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Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 2-4


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Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival Big Band Spectacular
LAX Westin Hotel
Los Angeles, CA
May 24-28, 2017

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Jimmy Giuffre's classic, "Four Brothers," has been a much-loved anthem of the Woody Herman band since his Second Herd, and a great jazz landmark. Traditionally a saxophone tour-de-force, this performance was a recasting for big band of Brent's earlier clarinet choir arrangement (recorded on A Family Affair) with all of its brilliant melody, great section work, and ensemble excitement. This time the audience was treated to eight-bar solos from every member of the band, section-by-section, beginning with each of the trumpets, followed by the saxophones and the rhythm section. Always a wonderful piece to hear, this was a fine display of the great depth of solo talent of this band.

The Fischer classic "Morning" featured trumpeter Jamie Hovorka and the vocals of Laura Dickinson, over a flute ensemble with muted trumpets. Quinn Johnson played a playful, nimble piano solo, followed by a muscular but lyrical trombone solo from Francisco Torres. A vigorous ensemble chorus and neat key change into the bridge was followed by some fine four-mallet countermelody work from the leader. Dickinson was then featured on a double-time samba reworking of "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," somewhat inspired by a blend of Earth, Wind and Fire and Baden Powell, with complex bass rhythms and nice solo work from Brian Clancy.

"O Canto," a fast and happy samba, built around a repeating melodic motif, with continual shifting harmonies, was a feature for Carl Saunders' brilliant trumpet work, and exuberant brass section work, and six-mallet vibes wizardry from Brent Fischer. "In the Beginning," Grammy nominated in 2011, was next, with its mercurial bebop lines played by vibraphone and winds, insistent piano rhythms, and launching into twelve-bar blues form with double solo choruses from Sean Franz, tenor saxophone, and Scott Whitfield on plunger trombone, followed by angularly atonal bebop lines carried by the sax section and vibes over a pedal tone bass.

The delightful "Butterfly Samba," from the recent Intenso release, featured the vocal duet of Laura Dickinson and Scott Whitfield, skillfully negotiating the fast melodic lines and words (penned by Darlene Koldenhoven). It featured a stream of rapid-fire solos from half of the cast—flutes (Clancy, Budman), trombones (Whitfield, Jacques Voyemant), trumpets (Stout, Saunders), scat vocal (Whitfield) and drums (Ron Manoag), before the energetic reprise of the vocal duet melody. Clare Fischer's tune "Cal's On," a nod to vibraphonist/composer/bandleader/Latin jazz pioneer Cal Tjader, featured Brent Fischer on six-mallet vibraphone above harmonized brass, a fast and vigorous Tristano-like bebop melody line, a vigorous, boppy alto saxophone solo from Kirsten Edkins, and a muscular bone solo from Scott Whitfield. The band finished with "Sad About Nothing Blues," a feature for Saunders and Whitfield, singing the tongue-in-cheek vocal line, trading on trumpet and trombone, some whimsical scat vocal trades and more cheerful bebop alto work from Edkins.

All in all, this was a fine concert performance of great and complex Fischer material by a very dedicated band. The sound production was generally excellent, permitting all the nuances of this great music to be heard to advantage from the audience.

Bill Cunliffe and BACHanalia

Bill Cunliffe has had a distinguished career as a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, leader of small and large ensembles, and as an outstanding educator. He has strong roots in western classical music also, and these inform many of his explorations at the interfaces between jazz and classical music. He has an ear and instinct for finding the common ground between them, wherein he can combine classical thematic material and forms with the structure, instrumentation and improvisatory opportunities within the jazz big band. The challenge is to do this with the musical intelligence and integrity that fuses and brings out the best of both music forms. The performance by the BACHanalia band demonstrated this with style, great taste and swing as they played a mixture of classical-inspired works and other fare.

The band started with a mid-tempo, brassy, six-four piece, "Affluenza," featuring lyrical and energetic solos from Nathan Reed on soprano saxophone and John Papenbrook on flugelhorn, and understated brassy ensemble sections in a mellow, warm blend of four flugelhorns and four trombones. Monk's jazz classic ballad, Round Midnight, began with a fine, cadenza-like tenor sax opening from Rob Lockart, and featured a fine Cunliffe piano solo with rhythm section, before Lockart played a fine bridge, leading into the ensemble taking the melody out into another tenor sax cadenza. "The Three Cornered Hat," by Manuel de Falla, re-imagined by Cunliffe, commenced in 6/4 time, over a tasteful drum intro on toms by Jake Reed. Joey Sellers played an intriguing trombone solo using a foil-covered mute, followed by interplay between Papenbrook's trumpet and Cunliffe's piano. A samba section followed by 4/4 swing time rounded out this nice jazz excursion into a much- loved de Falla piece.

