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
The second of the week's four films, "Central Avenue Breakdown," was centered on the street that put L.A. jazz on the map, and featured brief clips of Kid Ory
Kid Ory
Kid Ory
1886 - 1973
trombone
, Curtis Mosby, Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Art Tatum
1909 - 1956
piano
, Nat Cole, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Dandridge, Ivie Anderson
Ivie Anderson
Ivie Anderson
1905 - 1949
vocalist
, Rex Stewart
Rex Stewart
Rex Stewart
1907 - 1967
trumpet
, Slim Gaillard
Slim Gaillard
Slim Gaillard
1916 - 1991
vocalist
, Lena Horne
Lena Horne
Lena Horne
1917 - 2010
vocalist
, Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
, Howard McGhee
Howard McGhee
Howard McGhee
1918 - 1987
trumpet
, Teddy Edwards
Teddy Edwards
Teddy Edwards
1924 - 2003
sax, tenor
, Lucky Thompson
Lucky Thompson
Lucky Thompson
1924 - 2005
saxophone
, Buddy Collette
Buddy Collette
Buddy Collette
1921 - 2010
sax, tenor
and Chico Hamilton
Chico Hamilton
Chico Hamilton
1921 - 2013
drums
, among others. The morning's opening concert, again in the ballroom (there were no poolside concerts this year), introduced the UCLA Jazz Ensemble directed by the personable Charley Harrison
Charley Harrison

composer/conductor
. The rather truncated set (less than forty-five minutes) opened with another Dameron tune, "Lady Bird," and included "Lion and the Lamb," Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
's "Dolphin Dance," Frank Mantooth's breathtaking arrangement of "Young and Foolish" (kudos to pianist Kiefer Shackleford and lead trumpet Forrest Powell), Bill Russo's Cuban favorite "23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West," and the standard "April in Paris," played Basie-style, complete with "one more time!" The band was well- rehearsed, the soloists above average. A genial prelude to lunch.

The afternoon session opened on a bright note with a set by trumpeter Steve Huffsteter's band that could best be described as tasteful. Huffsteter's charts (he wrote all of them) were exemplary, and the ensemble played them with alacrity, opening with "Diz Section" (sparkling solos by guitarist Tom Rizzo, flutist Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
and soprano Alex Budman) and continuing through "Nostalgia" (Jerry Pinter , tenor sax; Charlie Ferguson, piano), "Grizzled" (I'm guessing at that title, whose soloists were Ferguson and tenor Doug Webb
Doug Webb
Doug Webb

saxophone
), "Night Walk" (Huffsteter, trumpet; Budman, soprano), "Sneaky" (Huffsteter, muted trumpet; Pablo Calogero, baritone; Richmond, alto), "Melancholia" (young Ryan Dragon, trombone), the flag-waving "Joint Tenancy" (a.k.a. "Alone Together," a heated two-trumpet shoot-out between Huffsteter and Mark Lewis) and "A Waltz and Battery," showcasing Webb, trombonist Whitfield and bassist Chris Conner. The drummer was Matt Gordy, one of an impressive number of accomplished timekeepers heard during the week. Those who were present (and there were precious few) saw and heard another outstanding concert.

Sandwiched between Huffsteter's set and the last concert of the afternoon, by Gary Urwin
Gary Urwin
Gary Urwin

band/orchestra
's superlative Jazz Orchestra, was the second of four panel discussions, moderated by Ken Borgers with panelists Huffsteter, Urwin and Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
b.1947
piano
. While there was no doubt that Urwin's ensemble, which is set to record its fourth album later this summer, would be first-class, he made absolutely certain by enlisting the services of a couple of well-known heavyweights, tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
and trombonist Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
Bill Watrous
b.1939
trombone
. As if that weren't enough, Urwin opened the set with his stellar arrangement of the standard "It Could Happen to You," enfolding dazzling solos by Christlieb and pianist Christian Jacob. Christlieb was masterful again on the ballad "My Foolish Heart," complementing forceful statements by Jacob and trumpeter Carl Saunders
Carl Saunders
Carl Saunders
b.1942
trumpet
. Jacob, Saunders and trumpeter Jeff Bunnell were the able soloists on Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
's "Joy Spring," while Charlie Davis stepped out of his usual lead trumpet chair to solo on "Beauty and the Beast." Watrous shared center stage on the next four numbers, soloing alone on "A Beautiful Friendship," with Saunders and Christlieb on Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
' "Waltz for Debbie," tenor John Luer on Luiz Bonfa's "The Gentle Rain," with Christlieb again on "Girl Talk." Saunders wrote and soloed on his warm tribute the the late Bob Florence
Bob Florence
Bob Florence
1932 - 2008
band/orchestra
, "Dear Mr. Florence," before the orchestra closed the bracing session with Bird's "Shaw Nuff," featuring Watrous, Christlieb, Saunders and Bunnell. One had a hunch that many of those in the sparse but enthusiastic audience might have happily delayed their supper to hear more.


comments powered by Disqus