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June Means Jazz as Festivals Flourish

Jack Bowers By

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June, as always, is a harbinger of exciting things to come as the jazz festival season springs forth in earnest, causing even the most ardent couch potatoes to bestir themselves and start perusing the calendar to locate interesting events in their neck of the woods. Here in New Mexico, the "outdoor" season comes to life with the annual Jazz, Blues & Salsa Under the Stars series at the Museum of Art and History, which is where Betty and I were on June 2 for a concert by the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra with guest artist Matt Catingub.

Catingub, whose mom was jazz singer Mavis Rivers, began his career playing in the Louie Bellson Big Band and since then has enjoyed a successful career as a composer, arranger, pianist, vocalist and saxophonist extraordinaire. He did all of that with the AJO, charming the overflow audience with his outgoing stage presence while showing them every facet of his extensive musical persona. Catingub even brought his own drummer, Steve Moretti, from Los Angeles to sit in for the AJO's Paul Palmer III who took advantage of the day off to get married.

The first half of the evening's performance consisted of music by the New Mexico Jazz Workshop's high school and middle school Honor Bands directed by Christian Pincock (high school) and Sam Nesbitt (middle school). After intermission, the AJO came out roaring with a pair of flag-wavers, Phil Kelly's "Sweet Georgia Upside Down" and the Gershwins' "They Can't Take That Away from Me," with muscular solos on the first by trumpeter Bruce Dalby, on the second by pianist Jim Ahrend and music director / alto saxophonist Glenn Kostur. Catingub opened (on alto sax) with yet another swinger, "There Will Never Be Another You," on which Dalby, tenor Lee Taylor and valve trombonist Pincock added sharp solos while Moretti drove the ensemble with alacrity. Catingub then invited everyone to dance (a request that was answered by more than a dozen intrepid couples) to a medley of Swing Era favorites, "Don't Be That Way" and "Stompin' at the Savoy," arranged, as was everything else, by Catingub himself.

Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," scored as a mambo with Catingub at the piano, preceded Catingub's "Salute to Elvis Costello," written, he said, as a sarcastic swipe when he was still a young man and before he came to appreciate Costello's first-rate musicianship. Catingub next displayed his vocal prowess on a pair of songs he arranged for Rosemary Clooney, "You Go to My Head" and her surprise pop hit from the early '50s, "Come On-a My House," before closing the performance with his crafty satire of Oliver Nelson's "Blues and the Abstract Truth," entitled "Blues and the Abscessed Tooth." Ahrend's crisp piano solo followed a spirited alto duel between Catingub and Kostur. As the concert had to end, that was arguably the best possible way to ring down the curtain.


Trumpeter Mark Armstrong, who came up through the ranks of Great Britain's National Youth Jazz Orchestra, has been appointed NYJO's artistic and music director. Armstrong is a professor at the Royal College of Music and teaches composing and arranging at the Royal Centre for Contemporary Music. He performs regularly with the Ronnie Scott Jazz Orchestra and is an alumnus of the Clark Tracey Quintet. Armstrong's appointment to lead NYJO is for five years.

It Happened in Monterey . . .

The Monterey Jazz Festival has named the young musicians who will comprise the 2012 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. The twenty-one high school musicians hail from California, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington State. The orchestra will tour Japan from July 23-August 6 and perform with trumpeter (and NGJO alumnus) Ambrose Akinmusire at the fifty-fifth Monterey Jazz Festival, September 23.

Returning from last years's NGJO are saxophonists Jasper Dutz and Conner Anderson (both from CA), bassist Daryl Johns (NJ), trombonist Joonas Lemetyinen (OR), trumpeter Adam O'Farrill (NY) and bass trombonist Chris Palowitch (CA), the band's only three-year member. Former members of the orchestra include pianists Benny Green and Patrice Rushen, bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Chad Wackerman, saxophonists Joshua Redman, Donny McCaslin, Eric Marienthal and Dave Koz, trombonist Andy Martin, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and multi-instrumentalist and big-band leader Gordon Goodwin, to name a few. The band's director, Paul Contos, succeeds such former directors as Ladd McIntosh, Don Schamber, Benny Golson and Bill Berry.


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