"Lone Wolf" Finds Plenty to Chew On

Jack Bowers By

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With Betty sidelined by a bad cough, it was up to me to seek out local jazz events in February, and I managed to find a couple of pretty good ones, starting February 7 at the University of New Mexico's Keller Hall where SuperSax New Mexico performed for the third time in Albuquerque. As you may know, SuperSax NM is patterned after the highly popular West Coast group formed in the early '70s by Med Flory and Sonny Clark and devoted to the music of Charlie Parker, specifically his classic solos, rearranged and played by a full sax section. It's a tough assignment, one that would test any reed player's technique and stamina. Those who laid their aptitude on the line this time around were alto saxophonists Sam Reid and Dave Anderson, tenors Lee Taylor and Aaron Lovato, and baritone Glenn Kostur. They were ably supported by pianist Bert Dalton, bassist Colin Deuble and drummer Cal Haines, with Paul Gonzales sitting in for SuperSax NM's trumpet mainstay, Bobby Shew, and acquitting himself quite well. The program, even though familiar, was no less invigorating, opening with Dizzy Gillespie's "Blue 'n Boogie" and continuing without pause through "Yardbird Suite," "Blues for Alice," "If I Should Lose You," "KoKo," "Just Friends," "Salt Peanuts," "Parker's Mood" and "A Night in Tunisia." Gonzales was showcased on "If I Should Lose You" and "Just Friends," and there were splendid solos along the way by Dalton and all the saxophonists who also traded fours on "Parker's Mood." A first-rate concert.

On February 16, guest saxophonist Dick Oatts joined the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra for a concert at Eldorado High School that wrapped up the annual two-day Albuquerque Jazz Festival. Oatts, a long-time member of New York City's Vanguard Jazz Orchestra who excels on a number of reed instruments, employed only an alto on this occasion, dazzling on half a dozen numbers from fast-moving riffs to Bob Brookmeyer's slow-paced arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael's lovely ballad, "Skylark." Preceding Oatts' star turn, the AJO opened the concert with three numbers, Bert Joris' "Song for Bilbao," the standard "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and Don Sebesky's delightful "Fan It, Janet," the last featuring tenor Lee Taylor and trombonist Ben Finberg. Finberg, trumpeter Kent Erickson and alto Sam Reid were the soloists on "Bilbao," Reid and pianist Jim Ehrend on "Away from Me." Oatts then performed two of his own compositions, "Gumbo G" and "Organic Lady," along with "Skylark," "Just Like That" and the standard "Beautiful Love," closing with Nat Adderley's high-energy "Teaneck." His luminous unaccompanied coda on "Skylark" lasted longer than most solos and brought the near-capacity audience to its feet. The AJO kept pace with apt statements by Ehrend, Reid, Erickson, Finberg, trumpeters Brad Dubbs and Henry Estrada, trombonist John Sanks and drummer Paul Palmer III (who was also celebrating his birthday). It was, however, Oatts' show, and he was on his toes throughout, showing why he has been one of the Vanguard Orchestra's bellwethers for more than three decades.

International Jazz Day

Until recently I had no idea there was anything like an International Jazz Day, but I'm happy to learn that there is. In fact, this is the second annual such event, co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The date is April 30, and this year's IJD concert will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, where, apparently, jazz is held in high regard. An early-morning performance by high school students conducted by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others (you heard right) is to be followed by an evening concert featuring, among others, Hancock, Shorter, Igor Butman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Anat Cohen, George Duke, James Genus, Robert Glasper, Abdullah Ibrahim, Al Jarreau, Hugh Masakela, John McLaughlin, Marcus Miller, Milton Nascimento, Eddie Palmieri, Jean-Luc Ponty, Dianne Reeves, Lee Ritenour, Ben Williams and Liu Wan (with other special guests to be announced). How all those musicians will have time to do more than take a bow is a mystery, but one that would no doubt be worth seeing. Getting back to IJD, to date nearly eighty events have been organized in thirty countries including Argentina, Australia, the Republic of Korea, France, Gabon, Malaysia and Trinidad and Tobago (no mention of the United States). There's even a web site, www.jazzday.com. I'm sure you can find out more about International Jazz Day there.

