Betty and I returned home from a family visit to Illinois on St. Patrick's Day, just in time to see and hear one of the more electrifying jazz concerts presented in Albuquerque in quite some time. A fund-raiser for the Manzano High School jazz program, the concert featured our own Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and not one but two guest artiststrumpeters Bobby Shew, the AJO's current artistic director, and Shew's longtime friend and former student, Wayne Bergeron, one of the outstanding studio/big band musicians in southern California.
Shew, once a mainstay in bands from Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich to Maynard Ferguson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bill Holman and beyond, has toured the world for many years as an in-demand performer and educator while working steadily as a studio musician in Hollywood. The Albuquerque native came home from the Los Angeles area two years ago and now lives in nearby Corrales. Bergeron, who leads his own big band and plays in a number of others, has worked with a who's who of jazz and pop stars from Beyonce, Michael Buble, Christina Aguilera and Bette Midler to Ray Charles, Dianne Reeves, Celine Dion, Diana Krall, Mel Torme, Barry Manilow, Arturo Sandoval, Ronnie Milsap, Keely Smith, Lou Rawls, Joe Cocker, Dave Koz, Tito Puente and many others.
Without being aware of it, filmgoers have no doubt heard and appreciated Bergeron's clean, high-register trumpet work on such film scores as Pirates of the Caribbean, Superman Returns, The Guardian, The Incredibles, Spiderman 2, The Fantastic Four, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Friday Night Lights, Anchorman, Starsky & Hutch, Drumline, Catch Me If You Can, Southpark, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and many others, and on such TV programs as the annual Academy Awards, the Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, the Jerry Lewis telethon, Frank Sinatra's 80th Birthday Special, Jeopardy!, American Idol, Family Guy, Futurama, Buzz Lightyear, Hercules, Hey Arnold, King of the Hill, The Division, Arrested Development and Promised Land, among some of the many he has done.
Manzano High School's Jazz Band One and the AJO served as warm-up acts for the main event. The AJO played two numbers, drummer Dennis Mackrel's "Passion Dance" and Belgian composer/trumpeter Bert Joris's "Kong's Garden" (solos on the former by pianist Chris Ishee, tenor Lee Taylor and trumpeter/Manzano band director Brad Dubbs, on the latter by Ishee and alto Glenn Kostur) before welcoming Shew onstage for three effervescent and crowd-pleasing numbers, the first two ("Magic Box," "For the Time Being") by Joris, the third, "Terrestris," by Bob Washut, longtime head of the University of Northern Iowa's Jazz Studies program.
Bergeron was next up, and he quickly dazzled the audience with seemingly effortless acrobatics on Bill Liston's "Friend Like Me," a Tom Kubis arrangement of the standard "You Go to My Head," and a blues written by Kubis especially for Bergeron's second album, Plays Well with Others, entitled "High Clouds and a Good Chance of Wayne." Pleasing as they were, the best was yet to come, as Shew and Bergeron then teamed up for a trio of spectacular "encores," Gordon Goodwin's "Maynard and Waynard" (which had been performed by Bergeron and Ferguson on Plays Well With Others), Alan Baylock's lovely arrangement of Harold Arlen/E.Y Harburg's "Over the Rainbow," and Kubis' razzle-dazzle "Rhythm Method."
It was, as noted, a marvelous concert, with admirable solos along the way by the AJO's Ishee, Taylor, Kostur, Dubbs, trombonist Ed Ulman and drummer Rick Compton neatly complementing Shew and Bergeron. For a taste of what it was like, those who weren't there may wish to seek out one or both of Bergeron's albums, You Call This a Living? (WAG Records) or Plays Well with Others (Concord Jazz).
The "Stage Door" Swings Even Wider...
