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 registrantsa 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, 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.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.