Brubeck Memorial

A memorial service celebrating the life and music of Dave Brubeck will be held Saturday, May 11, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. Everyone is welcome. Information about the church can be found at www.stjohndivine.org or by phoning 212-316-7540. Inquiries about the memorial service may be directed to contactus@absolutelylive.net

In Passing . . .

Donald Byrd, a leading jazz trumpeter in the 1950s and '60s who raised eyebrows later on by blending jazz, soul, funk and rhythm and blues into a jazz / pop hybrid that did not sit well with those accustomed to more traditional forms of the music, died February 4. He was eighty years old. Byrd, who was born in Detroit and made his name as a bebopper after arriving in New York City in the mid-'50s, spent much of the next decade teaching before mounting a "comeback" in 1973 with the album Black Byrd, an amalgam that reached the Top 100 on Billboard's list of pop albums. Even with his success as a crossover artist, Byrd's jazz roots were duly recognized in 2000 when he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Paul Tanner, who played trombone with the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1938-42 and later worked as a studio musician with ABC in Hollywood, died February 5 at age ninety-five. Tanner was credited with starting the Jazz Education program at UCLA in 1958, and taught two seminars using his own book, A Study of Jazz, which has become one of the most widely used texts in jazz history courses. Before his retirement in 1981, Tanner's classes were among the most popular at UCLA, averaging 1,600 students a week (with a waiting list).

Recent Big Band Releases

Mike Barone Big Band
Rhubarb Recordings

The Mike Barone Big Band has visited the recording studio again, and that can mean only one thing: an abundance of big-band jazz whose level of intensity and resourcefulness is consistently on the mark. Whatever the blueprint, Barone can always be counted on to come up with something old ("Please Don't Talk About Me"), something new (any of his half-dozen original compositions), something borrowed (Joe Zawinul's "Birdland"), something blue ("I'm Confessin'"), and to refurbish each tune to please listeners of almost any age and musical persuasion. He has even written an anthem for the geriatric set, humorously (we hope) titled "Prunes."

Before considering the music, a few words about the leader. Mike Barone, born in Detroit, attended college on the West Coast and stayed there to write for and play trombone in bands led by Si Zentner, Louie Bellson, Gerald Wilson and others. He soon became a sought-after composer / arranger, writing not only for jazz groups of various sizes but for film and television as well. From 1968-92, Barone wrote more than 300 compositions and arrangements for Johnny Carson's Tonight Show Band. After stops in Colorado and Washington, he moved back to the Los Angeles area in 1997 and re-formed his big band, an earlier version of which had recorded the superb album, Live at Donte's 1968 ( reissued as a CD in 2000 on the VSOP label). Since 2005, Barone's band has released seven CDs on his own label, Rhubarb Recordings, of which Birdland is the most recent.

Among his many talents, Barone is noted for unearthing neglected songs from long ago (i. e., "Darktown Strutters Ball," "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby," "Has Anybody Seen My Gal," "Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey," "Avalon") and clothing them in a new wardrobe more suitable for a contemporary big band setting. He notches another bull's-eye on Birdland with "Please Don't Talk About Me (When I'm Gone)," an oldie from 1930 that sounds almost brand new thanks to Barone's clever arrangement (and solos to match by trumpeter Bob Summers and pianist Andy Langham). Speaking of old, there are few themes more venerable than the spiritual "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," which has never swung quite so hard as it does in this framework (with a few bars of "Loch Lomond" thrown in for good measure). As for Barone's originals—each of which is excellent—they include "Sour Sally" (a.k.a. "Sweet Georgia Brown"), "Mr. Humble" (written for "the world's greatest drummer," Buddy Rich), "Captain Crunch" (featuring alto Tom Luer), "Maiden USA" (tenor Jon Armstrong), "Prunes" (tenor Vince Trombetta) and "Renee," the last based on the chord changes to Cole Porter's "I Love You."

