All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Big Band Report

Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?

By Published: June 14, 2013
After lunch, the first of the event's four films, "The Swing Era in Los Angeles," was presented in the hotel's Meridian Room (the site of all films and panels). Included were clips of Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
1908 - 2002
vibraphone
, Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
, Marshall Royal, Skinnay Ennis, Joe Venuti
Joe Venuti
Joe Venuti
1903 - 1978
violin
, Alvino Rey
Alvino Rey
b.1911
, Harry James
Harry James
Harry James
b.1916
trumpet
, Gene Krupa
Gene Krupa
Gene Krupa
1909 - 1973
drums
, Stan Kenton, Bobby Sherwood and others who helped bring swing music to Los Angeles in the '30s and even earlier. Afterward, it was back to the Ballroom for one of the week's unequivocal highlights: a stellar performance by arranger par excellence Mike Barone and his band (for which the auditorium was roughly one-quarter filled; more about that later). The opener, Barone's dazzling arrangement of the traditional hymn "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was followed by a lustrous version of the standard "I'm Confessin,'" the up-tempo "Sour Sally" (more widely known as "Sweet Georgia Brown"), Rimsky-Korsakov's title selection from Barone's album "Flight of the Bumble Bee," and a beguiling take on Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer." After another album theme, Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
1932 - 2007
keyboard
's "Birdland," Barone reached deep into his treasure trove of early standards (as he is wont to do) and unearthed another winner, "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," after which the band closed with Barone's rapid-fire version of "Limehouse Blues" entitled "Limes Away." No big names in the band, but you'd never know it when listening to razor-sharp solos by saxophonists Vince Trombetta, Jon Armstrong, Glen Garrett, Tom Luer or Brian Williams; trumpeter Bob Summers
Bob Summers
b.1944
, or twenty-two-year-old pianist Sam Hirsh who was outstanding on "Sour Sally," "Bumble Bee" and "Limes Away." Speaking of outstanding, that also describes drummer Adam Alesi who drove the band relentlessly with help from bassist David Tranchina. A tough act to follow.

As good fortune would have it, supper followed, so there was a two-hour break before Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band arrived onstage to perform not one but two rather large and impressive sets. Neumann couldn't have chosen a more agreeable opener than the breezy standard "Let's Fall in Love," wonderfully played with solos to match by pianist Geoff Stradling
Geoff Stradling
b.1955
piano
and alto Phil Feather. Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" was another winner, with solo space this time for trombonist Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
b.1963
trombone
, trumpeters Summers and Coan, tenors Tom Peterson and Alex Budman
Alex Budman
b.1973
saxophone
. "The Juicer Is Wild," written by Neumann for the Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
Band, hummed merrily along behind Brian Scanlon's alto, Alan Kaplan's trombone, Coan's trumpet and Peterson's tenor. Coan, who it's said is an octogenarian (that's hard to believe) had center stage to himself, playing and scatting on the aptly named "Jack Coan's Blues," which preceded the laid-back "Easy Chair" (sounded a lot like "Old Folks") and the lovely "I'll Be Home" (solos by Summers on "Chair," Neumann [tenor] and flugel Mark Lewis
Mark Lewis
b.1955
trumpet
on "Home"). After Bird's "Au Privave" (Coan on muted trumpet, Whitfield on trombone, altos Scanlon and Feather dueling simultaneously), vocalist Madeline Vergari (Mrs. Neumann) closed the set with likeable renditions of "Sunny Side of the Street," "Since I Fell for You" and "There'll be Some Changes Made."

There was more to come. After a brief intermission, the band returned with a shuffling blues, "Takin' a Walk," followed by Tadd Dameron
Tadd Dameron
Tadd Dameron
1917 - 1965
arranger
's "Good Bait" and three more vocals by Vergari ("That Old Black Magic," "The Shadow of Your Smile," backed by Neumann's tenor, and an Ellington medley) before the band rang down the curtain with the crowd-pleasing "Stop Those Blues," played at warp speed and testing soloists Stradling, trumpeter Summers, tenor Peterson, trombonist Kaplan and bassist Kirk Smith (each of whom passed the exam with flying colors). Trombonist Alicia Ard had one chance to solo, on "Good Bait," and acquitted herself quite well. Enough for one day. Off to bed.

Friday, May 24


comments powered by Disqus