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"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).

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