Dave Brubeck: Small Groups, Large Stature

Jack Bowers By

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That set the tone for the evening as Williams, more lead player than jazz soloist, served primarily as high-note specialist with the AJO on "Begin the Beguine," "Over the Rainbow" (a trumpet duet with Dubbs), "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" (another with trumpeter Kent Erickson), "Maria" and "MacArthur Park." Williams sat out on the more jazz-oriented themes, Matt Catingub's "Thad-ish" and John Clayton's "Nice to Meet You." Dubbs (muted) and trombonist Christian Pincock were the soloists on "Thad-ish," Pincock, Erickson, pianist Jim Ahrend and tenor Lee Taylor on "Nice to Meet You." Taylor and AJO director / lead alto Glenn Kostur also soloed on "MacArthur Park," tenor Aaron Lovato on "Begin the Beguine." an enjoyable concert, tempered only by the fact that Williams, for all his talent, is best suited for section work than improvisation.

On the Horizon

The Monterey Jazz Festival's 55th Anniversary Celebration kicks off January 10 in Santa Cruz, CA, and continues through April 28, covering forty cities in twenty-three states. The all-star Monterey Festival Band features vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Benny Green and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Highlights of the nine-week tour include a six-night run at the Blue Note in New York City and appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; the Epcot Center in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; the Chicago Symphony Center, and Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA. Information about the tour dates and times are available at www.montereyjazzfestival.com

Recent Releases

Keith Karns Big Band
Thought and Memory
Keith Karns Music

For his inaugural recording as a big-band leader, trumpeter Keith T Karns, a native of Alaska who now teaches at the University of North Texas in Denton, has written and arranged a quartet of extended contemporary works to complement two by the legendary bassist Charles Mingus, "Gunslinging Bird" and "Better Get Hit in Your Soul." The longer pieces are separated at times by brief "Interludes" for solo instruments: the first for bassist Ken Ge (not to be confused with Kenny G), the second for pianist Steve Hobert, the third for Karns himself. Each of them segues seamlessly into the ensuing number.

Perhaps taking his cue from Mingus and others, Karns writes with one ear attuned to jazz tradition, the other centered on tomorrow and the path that big bands may choose to traverse as time-honored guidelines are cast aside to make way for new patterns. While melody has its place in this brave new world, it is less decisive than before, yielding some of its priority to the over-all form and substance of a particular composition. That's not to imply that melody is absent; far from it. On the other hand, when the song is ended the melody seldom lingers on (Mingus' "Soul," with its gospel-inflected strains, marks an exception to the rule).

Karns raises the curtain with "Wednesday Came to a Crossroads," which opens auspiciously after an intro by bassist Ge and pianist Hobert, moving pleasantly forward in 7/4 time before crisp solos by Karns, tenor Aaron Hedenstrom and drummer Brian Claxton lead to the "Crossroads," whose clamorous sonority calls to mind Times Square on New Year's eve. Hedenstrom solos again, with trombonist Nick Syman, on "Some Characters and Incidents Are Fictitious," on which Claxton's drums again play an essential role. After the first interlude, Karns' funky "Salt Water Rocket" takes flight, powered again by Claxton's emphatic drum work and earnest solos by Karns and tenor Brian Handelan}. "Thought and Memory," the last of Karns' compositions, is an opulent ballad on which Hedenstrom's expressive tenor is preceded by Hobert's eloquent commentary. Syman, Claxton and baritone Jon Vallejo are front and center on the bluesy "Gunslinging Bird," Hobert, Syman, Hedenstrom, Claxton, alto Jim Geddes and trumpeter Jeff Walk on "Better Get Hit in Your Soul."

Karns writes and arranges quite well in a contemporary vein, while the band is invariably poised and alert. As to whether the outcome is agreeable, that is a matter of taste. Karns' themes are unequivocally progressive, albeit in no way uncoupled from their more customary heritage. Those who are familiar with Mingus and his music may deduce for themselves the avenue that Karns aspires to traverse. Thought and Memory is a persuasive first step along that roadway.

Norman David and the Eleventet
At This Time



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