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Bud Shank: Still Going Strong at Eighty-Two

Jack Bowers By

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At a time when most of his contemporaries are content to relax on a couch or easy chair and watch their favorite TV programs and sporting events, alto sax superstar Bud Shank is on a roll. Hard on the heels of Graham Carter's splendid documentary of Shank's career, Against the Tide: Portrait of a Jazz Legend, and its companion CD, the eighty-two-year-old Shank, who continues to blow up a storm, has been honored by the Tucson, AZ, Jazz Society with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

A press release announcing the award, which was presented on September 14, reads: "Bud Shank has been an integral member of the international Jazz scene for sixty years. A respected saxophonist, composer and arranger, his soaring, dynamic performances have enlivened countless concerts, festivals, nightclubs and recording sessions. A charter member of the 'West Coast' Jazz movement, Shank's cool but always strongly swinging sound has made him one of a handful of saxophone players with an instantly recognizable and always exciting sound. Bud Shank has more than earned his status as a legend."

As if to reinforce the sentiments, Shank was to receive a similar award in October 2008 from the Los Angeles Jazz Society.

Shank, a native of Dayton, Ohio, began his career as a tenor saxophonist, switching to alto while a member of the Charlie Barnet Orchestra after graduating from the University of North Carolina. He soon moved on to lead alto duties with the Stan Kenton Orchestra before striking out on his own. In the early 1950s he combined jazz and bossa nova for a series of albums with guitarist Laurindo Almeida (long before the bossa/jazz craze swept the country), fused jazz with Indian music in the 1960s with Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, and made the flute a front-line instrument in albums with Bob Cooper and others. After a brief time writing for films in the 1960s he returned to full-time playing and has been a world-renowned soloist ever since, playing in clubs, at festivals and with symphony orchestras.

Poston Looks Ahead

Even as the latest Ken Poston-Los Angeles Jazz Institute event, Big Band Fiesta, is being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Newport Beach, Poston has announced some details of next spring's big-band spectacular, A Swingin' Affair, next May 21-24 with another superb line-up of world-class ensembles and a special "bonus event" May 20 for the first one hundred registrants—a day-long trip to Las Vegas and the Tropicana Hotel for a fiftieth anniversary celebration of Stan Kenton at the Tropicana.

The main event returns in May to the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel, site of most of the LAJI's recent events. While the lineup hasn't yet been completed, what is in place so far is more than worth any big-band enthusiast's time. Here's a list of the bands who have agreed to take part:

The Bob Florence Limited Edition paying special tribute to its fallen leader, composer/arranger/pianist par excellence Bob Florence; Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band; the Frank Capp Juggernaut; the Tom Kubis, Bill Watrous, Carl Saunders, Les Hooper, Chris Walden, John Altman and Alf Clausen Big Bands; Med Flory's Jazz Wave Featuring SuperSax; Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band; Emil Richards' Hollywood All-Star Big Band; and Ron Jones' Influence Jazz Orchestra. Wow!

There will of course be the usual films and panel discussions, along with poolside concerts by nearby college ensembles. The bus trip to Las Vegas, available to the first 100 VIP registrants, will begin early Wednesday morning, May 20, and arrive in Vegas around 1 o'clock that afternoon. An evening concert at the Tropicana will feature an all-star band with Kenton alumni including some who were in the band during the 1959 engagement that led to the classic recording, Live at the Las Vegas Tropicana. The number to call is 562-985-7065.

Arne Domnerus

Arne Domnerus, one of Sweden's leading lights on alto saxophone for roughly six decades, died September 2 in Stockholm. He was eighty-three years old. Domnerus, who burst on the scene in the early 1950s, was a contemporary and playing partner of such Swedish legends as baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, pianist Bengt Hallberg and trumpeter Rolf Ericson. He also performed and recorded with many American stars from Charlie Parker, Clark Terry, Stan Getz, Benny Carter and Lee Konitz to Zoot Sims, Annie Ross, James Moody, Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce and Quincy Jones, among others. From 1956-65, Domnerus was a featured soloist with the Swedish Radio Big Band, taking over the leadership when it was re-formed as Radiojazzgruppen in 1966 and remaining for the next ten years. At the same time, he led many temporary bands of his own and branched out into theatre and ballet, presenting a concert of his music in London in 1999 as part of Swedish Jazz Week.

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