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Back in the Saddle Again...Sort Of

Jack Bowers By

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After an absence of more than 45 years, your correspondent returned to the airwaves on December 15, 2009 co-hosting a three-hour program of big-band holiday music on KSFR-FM in Santa Fe, NM. I was invited to share a part of my CD library by Arlen Asher, one of New Mexico's finest jazz musicians, who has been hosting the weekly Tuesday morning show for several years.

Broadcasting is rather like riding a bicycle; one never quite forgets how to do it, and after a few moments Arlen and I were relaxed and trading one-liners while playing music by everyone from the Adventures in Jazz Orchestra and Airmen of Note to Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, the Tom Kubis Big Band and Great Britain's National Youth Jazz Orchestra. There were many others, and the music ranged from traditional hymns and carols to more contemporary fare (Rudolph, Frosty, chestnuts roasting, and so on). The three hours sped by as if on wings, and we made plans for future get-togethers, the first one perhaps as early as February.

Before proceeding, a few words about the 45 year hiatus are in order. As a young man, my goal was to be a sportscaster, so I went to broadcasting school and then into radio. My first on-air job was at WLAG in LaGrange, GA, near the state's western border. That was in 1958, when I was twenty-three. Five years later, while working the midnight shift at WGAC in Augusta, my car and I were broadsided by a drunk driver whose estimated speed was 100 mph-plus. The car was totaled, and my wife, a nurse, was advised by doctors and hospital staff to notify my next of kin and start thinking about funeral arrangements. I guess I was tougher than they presumed, as I managed not only to survive but to emerge with my faculties essentially intact, something they hadn't thought possible. There was, however, one residual problem that would change my life. The accident had damaged several cranial nerves and partially paralyzed my tongue. That meant no more radio, then or perhaps ever again. Speaking? I had to learn to do that again, along with learning to eat solid foods. With the dream of sportscasting gone, I went to college (I'd never been before) and after graduating turned to writing, which I've been doing ever since (with no plans to stop).

So how did I manage a radio broadcast, and for three hours at that? Well, I decided that if Arlen wasn't bothered by what remains a small but perceptible speech impediment I wouldn't be either. Although I still cringe whenever I hear myself on tape (which isn't often), I set aside the self-consciousness and simply spoke as best I could. I don't know how it sounded to others, but it was fun to do it again, and I'm actually looking forward to a return visit, even though it means arising before dawn and making the one-hour drive to Santa Fe. Arlen and I have plans to present a series of programs on big bands from various countries, something I am eager to do. Perhaps next time I can let more people know the time and date of the broadcast, which can be heard online at

The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra...Plus!

Butch Miles, who made his name playing drums for the Count Basie Orchestra and has performed the same service for a host of groups and entertainment stars for more than four decades, was the guest artist December 11 at a fund-raiser in Albuquerque for the Manzano High School jazz program, playing a number of Basie favorites with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and director Bobby Shew. The flammable session included Frank Foster's "Who, Me?," "Shiny Stockings" and "Corner Pocket," Sammy Nestico's "Warm Breeze" and "Wind Machine," Harry "Sweets" Edison's "Centerpiece" and one departure—Pete Meyers' classic arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," which was first performed by another pretty fair drummer, Buddy Rich. The AJO sounded good on its opening numbers, Pat Metheny's "Song for Bilbao" and Bert Joris' "Magic Box," even better with Miles stoking the furnace. Before intermission, there were brief appearances by the Manzano HS Jazz Bands 1 and 2 directed by Brad Dubbs who also plays trumpet for the AJO. The only disappointment lay in the size of the audience, as the auditorium was less than half full. Those who did show up seemed to agree that they'd seen and heard a memorable performance by Butch Miles and the AJO.

Another Honor for Clark Terry

Trumpeter Clark Terry has been named recipient of the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented during Grammy Week on Saturday, January 30. A formal acknowledgment of the award will be made during the 52nd annual Grammy Awards telecast the following evening. The Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the recording medium.

Terry, who is considered one of the pioneers in using the flugelhorn in jazz, has performed in a host of outstanding bands including those led by Duke Ellington, Basie, Charlie Barnet, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer and Quincy Jones. After appearing on the highly successful recording The Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One, Terry joined Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Orchestra where he remained for 12 years. Now 89, the St. Louis native continues to perform and record with a variety of musicians and groups. Terry's 2004 recording of Porgy & Bess (A440 Music) with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy Award.

A Further Reminder . . .

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute will present its spring 2010 Jazz Festival May 27-30 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel. Groups set to take part include the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band and Sextet, the Teddy Charles Tentet, Hal McKusick's Jazz Workshop, the Gil Evans Big Band and the Elliot Lawrence Big Band. Terry Gibbs, Bob Brookmeyer and Don Menza are among those slated to perform, and there will be musical homages to Quincy Jones, George Russell, Manny Albam, Johnny Carisi, Alec Wilder, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims along with the usual films and panel discussions. For information, phone 562-985-7065 or go to

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

New and Noteworthy

1. Mike Barone Big Band, Flight of the Bumblebee (Rhubarb Records)
2. Peter Hand Big Band, The Wizard of Jazz (Savant)
3. Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Detroit (Mack Avenue)
4. New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra, Le Jazz Hot (Planet Arts)
5. Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge, The Comet's Tail (MAMA)
6. Lasse Lindgren Big Constellation, Spirits (Imogena)
7. Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, Where or When (Owl Records)
8. Charles Tolliver Big Band, Emperor March (HalfNote)
9. Altsys Jazz Orchestra, Watercolours (Swingin' in Time)
10. Richard Galliano / Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Ten Years Ago (Milan)
11. St. Johns River City Band, Silver Threads (no label)
12. Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra, Where There's Smoke (DOJO)
13. Mt. Hood Jazz Band / Combos, 2nd Time Around (Sea Breeze Vista)
14. Ed Palermo Big Band, Eddy Loves Frank (Cuneiform Records)
15. Lamar University, Jimmy Simmons & Friends Encore 2008 (Self Published)


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