Another month has flown by, summer is in full bloom, and I'm in the middle of my annual "Wimbledon break
." In spite of its worldwide popularity, soccer's quadrennial World Cup is of no more than passing interest in this household, but everything stops whenever one of the four major tennis tournaments gets under way.
As this is being written (July 2), only one American remains at Wimbledon, an almost unknown 21-year-old woman, Shenay Perry (world ranking 62), who has somehow reached the Round of Sixteen. Gone are former champions Venus Williams and Andre Agassi and twice runner-up Andy Roddick, along with newly rejuvenated James Blake and everyone else from the US. Even so, I remain glued to the screen, watching and appreciating such marvelous players as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, young Scotsman Andy Murray (who dismissed Roddick in straight sets) and others on the men's side, and top seeds Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova on the women's.
As a result, I've fallen somewhat behind in my reviewing, and have in the stack new releases by the Brian Pastor, Kit McClure, Buddy Collette and Ian Pearce big bands, Joey Sellers' Jazz Aggregation and Doug Lawrence Jazz Orchestra, along with the latest from Bob Brookmeyer and the New Art Orchestra and the debut album by the Montclair (California) Women's Big Band. I hope they don't mind waiting another week or so before I get to them!
Betty and I did manage to get out last evening to catch the Southwest Jazz Orchestra, an eleven-piece ensemble that plays for the most part the music of Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. The concert was part of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop's annual Jazz Under The Stars series at the Albuquerque Museum of Art's outdoor amphitheatre. The orchestra performed three sets, the second of which was (for me) the best, as it included two of Mulligan's splendid compositions, "Idol Gossip" and "Westwood Walk," along with director Jack Manno's excellent arrangement of Rodgers and Hart's "Where Or When," Oscar Castro-Neves' thumping "Tropical Heart" and a delightful samba, "Silent Fury," by guitarist Michael Anthony. The first set included "Sweet Georgia Brown" (which introduced the members of the band, each of whom took a sixteen-bar solo), Anthony's "Steps," Juan Tizol's "Perdido," Monk's "I Mean You" and Manno's "Soaring." The third set opened with two compositions by Mingus and a fine arrangement of "Dear Old Stockholm," after which Betty and I took our leave.
The SWJO, which plays on the first Monday of every month at the Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, isn't a big band in the usual sense of the word, as it consists of one trumpeter (Jan McDonald), one trombonist (Ed Ulman), four saxophonists (Cindy Tag, Arlen Asher, Aaron Lewis, Bill Wood) and a five-member rhythm sectionMcDonald (guitar), Chris Allen (vibes), Chris Ishee (piano), Rodney Rowe (bass) and Ryan Anthony (drums). The sound is a bit thin at times, but Manno emphasizes color over muscle, and the charts play to the band's strong points. Everyone is a respectable soloist, with the veteran Asher a standout on baritone or soprano sax.
On July 15, Jazz Under The Stars welcomes a jazz superstar, Bobby Shew, who is returning to Albuquerque, his hometown, after many years on the road and a career that has earned him a reputation as one of the finest lead/jazz trumpeters in the world. Bobby will be heading a quintet that includes saxophonist Glenn Kostur (former music director with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau, currently director of the UNM Jazz Studies program), pianist Pat Rhoads, bassist Milo Jaramillo and drummer Andy Polling.
Later this summer (August 24-27), Betty and I will be making a return trip to Prescott, Arizona for the sixth annual Prescott Jazz Summit. Trumpeter Mike Vax, the Summit's director, has assembled another crew of world-class musiciansincluding pianist Bob Florence, trumpeter Marvin Stamm, saxophonist Tony Vacca, drummer Gary Hobbs, trombonist Scott Whitfield and guitarist Jack Petersento complement a number of first- rate local players and school bands from several cities in Arizona.
It's a laid-back affair with an outdoor concert on the courthouse square (the same kind one would see in a film like The Music Man), afternoon clinics for the younger players, evening concerts on Friday and Saturday, a fund-raising dinner, and a Jazz Brunch on Sunday morning with performances by many of the weekend's guest musicians. If you'd like to make plans to attend you can learn more by phoning 928-771-1268 or 925-872-1942. Betty and I had a wonderful time there last year, and look forward to our return. It's an enjoyable three days of live jazz in a lovely setting that won't break the bank.