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Big Band Report

June 14, 2013

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

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By JACK BOWERS

Betty and I returned to Albuquerque on Memorial Day after attending Swingin' on a Riff, the latest in a series of marvelous semi-annual events presented by Ken Poston and the Los Angeles Jazz Institute for more than twenty years at venues in and around L.A. This one was held May 23-26 at the Los Angeles Marriott Airport Hotel. The music ranged from very good to spectacular, with seventeen world-class concerts by some of the finest ensembles and musicians you're likely to hear anywhere, exemplifying its secondary title, “Big Band Masters of the 21st Century." The concerts were supplemented by four ...

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May 4, 2013

Pointing Fingers... And Naming Names

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By JACK BOWERS

As the countdown continues toward the last Big Band Report in June, the time has come to point fingers and name names--in other words, to compile a short list of contemporary jazz musicians who have risen above the norm to help make life more pleasurable for one devoted listener. These are, mind you, personal choices, and the list is far from inclusive; while some of the names may be new to you, rest assured they have earned their places. You may notice that no guitarists or bassists are named, and there's a reason for that: most of them sound about ...

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April 2, 2013

In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question

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By JACK BOWERS

Suppose a month goes by, you have a column to publish, but nothing has happened that's worth writing about. What do you do then? Read on, as the question is about to be answered. A while back there was a discussion at a Stan Kenton web site (Kentonia) about musicians or groups of musicians (more specifically, soprano saxophonists) playing out of tune, either occasionally or frequently. My response (entirely personal) was as follows: “Well, there is obviously something wrong with my ears, and I suppose that's a blessing, as most of the soprano solos ...

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March 8, 2013

"Lone Wolf" Finds Plenty to Chew On

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By JACK BOWERS

With Betty sidelined by a bad cough, it was up to me to seek out local jazz events in February, and I managed to find a couple of pretty good ones, starting February 7 at the University of New Mexico's Keller Hall where SuperSax New Mexico performed for the third time in Albuquerque. As you may know, SuperSax NM is patterned after the highly popular West Coast group formed in the early '70s by Med Flory and Sonny Clark and devoted to the music of Charlie Parker, specifically his classic solos, rearranged and played by a full sax section. It's ...

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February 10, 2013

Buddy Rich: In a Zone of His Own

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By JACK BOWERS

One of the channels that came with my Dish Network package is Classic Arts Showcase, which is a treasure trove of film clips documenting classical, ballet, folk, pop and other forms of music that one is unlikely to see anywhere else (although some footage is presumably available on YouTube, which more and more seems to encompass almost everything musical and beyond). When there is nothing else of interest to watch (which, alas, is much of the time), I sometimes press the remote control buttons for Classic Arts and can usually count on seeing something that is at least historic and ...

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January 3, 2013

Dave Brubeck: Small Groups, Large Stature

By JACK BOWERS

Dave Brubeck wasn't really a big-band kinda guy; in fact, he was seldom seen in groups larger than four or five. On the other hand, he was an extraordinary musician, one whose influence will no doubt be felt for generations to come. Brubeck, who remained active almost to the end of his life, died December 5 in Norwalk, CT, one day before his ninety-second birthday. The particulars of Brubeck's long career are well known, so there's no need to dwell on them here. He was the last surviving member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which reanimated small-group jazz in the ...

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December 11, 2012

After 15 Years, a "Caravan" Ends Its Journey

By JACK BOWERS

For nearly fifteen years now, I've been writing two monthly columns here at All About Jazz: this one (Big Band Report) and Big Band Caravan. That is about to change. Starting next month, the two will be pared down to one inclusive column using as its title Big Band Report. So rather than searching the AAJ website each month for two columns, you'll need only look for one, which will encompass both big-band news and reviews. The change is being made for several reasons: convenience (it's easier to find and read one column instead of two); age (I'm seventy-seven and ...

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November 16, 2012

Did Stan Kenton Swing? You Bet Your Walkin' Shoes He Did...