CPE Bach's "Solfeggietto," a well-worn piece familiar to most piano students began with a brushes intro, before breaking into the jazz-modified melody with vocalist Denise Donatelli singing the bebop scat line in unison with Cunliffe's piano, a line somewhat evocative of Parker's "Scrapple," followed by fine solos from Cunliffe's, Fred Simmons' trombone and Bob Summers' trumpet. This was followed by a bebop sax contrafact, in counterpoint with the trombones. Cunliffe then launched into a solo piano cadenza that began with the familiar CPE Bach melody, morphing into an increasingly modern incarnation before the final brass cadence.

JS Bach, without doubt the greatest of the seventy-seven composing Bachs, from the middle of seven Bach generations, innovative and prolific, and probably the prime Bach inspiration of Bill Cunliffe in conceiving his Bachanalia ensemble. Bill's marvelous re-working of JS Bach's Sleepers "Awake" (Ger: Wachet Auf = wake up!), one of his best-loved cantatas, was a treat. Beginning with a neat cadential piano intro, it launched quickly into a vocal-plus-sax unison rendering of the bebop-transformed melody, which was carried by sax-plus-muted Papenbrook trumpet and then with vocal-plus-muted trumpet. Fine solos followed—Cunliffe's piano, Zack Caplinger's mellow bebop guitar, and Francisco Torres' tasteful trombone. A reprise of the melody, similar to the opening, led to a hymn-like ending. All in all, this was a fine example of Bill Cunliffe's tasteful blending of classical and jazz.

JS Bach's "Goldberg Variations" have been much studied and played, and represent a titanic musical work, challenging to play in their original form and daunting to put into a jazz context, to be sure. Cunliffe explained his quirky inspiration for the name "Goldberg Contraption," and what followed was a montage of Goldberg-inspired themes, beginning with a cheerful contrapuntal trio of piano, guitar and flute, a piano solo in waltz time, with daring double octave passages over the ensemble, a later surprise, free-form section with Jeff Ellwood's multi-phonic tenor sounds, deliberately jarring, followed with a playful, unaccompanied Francisco Torres trombone solo, a rhapsodic piano interlude before the final, unexpected ending. It is possible that this might not be Cunliffe's last word on Goldberg.

Far from Bach, but no less inspiring, was the music of Thad Jones, and the band finished with a swinging "Big Dipper." This rollicking twelve bar blues, with a groove set up nicely by Jon Richards' bass and Reed's drums, featured wordless vocals from Donatelli, and inspired solos from alto saxophonist Steve Ragsdale, trombonist Simmons, and the irrepressible Bob Summers on trumpet.

Film Session: A Symposium in Swing

Ken Poston's continuing story of the evolution of the big band took the audience from the Fletcher Henderson origins directly into the mid 1930s and the beginning of the Swing Era, with fine film footage from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and Woody Herman, five of the most influential and durable of the big bands. Discussion was had about particular star instrumentalists who left these bands to form successful bands of their own, such as Harry James and Gene Krupa. The final film was of the Ellington orchestra, perhaps the most distinctive band and the one least in the Henderson "mould." For all of Ellington's prolific composing, many of most enduring and memorable tunes emanated from this period in the swing era, through to the early 1940s, and the film footage showed "A" Train and a nice medley of "Sophisticated Lady," "It Don't Mean A Thing" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."

Fullerton College Jazz Band

The University of California Fullerton College Jazz Band, led by the fine saxophonist and enthusiastic director Bruce Babad, is a terrific university big band, with tight ensemble playing and many emerging fine soloists. They play a wide variety of big band arrangements, many of which are recent and quite adventurous. Mr Babad has a tremendous rapport with his band members, has an engaging and quite hilarious stage manner, but achieves a disciplined band sound, and this was a nice balance to see and hear in action. Their repertoire included standards such as "Here's That Rainy Day," and compositions by forward-leaning writers like Joey Sellers and Jerry Bergonzi (Committed), Matt Turner and John Harmon (Brown Boy). The ensemble work was swinging and tight, negotiating the complex arrangements skilfully, and there were some stand-out players, including the very lively drummer, Kayla Ivey, saxophonists Ben Sachs and Deandre. This band showed that, with good direction from an inspired leader and plenty of hard work, a university band can achieve a very high standard, develop fine solo abilities and have a lot of fun.

