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Big Band Report

Pointing Fingers... And Naming Names

By Published: May 4, 2013
Tenor saxophone offers some of the clearest choices, as I have unequivocal favorites on the West Coast (Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
), in the Midwest (Mark Colby
Mark Colby
Mark Colby

saxophone
) and on the East Coast (Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
b.1968
sax, tenor
). That's not to say there aren't many other able contenders, from Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
and Grant Stewart
Grant Stewart
Grant Stewart
b.1971
sax, tenor
to Larry McKenna
Larry McKenna
Larry McKenna
b.1937
sax, tenor
, Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
b.1953
saxophone
, Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton
b.1954
sax, tenor
, Don Menza
Don Menza
Don Menza
b.1936
saxophone
and Tony Vacca (perhaps the least known among them, as he makes his home in Phoenix, AZ). Moving further down the scale, young lions Adam Schroeder
Adam Schroeder
Adam Schroeder
b.1978
sax, baritone
and Jennifer Hall have stepped forward to help fill the gaping void left by the passing in June 2009 of West Coast baritone giant Jack Nimitz
Jack Nimitz
Jack Nimitz
1930 - 2009
sax, baritone
, while the veteran Bob Efford
Bob Efford
b.1928
keeps soldiering on at age eighty-five. In the Midwest, Ted Hogarth
Ted Hogarth
Ted Hogarth

sax, baritone
helps keep the memory of Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
alive, and on the East Coast Claire Daly
Claire Daly
Claire Daly

sax, baritone
(another DIVA alum) regularly places high, and rightly so, in reader and critics polls. Stan Weiss, another marvelous player who flies well under the radar, enriches the Ed Vezinho / Jim Ward Big Band with his lithe and buoyant solos.

Naturally, brass and reeds would be undone without a rhythm section, and that includes piano and drums (the basses were dealt with earlier). Singling out pianists has become a tricky business, as most of my personal favorites are no longer with us, while those who are left aren't as active as they once were. Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
(eighty-two) is still around, as are Barry Harris
Barry Harris
Barry Harris
b.1929
piano
(eighty-three), Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
1934 - 2013
piano
(seventy-nine), Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
b.1928
piano
(eighty-four) and Canada's Oliver Jones
Oliver Jones
Oliver Jones
b.1934
piano
(seventy-eight) but Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
, Pete Jolly
Pete Jolly
Pete Jolly
1932 - 2004
piano
, Russ Freeman
Russ Freeman
Russ Freeman
1926 - 2002
piano
, Claude Williamson
Claude Williamson
b.1926
piano
and so many others are gone. Among those who remain, Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
is certainly a standout, and I've always been partial to Maynard Ferguson's son-in-law, Christian Jacob. Other names that spring to mind include Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern
b.1936
piano
, Mike LeDonne
Mike LeDonne
Mike LeDonne
b.1956
piano
, Tom Ranier, David Hazeltine
David Hazeltine
David Hazeltine
b.1958
piano
and Mike Longo
Mike Longo
Mike Longo
b.1939
piano
. I'm sure there are many others, but as I said, this is a short list. And while there may be no drum titans such as Rich, Bellson, Krupa, Manne, Webb, Catlett, Blakey, Roach, Morello or Lewis on the scene, some splendid timekeepers are still plying their trade including Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb
b.1929
drums
, Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
(age eighty-eight), Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
b.1958
drums
, Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
, Frank Capp
Frank Capp
Frank Capp
b.1931
drums
, Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
b.1953
drums
, Billy Higgins
Billy Higgins
Billy Higgins
1936 - 2001
drums
, Kenny Washington, Carl Allen
Carl Allen
Carl Allen
b.1961
drums
, Billy Hart
Billy Hart
Billy Hart
b.1940
drums
, Dennis Mackrel, Joe LaBarbera and DIVA's Maricle. We'll have to make do with them.

By now you may have noticed that save for Oliver Jones, these musicians have at least one thing in common: they are all Americans. Does that imply there are no world-class musicians overseas? Not at all. What it means is the list is so long I'd have to write another column to encompass all the names that belong there. Such a list would have to include trumpeters Eric Miyashiro, Peter Asplund
Peter Asplund
Peter Asplund

trumpet
, Bert Joris, John MacLeod and Ack Van Rooyen; saxophonists Paquito D'Rivera
Paquito D'Rivera
Paquito D'Rivera
b.1948
saxophone
, Ferdinand Povel
Ferdinand Povel
Ferdinand Povel
b.1947
saxophone
, Igor Butman, Alan Barnes
Alan Barnes
Alan Barnes
b.1959
sax, alto
, John Williams
John Williams
John Williams
b.1928
and Michael Lutzeier; trombonists Mark Nightingale, Ian McDougall, Svatopluk Kosvanec and Robert Bachner; pianists Jan Lundgren
Jan Lundgren
Jan Lundgren
b.1966
piano
, Makoto Ozone
Makoto Ozone
Makoto Ozone
b.1961
piano
, Don Thompson
Don Thompson
Don Thompson
b.1940
multi-instrumentalist
, Junko Moriya and Peter Beets
Peter Beets
Peter Beets
b.1971
piano
, and a large number of blue-chip drummers (not to mention guitarists such as Canadian standouts Ed Bickert
Ed Bickert
Ed Bickert
b.1932
guitar
and Lorne Lofsky
Lorne Lofsky
Lorne Lofsky
b.1954
). And we've not even mentioned composers, arrangers or the world's resident musical genius, Australia's James Morrison, who plays almost every instrument known to mankind about as well as anyone you'd care to name. In fact, two of the finest musicians I've ever heard (aside from Morrison, who is in a class by himself) were born and played overseas: baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin
Lars Gullin
Lars Gullin
1928 - 1976
sax, baritone
(Sweden) and tenor Tubby Hayes
Tubby Hayes
Tubby Hayes
1935 - 1973
saxophone
(Great Britain).


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