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Big Band Report

In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question

By Published: April 2, 2013
Toward the end of May, Betty and I plan to be in Los Angeles (at the Airport Marriott Hotel) for the Ken Poston / L.A. Jazz Institute's latest extravaganza, "Swingin' on a Riff: Big Band Masters of the Twenty-First Century," the dates for which are May 23-26. Four films, four panel discussions and no fewer than seventeen concerts in four days, more than enough to assuage anyone's appetite for big bands. There'll be plenty of big names too: Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
, Don Menza
Don Menza
Don Menza
b.1936
saxophone
, Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
, Tom Kubis, Bob Curnow, Mike Barone
Mike Barone
b.1936
, Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
, Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
b.1941
sax, tenor
, Gary Urwin
Gary Urwin
Gary Urwin

band/orchestra
, Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
b.1939
trombone
, Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
, Steve Huffsteter, Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
b.1947
piano
and many others. Obviously, the June edition of Big Band Report (the last after a fifteen-year run; more about that next month) will be devoted to coverage of what promises to be a spectacular event.

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
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
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
Ted Heath
b.1900
and John Dankworth
John Dankworth
John Dankworth
1927 - 2010
saxophone
bands before touring with Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
1909 - 1986
clarinet
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
Louie Bellson
Louie Bellson
1924 - 2009
drums
and saxophonist Don Menza
Don Menza
Don Menza
b.1936
saxophone
. He also played jazz with Gillespie, Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
and Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
while accompanying performers such as Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
, 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
Tantara Productions
2013

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
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
. 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
Bud Shank
Bud Shank
1926 - 2009
saxophone
. And what a band it was! With former Kenton stalwarts Shank and Greg Metcalf on alto sax, Bob Cooper
Bob Cooper
1925 - 1993
saxophone
and Bill Perkins
Bill Perkins
Bill Perkins
1924 - 2003
saxophone
on tenor, the incomparable Conte Candoli
Conte Candoli
Conte Candoli
1927 - 2001
trumpet
in the trumpet section, Jiggs Whigham
Jiggs Whigham
b.1943
playing lead trombone, and none other than Pete Rugolo
Pete Rugolo
Pete Rugolo
b.1915
composer/conductor
and Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman

band/orchestra
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
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
plays lead trumpet, drummer Frank Capp
Frank Capp
Frank Capp
b.1931
drums
pilots a blue-chip rhythm section (Kenton alum Dave Barduhn, piano; Doug Miller, bass), and the emcee is former Kenton trombonist Milt Bernhart
Milt Bernhart
b.1926
who proves to be the perfect man for the job—erudite, amusing and with a marvelous voice to boot. Wonderful as they are, the real surprise—to the uninitiated—will 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.


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