The Joey Sellers Jazz Aggregation

Joey Sellers is an adventurous trombonist/composer/arranger/leader/educator and has led this 11-piece band since 1980 when he was eighteen. He has continued to explore new sounds and concepts throughout its existence, has composed and recorded extensively on both coasts. He creates blends of the expected and the unexpected, the composed and the improvised, bringing an array of deep musical influences from inside and outside of jazz and classical music into his very individual creations. He has a strong band of players who master his complex charts, and bring their improvisational skills into the mix.

"Ximeno 735" was an original Sellers composition, and rather high in volume, which featured Kim Richmond's probing alto saxophone and energetic, muscular piano from virtuoso Kei Akagi. "Musings Of Children" brought an atonal soundscape, with a tone row melody, which was followed by a vigorous but thoughtful Trey Henry bass solo. Kim Richmond launched into a free-form alto solo against atonal ensemble backgrounds with meandering rhythm section beneath. Trumpeter Ron King played a powerful solo against a rhythm section vamp, then trombonist Alex Iles played his solo deep beneath some free form rhythm accompaniment. The band went finally into a rapid swing tempo a fast and frenetic soprano sax solo from Jerry Pinter.

"Miss Roger's Boots" began with a quirky, boppy melody played by piccolo, saxophones and muted trumpets. A zany ensemble bebop line followed over insistent, on-the-beat bass notes, with deft brushwork from Kendall Kay. Young trombonist Ido Meshulam played an ebullient, powerful solo with saxophone backgrounds, ultimately settling into a "rhythm-changes"—like chord progression with unexpected left-turns, with fast bebop phrases trading with the saxophone section, and then unaccompanied playing against more quirky ensemble backgrounds. Kim Richmond followed with an up- tempo alto sax solo, ultimately accompanied by the full band, with about four superb, fiery bebop choruses, followed by exchanges with the band, in and out of tempo. The opening melody returned with piccolo, soprano saxophone and muted trumpet and fine interplay with Kay's energetic brushwork.

"E.E." began with a gentle chorale with a trio of flute, muted trumpet and clarinet, in an almost "Mood Indigo" like effect, leading into an up-tempo 3/4 piano vamp, which introduced a bright flugelhorn solo from Ron King supported by brassy ensemble work, followed by a muscular Jerry Pinter tenor solo, and Ron King returning with a vigorous trumpet solo with more aggressive rhythm section work, returning to the woodwind chorale and piano vamp, and exiting with King's trumpet and a final chorale.

"Sueño" (Spanish for dream), with its melody based on—no surprises, here—"You Stepped Out Of A Dream," featured Sellers on trombone, and showed dynamic interplay more like that of a small group. It featured a unison sax, bass and bone melody over teasing backgrounds in and out of tempo, which eventually settled into a fast swing and a sparkling piano solo from Akagi and two choruses of swashbuckling, sizzling drums from Kendall Kay. Jerry Pinter followed with a ferocious tenor sax solo with ensemble comment, but mostly unaccompanied. This evolved into two in-tempo fast choruses atop a powerful rhythm section, leading into a gentler, more subdued background passage, a rise and fall in volume till it eventually petered out to a whisper. The closing tune, "Gravy Crisis," was a fun tune with a zany bebop melody played by Sellers' trombone with the ensemble, a nice vamping bridge, and fine solo work from Ron King, Sellers and Henry.

This was a challenging session for many in the audience, as it was much more avant-garde than most of the big bands represented, and generated interesting dialogue between festival patrons and Sellers at the panel discussions which followed, These discussions raised perennial questions about the future survival of jazz, the balance between preserving the legacy versus forging ahead, what ought to be the wisest musical blend for a festival such as this one, and what ought to be the content of jazz courses in university, perhaps fearing that students might not be learning the rudiments of jazz pedagogy. Sellers was quick to defend the course he presides over at Saddleback college as teaching a largely conventional jazz curriculum.

