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After 15 Years, a "Caravan" Ends Its Journey

Jack Bowers By

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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 feeling a need to reduce the workload); time (closely related to reason two, as I'd like more of it to do other things); and last but not least, a perceptible decline in the number of new big-band CDs, which makes writing a regular column of reviews such as Big Band Caravan rather dicey, as I've been having to search far and wide for new albums instead of waiting for them to come to me. Combining the columns lessens the need to produce at least five reviews each month, as has been the norm with Caravan. While five would remain the goal, some months may engender four reviews or less depending on how many new CDs have been released. Granted, the change from two columns to one may take some getting used to, but once you've mastered the art of tracking down only one column instead of two, I hope you'll agree that the change is appropriate and worth making.

In Other News...

Now is the time to start planning ahead, as Los Angeles becomes a magnet for big-band talent next May 23-26 when the L.A. Jazz Institute hosts a "Big Band Spectacular" at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Recognize any of these names—Bill Holman, Gordon Goodwin, Tom Kubis, Bob Curnow, Roger Neumann, Kim Richmond, Mike Barone, Steve Huffsteter? They'll all be there, along with a number of others who've yet to be announced. This in addition to the usual films, panel discussions and special events. For information, phone 562-200-5477 or go online to www.lajazzinstitute.org

"Dream Band" or Nightmare?

People have asked me from time to time about a "dream band," what musicians I'd choose to comprise the brass, reed and rhythm sections. The short answer is, that's impossible. There have simply been too many outstanding musicians in the history of big-band jazz to narrow the field to less than twenty; even after eliminating the names of those who were best known in other contexts (that is, as soloists or with smaller groups), the sheer number of superlative sidemen (and a handful of women) is staggering. The one issue I could resolve without any ambivalence is that of the drum chair, as to me, no one has ever surpassed Buddy Rich, but even there it's a matter of opinion, nothing more, as the competition is fierce with the likes of Louie Bellson, Chick Webb, Gene Krupa Big Sid Catlett, Jo Jones, Sam Woodyard, Dave Tough, Sonny Payne, Tiny Kahn, Stan Levey, Kenny Clarke, Shelly Manne, Mel Lewis, Frank Capp, Butch Miles, Jeff Hamilton and others making impressive cases. The other chairs are literally up for grabs. Lead trumpet? Take your pick from among hundreds, if not thousands, of high-flying foremen who have presided over big bands through the years. Tenor sax? Well, my main man has always been the incomparable Zoot Sims (a natural-born swinger who could sight-read almost any book), but I wouldn't go so far as to say he's one of the two best tenors who ever graced a big band. There have been too many others. And so it goes with every chair. Choosing a "dream band," as it turns out, is more akin to a nightmare, one that I will happily bequeath to others.

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin...'!

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