Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra: The Music of Paul Whiteman

Daniel Kassell By

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Typified by unison trumpets, an obbligato solo by clarinetist Bob Wilber and precise accompanying section work by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra... [this] was the first night of three evenings billed as 'The Jazz Age: Music of Paul Whiteman'.
To appreciate how Paul Whiteman's Orchestra advanced music after the Ragtime Era an understanding of what preceded the First World War is required. Before recorded sound there was a piano in every house, John Philip Sousa's Marching Bands, Ringling Circus Bands, Community Bands, School Bands performed for every holiday or event in America. What most would call Pre- Swing, the period writer Will Friedwald designated, "American vernacular music". The beginnings of radio brought show business, electronic recorded 78s, symphonic orchestrations for full orchestras and the need for young arrangers. Although Paul Whiteman was not a composer of any music he sought out and promoted the best hot white jazz musicians - Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Bing Crosby - and hired those who would create the formulas: opening theme, statements of melody, written variations for singers and soloists like Bill Challis. The public measured record sales in relation to popularity but musicians knowingly credited black composer arrangers like Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman.

Tonight New York's most famous bandleader (by day a former RCA archivist and by night leader of The Nighthawks) Vince Giordano opened the evening with a huge bass saxophone in hand by setting an energetic and authentic '20's rhythm backed by New Orleans trap drummer Herlin Riley, rhythm banjoist James Chirillo, string bassist Carlos Henriquez and pianist Aaron Goldberg on "Oh, You Have No Idea", as arranged in 1927 by Bill Challis for Paul Whiteman's Orchestra. Typified by unison trumpets, an obbligato solo by clarinetist Bob Wilber and precise accompanying section work by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra here in Rose Hall, February 17, 2005 on Columbus Circle was the first night of three evenings billed as "The Jazz Age: Music of Paul Whiteman".

"Dardenella" the New Orleans classic finds the members looking busily at their scores waiting to come in at the right time and play what visually are many individual solo spots - a phrase here by alto saxophonist Wess Anderson, an outstanding trumpet solo by Ryan Kisor and etc. "Clarinet Marmalade" began with the piano of Aaron Goldberg but was highlighted by Bob Wilber and clarinetist Victor Goines standing while trading solos allowing us to compare tones - Goines being more piercing and sharper, Wilber fluid and classically toned.

For Mildred Bailey's specialty "I'll Never Be the One" a youthful Daryl Sherman entered from stage right in an elegant floor length black sequined gown with a feathered edged caplet, her long hair brushed off her face, to treat us to a full-voiced remembrance of that long ago swing time replete with her own delicate lisp.

Altoist Ted Nash led Anderson and Wilber through the unison opening of "Copenhagen" but the trumpets took over and from here on out it was call and response with comedic animal sounds accented by trombonist Vincent Gardner and Wilber's concluding clarinet solo.

Leader Wynton Marsalis thoughtfully described Benny Carter having worked with the LCJO before introducing "I Love It" as arranged for the Goldkette Orchestra in 1931. Giordano kept the rhythm honest on tuba. Then moving to the piano Marsalis sang "Washboard Blues" in his own natural speaking voice (not unlike how composer Hoagy Carmichael became famous) and enthusiastically showed just how thousands of boys were inspired to imitate a popular jazz record.

"Black Beauty" Wynton explains, "was a Duke Ellington solo piano number arranged for the LCJO by Sean Jones" and immediately the genius of Bubber Miley was captured by trumpeter Jones. Henriquez bass against Chirillo's plucking banjo and Wilber's closing obligato showed off how powerful Ellington's simplicity of just allowing the musicians to individually carry the melody.

The ever so handsome Vince Giordano, asked to sing on Bill Challis's arrangement "'Tain't So, Honey, 'Tain't So" (a Willard Robeson song) blushed but responds with excellent results just like Bing Crosby, however it's the trumpet flares of Marcus Printup, Joe Temperley punching out an enthusiastic baritone saxophone solo followed by Andy Stein's violin over the full orchestra that revealed the late '20's Jazz Age orchestral sound that Americanized European classical forms.

Opened by Marsalis's muted brass trumpet "Quality Shout" with Giordano's tuba moving the rhythm along plus Nash and Anderson's alto's inspired by Herlin Riley's drums who was hidden behind the tuba stand all night.

After a 15 minute intermission, Wynton educates, "Bill Challis arranged 'San' with a big sound from the fewest pieces". Opening orchestrally it surprisingly goes into a New Orleans shout - a brisk dance tempo - permeated by Giordano's bass sax, an Andy Stein sweet violin solo, Chirillo's guitar that Wynton jokingly interrupts, "You all are playin' too loud" evoking a laugh from this attentive audience.


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