Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
Broadbent opened Set 2 with his striking arrangement of "America the Beautiful" (as you've never heard it before), with Pinter and Saunders providing the solo voices. Broadbent and bassist Putter Smith were showcased on the lovely "Encino Nights," alto Berger on the irresistible "Don't Ask Why," dedicated to Irene Kral. The session would have ended with "Sonny Stitt," a charismatic tour de force for Saunders, tenor Webb and drummer Bernie Dresel, but the audience clamored for an encore, and Broadbent obliged with another of his admirable compositions, "Journey Home," enhanced by his lithe piano, Saunders' always meteoric trumpet and Webb's muscular tenor. A lovely way to end an evening.
Saturday, May 25
Saturday morning began, as Friday had, with a film, this one "Jazz West Coast: The Big Bands and Arrangers," surveying bandleaders and arrangers from Shorty Rogers, Stan Kenton, Johnny Richards and Les Brown to Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Neal Hefti, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini and Gerald Wilson, with additional footage of Nat Cole, Andre Previn and Bobby Darin. As the film wasn't shown until 11 a.m., a lunch break preceded the day's opening concert, by Chicagoan Lou Rovner's Small Big Band (a tentet with six front-liners and a four-member rhythm section). I doubt that anyone was prepared for what Rovner and his group had to offer, which should be filed under "pleasant surprises." While the songs may have been familiar, Rovner's quirky arrangements clearly were not. Rovner not only takes liberties with melodies and harmonies, he sometimes turns them upside down and inside out, as for example on "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" or "Paper Moon," neither of which was easily recognizable but was nonetheless captivating. Rovner opened with Mel Torme's seldom-heard "Hi Fly," then reworked the usually even-tempered "Body and Soul" into a lively swinger that encompassed brawny solos by trombonist Charlie Morillas and baritone Jay Mason. The tongue-in-cheek "Ball Game" and whimsical "Paper Moon" (which Betty thought was overly long) were followed by the standard "Like Someone in Love," played in the style of Neal Hefti's "Li'l Darlin,'" with a chorus of "Blues in the Night" thrown in for good measure. The band closed with a relatively plain-spoken reading of Miles Davis' "Milestones" (solos by pianist Mark Massey, tenor Billy Kerr, bassist Randy Landas). Other soloists of note were Kim Richmond (alto, soprano sax) and trumpeter Ron Stout. Drummer Jack LcCompte anchored an able rhythm section that included Massey, Landas and guitarist Will Brahm. Another not-to-be-missed concert (which, gauging the size of the audience, many people apparently did).