Those who may be on the fence when it comes to attending "The Stage Door Swings" May 22-25 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel should be aware that the sponsoring L.A. Jazz Institute has persuaded three more celebrated singersHelen Merrill, Mark Murphy and Annie Rossto perform at the event, joining Tierney Sutton and Pinky Winters as featured vocalists. Each of them will focus on a specific composerMerrill, Irving Berlin; Murphy, Cole Porter; Ross, George Gershwin; Winters, Jerome Kern; and Sutton, songs from Meredith Willson's The Music Man with the Jack Sheldon Big Band.
Instrumentally, besides Sheldon's ensemble, there'll be big bands and smaller groups led by Bobby Shew, Joel Kaye, Bill Mays, Bud Shank, Lennie Niehaus, Ken Peplowski, Marty Paich and others, as well as a number of college bands, plus the usual films and panel discussions. An "early bird" dinner/concert May 21 will feature music by the Dave Pell Octet with guest vocalist Bonnie Bowden. The emphasis is on Broadway, on specific composers including those named above, and on such blockbuster musicals as My Fair Lady, Porgy & Bess, Guys and Dolls, Pal Joey, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and The Music Man. For information, phone 562-985-7065 or log on to www.lajazzinstitute.org
Some Other Reminders...
The Mike Vax Big Band featuring a number of Stan Kenton alumni kicks off a spring tour through seven Midwestern states April 21 in Rodgersville, MO, ending three weeks later, on May 10, with a concert at Woodhaven High School in Brownstown, MI. The band's "starting lineup" has been announced, and it's a good one, as always, led by trumpeters Vax, Dennis Noday, Carl Saunders, Steve Huffsteter and Don Rader, and including saxophonists Kim Richmond, Alex Murzyn, Pete Gallio and Joel Kaye, trombonists Roy Wiegand, Dale DeVoe, Scott Whitfield, Kenny Shroyer and Mike Suter and a rhythm section comprised of pianist Bob Florence, bassist Chris Symer, drummer Gary Hobbs and percussionist D. Huffsteter. For information, phone 925-872-1942 or e-mail Vaxtrpts@aol.com
Once back from the tour, Kim Richmond will proceed almost directly to his annual Northwoods Jazz Camp, a four-day affair at the Holiday Acres Resort in northern Wisconsin. The dates are May 14-17 (I hope I got 'em right this time), there's an outstanding faculty and a new feature this year: a faculty/student big band. Besides Richmond, the instructors include Clay Jenkins (trumpet), Scott Whitfield (trombone), Tom Hynes (guitar), Lee Tomboulian (piano), Jeff Campbell (bass), Tim Davis (drums) and Betty Tomboulian (vocals). The web site is www.northwoodsjazzcamp.com
And One Farewell...
Sid Bulkin, a drummer who came of age in the bebop era and played with a number of jazz greats including Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and Manny Albam before becoming a publicist and producer, died in Los Angeles March 1. He was eighty-three years old. RIP, Sid.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin' . . . !
New and Noteworthy
1. Louie Bellson/Clark Terry, Louie & Clark Expedition 2 (Percussion Power)
2. Ian McDougall Big Band, No Passport Required (Self Published)
3. Rob Parton's JazzTech Big Band, Just One Of Those Things (Sea Breeze Jazz)
4. Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, Nimmons 'n' More (McMurdo Sound)
5. Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra, Invitation (Pacific Coast Jazz)
6. Dietrich Koch Big Band, Berlin Cookbook (Mons)
7. U.S. Army Blues, Blues At Thirty-Five (Self Published)
8. National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Out Of Hamelin (DVD) (Stanza Music)
9. Charles Tolliver Big Band, With Love (Mosaic)
10. Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band, Portology (OmniTone)
11. Mt. Hood Jazz Band and Combo, I'm Still Here (Sea Breeze Vista)
12. Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, An Odd Christmas (NJO)
13. University of Northern Iowa, Renovation (UNI Jazz)
14. Chris Dean's Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Re:Generation (IMCD)
15. Illinois Jacquet, Swingin' Live (Jacquet Records)