audience called for an encore, and the ensemble obliged with Mandel's sensuous "Keester Parade." Trombonist Ira Nepus was featured on "Bowlegs," tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb on "Close Enough for Love," pianist John Campbell on "Emily," trumpeter Ron Stout on "The Shadow of Your Smile," baritone Bob Efford on "I Want to Live!" with other crisp solos along the way by trumpeters Bob Summers and Carl Saunders, alto Dick Mitchell, tenor Doug Webb, trombonist George Bohannon, guitarist John Chiodini and bassist Chuck Berghofer
Chuck Berghofer
Chuck Berghofer
. Drummer Peter Erskine was steadfastly persuasive, directing traffic and herding everyone together with ease and efficiency.

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