Zawinul's title selection (a tune that has never earned my esteem) opens the album, and Barone's chart makes it sound as agreeable as anyone could expect. Baritone saxophonist Brian Williams solos on "I'm Confessin'" (whose gossamer voicings enhance its allure), Summers and Luer on another vintage standard, Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer." There's no use recounting highlights, as they are too numerous to mention on an album that pleases from start to finish. As for the band, it's comprised of top-rank session and working musicians in and around L.A., which is disclosing all that need be said. Drummer Adam Alesi, a new name (who is featured with alto Glen Garrett on the electrifying "Mr. Humble"), is first-class, as are his rhythm section mates, Langham and bassist David Tranchina, and split-lead trumpeters Tony Bonsera and James Blackwell. And if Summers isn't the most consistently resourceful trumpet soloist on the Coast, he'd certainly be high on any short list. In sum, another decisive winner from the ever-spectacular Mike Barone Big Band.

Tom Matta Big Band
Self Published

With so many high-caliber big bands, college and professional, on the scene today, one sure way to separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak, lies in the quality of music they perform, and it is here that the Tom Matta Big Band has a decided advantage. Matta's name and reputation are well known among jazz fans in the Chicago area, not so much elsewhere—and that's too bad, as the Minnesota native's knack for writing tasteful and exciting big-band charts is second to none. Matta wrote and arranged every number on Components, his debut as leader after years of playing in and writing for groups of various sizes in his adopted hometown, and the end result is a series of sharp and colorful themes that exemplify the best in contemporary big-band music-making.


Big Band Report Jack Bowers United States Med Flory Sonny Clark Charlie Parker Bobby Shew Dizzy Gillespie Thelonious Monk Herbie Hancock Wayne Shorter Igor Butman Terri Lyne Carrington Anat Cohen George Duke James Genus Robert Glasper abdullah ibrahim Al Jarreau Hugh Masakela john mclaughlin Marcus Miller Milton Nascimento Eddie Palmieri Jean-Luc Ponty Dianne Reeves Lee Ritenour Ben Williams Donald Byrd Paul Tanner Glenn Miller Mike Barone Joe Zawinul Si Zentner Louie Bellson Gerald Wilson Bob Summers Andy Langham Buddy Rich Tom Luer Vince Trombetta Adam Alesi David Tranchina Tony Bonsera Jeremy Kahn Bob Lark Mark Colby Gil Evans Chris Madsen Mike Pinto Rob Parton Tim Coffman Bob Rummage Dennis Carroll Joe Policastro Don Menza Fredrik Nordstrom pat metheny Bob Curnow Tom Kubis Artie Shaw Benny Goodman Putte Wickman Bengt Hallberg Eddie Sauter Toots Thielemans Miles Davis Emil Richards Mark Taylor Quincy Jones Dave Holland Bill Holman Bill Ashton duke ellington Cat Anderson Paul Gonsalves Johnny Hodges Harry Carney Cootie Williams Russell Procope Jimmy Hamilton Lawrence Brown John Lamb Rufus Jones Billy Strayhorn Claire Daly Cecil Payne Serge Chaloff Nick Brignola Steve Hudson Mary Ann McSweeney Peter Grant Teo Macero Sir Charles Thompson Coleman Hawkins Jaelun Washington Gerry Mulligan Ralph Burns John Coltrane Dave Brubeck Oliver Nelson Thad Jones Chick Corea Roberto Magris Elmo Hope Elisa Pruett Albert "Tootie" Heath Tadd Dameron Herb Geller Andrew Hill Mal Waldron Billy Byers Paul Desmond


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