In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question
RIP, Derek Watkins
British trumpeter Derek Watkins, a star lead player in several big bands who also performed on the soundtracks of all twenty-three James Bond films, died of cancer March 22 at age sixty-eight. Fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie once said of him, "When you speak of lead trumpets, Derek is 'Mr. Lead.'" Watkins started as a trumpeter in his father's dance band before turning professional at age seventeen. He was a member of the Ted Heath and John Dankworth bands before touring with Benny Goodman in 1969. He moved to Los Angeles in 1970 and spent four years as a first-call studio musician, meanwhile playing after hours at Donte's jazz club with the likes of drummer Louie Bellson and saxophonist Don Menza. He also played jazz with Gillespie, Count Basie and Oscar Peterson while accompanying performers such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Elton John and others, and opera singers including Kiri Te Kanawa, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. Besides the Bond films, he performed on Basic Instinct, Gladiator, Superman 1, Superman 2 and Bridget Jones's Diary. His trumpet solo opens the film Chicago. In association with Dr. Richard Smith, head of acoustics at Boosey and Hawkes, Watkins established a manufacturing company, Smith-Watkins Instruments, which manufactures and supplies trumpets and cornets to musicians. As a composer, he collaborated with Colin Sheen and James Talbot to provide incidental music for the long-running television show Midsomer Murders. Watkins was also a visiting professor of trumpet at the UK's Royal Academy of Music.
Recent Big-Band Releases
Stan Kenton Tribute Band / McGill University Jazz Orchestra 1
Double Feature, Volume 4
As the title denotes, this is the fourth in a series of double-CD packages produced by Bill Lichtenauer's Tantara Productions devoted to the music of Stan Kenton. It differs from the first three volumes, however, in that the Kenton Orchestra is not showcased on Disc 1. That space is taken instead by a Stan Kenton Tribute Band, taped for an audience in July 1993 at the Centrum Jazz Workshop in Port Townsend, WA, directed by the renowned saxophonist and Kenton alumnus Bud Shank. And what a band it was! With former Kenton stalwarts Shank and Greg Metcalf on alto sax, Bob Cooper and Bill Perkins on tenor, the incomparable Conte Candoli in the trumpet section, Jiggs Whigham playing lead trombone, and none other than Pete Rugolo and Bill Holman conducting their own compositions, it's like hopping into a time machine for the most enjoyable ride of your life. As icing on an already delectable cake, the great Bobby Shew plays lead trumpet, drummer Frank Capp pilots a blue-chip rhythm section (Kenton alum Dave Barduhn, piano; Doug Miller, bass), and the emcee is former Kenton trombonist Milt Bernhart who proves to be the perfect man for the joberudite, amusing and with a marvelous voice to boot. Wonderful as they are, the real surpriseto the uninitiatedwill be the impressive McGill University Jazz Orchestra 1, which confirms on Disc 2 that it is one of the outstanding undergraduate ensembles anywhere, capable of interpreting Kenton's music in a manner that certainly would have had the Tall Guy smiling and voicing his unreserved approval.