190

Are You Sure, Bobby?

Jack Bowers By

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In late March, I received an e-mail from trumpeter Bobby Shew. He said he'd performed a gig in West Palm Beach, FL, and had met my brothers, whom he described as "nice guys." My first impulse was to write back and ask if he could have been mistaken. My brothers? Nice guys? Well, the fact is that my brothers, Tom and Ed, do live in Tequesta, FL, and Bobby did indeed meet them at the concert in West Palm. "Your brother Ed," he wrote, "gave me his card! Is that a family thing?" He had good reason to ask. Whenever I'd see Bobby at concerts and other events, before he moved back to New Mexico three or four years ago and I got to know him better, I'd always hand him my business card. Finally, after about a dozen such episodes, Bobby stared at me and said, "What? Another card?" To which I replied, "Don't tell me you actually keep them!"

Bobby was in Florida for a "tribute" to Chet Baker" with John Proulx, a pianist from Los Angeles whose voice approximates Chet's. They'd presented a similar concert a year or two ago in nearby Corrales. Proulx handles the vocals while Bobby emulates Baker's laid-back trumpet style. They were accompanied in West Palm by a group that included drummer Danny Gottlieb, bassist Dave Clark, guitarist Jason Ennis and tenor saxophonist Fred Haas.

Speaking of Bobby Shew . . .

He'll be in Los Angeles in late May, 2011 to take part in the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's "Big Band Olympics," performing as part of the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band's West Coast Reunion and in an International Trumpet Summit with Dusko Goykovich, Guido Basso and Valery Ponomarev. The Olympics, "celebrating the big band sound from around the world," is to be held May 26-29 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Other bands set to appear include those led by Goykovich, Ponomarev, Arturo Sandoval, Rob Pronk, Tommy Vig, Chris Walden, John Altman, Christian Jacob, Tim Davies and the incomparable Bill Holman. Also slated are tributes to the Clarke-Boland Big Band (by the Cal State-Long Beach Concert Jazz Orchestra) and Rob McConnell's Boss Brass (with alumni including Basso, Terry Clarke, Don Thompson and Ian McDougall), plus concerts by the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California, the Los Angeles Society Big Band and the Jazz Kidz from Montreal, Canada. That's in addition to the usual films, panel discussions and a special presentation by Ken Poston, "Howard Lucraft and Stan Kenton's Jazz International." For more information, go online to www.lajazzinstitute.org or phone 562-200-5477.

Out and About

Only one straight-ahead concert was held locally in March, but it was a good one. The Arlen Asher—Paul Gonzales Quintet played two delightful sets March 17 at The Outpost Performance Space. Gonzales, who has known the 81-year-old Asher since he was a first-grade student in Albuquerque and Asher brought some instruments to his wife's class for "show and tell" (Gonzales chose to "audition" on baritone sax), played trumpet and flugelhorn, while Asher, a master of every reed and wind instrument, brought only his soprano, alto and tenor saxophones and flute. The front-liners were ably backed by pianist Brian Bennett, bassist Michael Glynn and drummer John Trentacosta (Asher's co-host on a weekly Jazz program in Santa Fe). The quintet played mostly standards with a few originals by Gonzales inserted to keep the sellout audience engaged. A good time was had by all.

Two More Giants Are Gone

Sir George Shearing, the well-loved pianist who wrote the classic jazz standard "Lullaby of Birdland," died on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, at age 91. Shearing, blind since birth, arrived in the U.S. from his native England in 1947, and two years later scored a big hit with his quintet's version of the standard "September in the Rain." Shearing remained active well into his 80s, recording a CD, "Lullabies of Birdland," and releasing a memoir, Lullaby of Birdland, in 2004. In 2007, Shearing was knighted for his many contributions to music. Shearing and his quintet worked with many stars over the years including Nancy Wilson, Mel Torme (with whom he recorded twice), Marian McPartland, Peggy Lee, Billy Taylor, Don Thompson, Stephane Grappelli, Sarah Vaughan and, perhaps most notably, Nat "King" Cole. Shearing wrote "Lullaby of Birdland" (in ten minutes, he later said) in 1952. Introducing it during his 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, he said, "I've been credited with writing 300 songs. Two hundred and ninety-nine enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here's the other one." Of all Shearing's well-known and oft-repeated quips, my favorite has always been his response to a reporter who asked if he'd been blind all his life. "Not yet," Shearing replied.

Drummer Joe Morello, another musician who had sight problems from an early age, died March March 12 at his home in Irvington, NJ. He was 82 years old. Morello was best known for his 12-year association (1955-67) with the Dave Brubeck Quartet whose trademark was varying time signatures. At his suggestion, alto star Paul Desmond wrote the jazz classic "Take Five" in 5/4 time. The song sold more than a million copies, rising to No. 25 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart in 1962. After Brubeck's quartet disbanded, Morello worked mainly as a drum clinician and teacher. He returned to performing in the 1970s and '80s, including reunions with Brubeck in 1976 and 1985. Later, he led his own group that featured tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama. By that time, Morello was playing virtually blind, an affliction that never stopped him or lessened his love for the music.

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

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