Back in the Saddle Again...

Jack Bowers By

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January 9, 2004. Back in harness after three months of “hibernation” and what better way to christen the new computer than by resuming the monthly big-band column at AAJ. It has been a frustrating ninety days (or more) but we are ready now to start living again, even though the data that was lost when the hard drive crashed in early October is gone forever. We have a lot of catching up to do but hope to have the big-band reviews flowing online again next month, after first addressing the backlog from Cadence magazine. This is being typed on WordPerfect, which, frankly, I’ve never been able to warm to (I’m going to CompUSA today to see if there are any alternatives). I was spoiled for so many years by PageMaker 6.0, which, like Tonto, was my faithful companion ever since I began using a computer while editing a newspaper in Illinois nearly two decades ago.

After retiring in ‘97 I brought it with me and thought it would serve me forever (as it would have if I’d been smart enough to back up the hard drive). But that is software over the bridge now (or into the abyss). Another thing that was lost was the e-mail address book, so if there’s anyone out there who’d like to keep in touch, please send me your address and I’ll add it to the book, which I am now slowly reconstructing. Also to be rebuilt from scratch is the big-band catalog, which numbers around 1,600 CDs. That should keep me off the street for a while! The new machine is a Hewlett-Packard with loads of space, all the bells and whistles but not nearly as much speed as anticipated. On the plus side, computer prices have dropped considerably since last I looked, so I didn’t have to drain the bank account to acquire one.

Wrapping Up the Old Year
While I was on “vacation” I got an e-mail from Nils Jacobson asking if I would care to submit my Top Ten big-band albums of ‘03. Funny thing about that: Cadence publishes its writers’ Top Tens (new releases and reissues) each January, and even though I submitted mine in November they somehow got misplaced and didn’t appear in January as scheduled. I’ve been in touch with Cadence and they plan to correct the oversight in February, but for those of you (none, I hope) who don’t read Cadence, here’s a sneak preview of my Top Ten for last year (new releases only).

  1. Mark Taylor / Steve Fidyk, A Perfect Match (Writegroove)
  2. Kenichi Tsunoda, Big Swing (Sea Breeze)
  3. The Terry Gibbs Dream Band, One More Time (Contemporary)
  4. Mike Vax, bigbandjazz.net (Summit)
  5. DIVA, Live! In Concert (MCG)
  6. Dave Holland, What Goes Around (ECM)
  7. Dave McMurdo, Just for Now (Sackville)
  8. Renee Rosnes, With the Danish Radio Big Band (Blue Note)
  9. Dan McMillion, Up Your Brass (Sea Breeze)
  10. John Fedchock, No Nonsense (Reservoir)

In case any of you may have noticed some obvious omissions, I should explain that my choices were limited to albums reviewed in Cadence from December ‘02 through November ‘03, so others worthy of inclusion had to be passed over. Among the more recent albums I’ve not yet reviewed but have listened to and would highly recommend are:

  • Phil Kelly & the Prevailing Winds, Convergence Zone (Origin)
  • The New England Jazz Ensemble, Wishes You a Cookin’ Christmas (Sea Breeze)
  • The Rob Stoneback Big Band, Mad to the Bone (Stonequake)
  • Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, XXL (Silverline)
  • The Cedar Avenue Big Band, Land of 10,000 Licks (CABB)
  • The Swiss Jazz School Orchestra, Shades of Time (TCB)
  • Rob McConnell / SWR Big Band, So Very Rob (Faszination Musik)
  • The Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra, Two Seconds to Midnight (Sea Breeze)
  • Summit Jazz Orchestra with Clark Terry (EC)
  • The Siena Jazz Band, Abstrutions (Siena Jazz)
  • University of Northern Iowa, Transformation (Sea Breeze)
  • Mark Masters Ensemble, The Clifford Brown Project (Capri)
  • Phil Nimmons, Vintage Nimmons ‘n Nine (Sackville)
  • The Jim Widner Big Band, Flying High . . . (Chase Music Group)
  • The Rob McConnell Tentet, Songs of the Twenties (Justin Time)
  • Don Scaletta and The Jazz Project, Salutes Stan Kenton (Ars Nova)
  • Riverside Community College, Upside Out (Sea Breeze)
  • Temple University, Mean What You Say (Sea Breeze)
  • Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, Playin’ the Book! (no label)

I’ll have more to say about each of them as soon as I can get organized and start writing again. Talk about having to make up for lost time! I may have to start writing in shorthand! (I did take shorthand in high school but could never manage to write it faster than sixty words per minute, which won’t get one a job as a court reporter, I can guarantee you that.)

Dizzy Gillespie Honored
On January 6, the eleventh anniversary of legendary Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's passing, the recently completed performing space at the Bahá'í Center in New York City was dedicated as the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium. Diz, who was a Bahá'í, played at many functions sponsored by his co-religionists but never had an opportunity to perform at the Bahá'í Center. The dedication ceremony included a performance by pianist Mike Longo's seventeen-piece New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble, which was scheduled to return on January 13 and 27 with Wally Dunbar's Jazz Eleven performing on January 20, the Lionel Hampton Alumni on February 3, and the Mike Longo Trio accompanying trumpeter Joe Magnarelli on February 10, French hornist John Clark on February 17 and Nabate Isles on March 3. Longo, who is also a Bahá'í, was Dizzy's long-time music director.

As Columbo Would Say, Just One More Thing...
Before we leave you, a note from the American Jazz Institute, which is hosting two concerts at Claremont (CA) McKenna College in February as part of the Duke Ellington Reunion Project. Ellington alumni will join the American Jazz Institute Big Band in Garrison Theatre, 231 E. 10th St. in Claremont on February 7 to perform Ellington’s New Orleans Suite and Ellington / Billy Strayhorn’s Queen’s Suite. On February 9, a jam session featuring Ellingtonians will be held at the Marian Cook Athenaeum, 385 E. 8th St. Among those scheduled to take part in one or both of the events are Louie Bellson, Jimmy Woode, Art Baron, Butch Ballard, Buster Cooper, John Lamb, Barry Lee Hall, Jeff Castleman, Rocky White, Milt Grayson, Vince Prudente and Barbara Winfield. The concert and jam session are free. For information, contact the AJI, 626-798-3127.

And until next month, keep swingin . . .!

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