Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, directed by Mathieu, kicked off the evening session with an engaging hour-plus of music mostly written and / or arranged by Bill Russo while he was plying his trade as a trombonist in the Stan Kenton Orchestra (later, he was widely known as Prof. William Russo, director of the Center for New Music at Chicago's Columbia College and composer of music for symphonies and the theatre as well as several operas). With one exception ("Dusk," a third-stream piece), the songs chosen by Mathieu were of the straight-ahead variety including Russo's compositions for trombonist Frank Rosolino ("Frank Speaking") and trumpeter Conte Candoli ("Portrait of a Count") and the standard "Lover Man," especially arranged for alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. George McMullen, Bob Summers and Fred Selden sat in for Rosolino, Candoli and Konitz. The concert opened with Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" (Eric Jorgensen, trombone) and continued with another lovely melody, "Autumn in New York," featuring lead trumpeter Ron King. Also heard were "I've Got You Under My Skin" (King, Selden), "Fascinating Rhythm" (Charlie Morillas, trombone, Roger Neumann, tenor sax. Bruce Babad, alto, Doug Webb, tenor), "Sophisticated Lady" (Babad, trumpeter Stan Martin); "You and the Night and the Music" (Babad, bassist Dave Stone); "Shadow Waltz"(McMullen) and "Silhouette," a song written by Mathieu as his "audition piece" for the Kenton Orchestra, featuring Summers' muted trumpet. The session closed, as it should have, with Russo's most widely known composition, "23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West," admirably played with ripping solos by Babad and trombonist Erik Hughes.