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By JACK BOWERS

I've been listening to a lot of Stan Kenton's music recently while coming to grips with the age-old question, did the Kenton orchestra really swing? The answer, to me, is a no-brainer: Yes, Kenton swung. Liberally and often. [Note: This of course depends on how “swinging" is defined; opinions may vary]. In his own way--although he'd have been loath to admit it--Kenton's series of orchestras swung as hard as anyone, even Basie, Herman or Rich. For assurance, one need look no further than some of the arrangers Kenton employed--die-hard swingers such as Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan and Marty ...

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October 8, 2012

Stars on the Horizon

By JACK BOWERS

Even before Groovin' Hard, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's latest foray into the world of contemporary jazz, kicked off its four-day run (October 11-14) at the Marriott LAX Hotel, a letter arrived from LAJI director Ken Poston announcing details of next May's extravaganza, also at the Marriott. The theme is Big Band Spectacular, and the bands who have thus far signed up to take part are the Bill Holman Band, Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, the Tom Kubis Band, Bob Curnow's L.A. Big Band, Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band, the Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra, the Mike Barone Band, the ...

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September 4, 2012

From Charlie Christian to Charlie Parker

By JACK BOWERS

It's not often one has a chance to see and hear a dozen of New Mexico's premier jazz musicians together onstage (or almost so) for a single concert, but that is what took place August 11 as an overflow audience welcomed the Charlie Christian Project and SuperSax New Mexico to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History near Old Town. Both groups were enhanced by the presence of trumpet master (and Albuquerque native) Bobby Shew whose playing, as always, was a model of resourcefulness and taste. With the Charlie Christian Project, conceived by bassist Micky Patten as a tribute to ...

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August 5, 2012

Ladder Is High, Women Keep Climbing

By JACK BOWERS

Unlike college sports, there is no Title IX program for women in jazz. Those who wish to pursue that line of endeavor have to elbow their way into what remains essentially a male-dominated profession (or art) and keep climbing the ladder one rung at a time. True, women have made notable inroads in recent years and are no longer looked upon as simply “band singers," as they once were; but their numbers remain woefully small, even though their talent on a wide range of instruments can no longer be denied. There are even all-female big bands that can hold their ...

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July 12, 2012

June Means Jazz as Festivals Flourish

By JACK BOWERS

June, as always, is a harbinger of exciting things to come as the jazz festival season springs forth in earnest, causing even the most ardent couch potatoes to bestir themselves and start perusing the calendar to locate interesting events in their neck of the woods. Here in New Mexico, the “outdoor" season comes to life with the annual Jazz, Blues & Salsa Under the Stars series at the Museum of Art and History, which is where Betty and I were on June 2 for a concert by the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra with guest artist Matt Catingub. Catingub, ...

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June 4, 2012

Caution: Brief Column Ahead...

By JACK BOWERS

This may be one of the shortest columns I've written in fourteen-plus years at All About Jazz. The fact is, not much has happened this month in our little corner of big band jazz, and there is almost nothing to report. About all we can do is look forward to events on the horizon: Jazz Under the Stars here in Albuquerque in June, July and August; the twelfth annual Prescott (AZ) Jazz Summit, also in August; and the next Los Angeles Jazz Institute / Ken Poston event in mid-October. We've heard nothing (to date) about the annual New Mexico Jazz ...

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May 7, 2012

The "Desert Island" Revisited

By JACK BOWERS

Back in the last millennium, shortly after this column first saw the light of day, I posted a list of twenty “desert island" albums, those that would be snugly ensconced in a crash-proof, water-tight carrying case should yours truly ever be marooned on a miniature atoll with nothing to relieve the boredom save palm trees, coconuts, sandy beaches and ample electrical outlets. Here is the list as it appeared then: 1. Buddy Rich, Big Swing Face (Pacific Jazz). 2. Louie Bellson, Dynamite! (Concord Jazz). 3. Frank Capp Juggernaut, Play It Again, Sam (Concord Jazz). 4. Stan Kenton, ...

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