The David Angel Big Band

This band, led by veteran tenor man Angel, is a variation on the conventional big band lineup, a smaller group with a full reed section, a single trombone, a French horn and a tuba, and only two trumpets, giving it a mellow, woolly, sound- scape similar to the Gil Evans-Miles Davis recordings with nonets and larger bands in the 'fifties.

"This Time The Dream's On Me" was a friendly rendition with fine solos from Scott Whitfield on trombone, Roger Neumann on tenor sax, Jonathan Dane on trumpet, with some vigorous trading from each. Bud Powell's "Hallucination" was taken at an unexpected medium tempo, with fine double choruses of solos from Ron Stout on trumpet and Tom Peterson on tenor sax. "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing," the beautiful and haunting Strayhorn ballad, originally from Ellington's "Such Sweet Thunder," featured Stephanie O'Keefe's French horn on the melody, shared with Dane's muted trumpet, some gentle ensemble passages, nice harmonized flute work and a thoughtful solo from guitarist John Chiodini over bass and drums. David Angel's own "Love Letter To Pythagorus," a reference to the great mathematician's musical discoveries in relation to the harmonic series, was a gentle ballad featuring the reed section playing flutes, clarinet and bass clarinet, and fine solos from a soulful Neumann and a mellow Whitfield. After a brassy interlude, there followed a 3/4 section, with fine solos by a Phil Feather, alto sax and Ron Stout, flugelhorn. In all, it was a fine composition with wonderful ensemble sounds.

"Out On The Coast" was a mid-tempo piece which opened with an unusual, unaccompanied three-part saxophone sound (alto and tenor sax parts doubled), leading into an easy-going fifties West Coast sounding tune, featuring a fine Chiodini guitar solo, and mellow brass ensembles interplaying with Paul Kreibich's fine drum work. Vernon Duke's wonderful Autumn In New York was given fine ballad treatment, beginning with an a capella ensemble section. The melody was then shared, in turn, between Stout's flugelhorn, O'Keefe's French horn, Neumann's tenor, Jim Self's tuba, Jon Dane's trumpet, Bob Carr's baritone sax. Stout took the melody again and then played a beautiful ballad flugelhorn solo, followed by a spirited solo from alto saxophonist Feather, and the final melody again shared between Stout, O'Keefe and Feather. The band finished their set with Mandel's "Hershey Bar," a '50s West Coast classic tune, with some nice Latin drum work from Kendall Kay, and featured a fine flugelhorn double chorus from Jonathan Dane, a nice Lester-ish tenor solo from David Angel, and two spirited tuba choruses from Jim Self.

Overall this was a most enjoyable performance by a thoughtful band with a nice blend of swing, mellow brassy sounds and fine soloists, operating in a lower temperature range than many bands, but finding a beautiful range of mood and texture.

Mike Price Big Band

Trumpeter Mike Price leads a strong band that dedicates itself substantially to the vast Ellington repertoire, and served up a nice program of music largely derived from the seminal 1950's and 1960's Ellington Suites recordings "Such Sweet Thunder," "Suite Thursday" and "Far East Suite."

"Such Sweet Thunder," title tune from Ellington's Shakespearean suite, opened the concert and featured strong solos from the leader's trumpet and Duane Benjamin's trombone. "Amad," from the Far East Suite was a medium swinger, with driving bass and drum work, and featured bassist Richard Simon in an energetic bass solo, and Les Benedict playing a trombone solo that explored eastern scalar sounds. Lady Mac began with a fine ragtime waltz piano introduction from Brian O'Rourke, and again featured the leader's trumpet, evoking a Clark Terry-like sound, so characteristic of the fifties Ellington sound. "Schwifi," from >Suite Thursday, Ellington's foray into Steinbeck country, began with a very Ellington-inspired piano introduction from O'Rourke, leading into a rapid swing tempo, with unison sax and trumpet blasts. Fine solos followed from O'Rourke again, Bob Summers, trumpet, a blistering solo from tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, and a fiery ensemble ending climaxing with Mel Lee's exciting drum work. Sonnet For Caesar began mysteriously with fine clarinet work from Geoff Nudell, wearing the Jimmy Hamilton mantle.

"New Orleans Rally," a Price original, began with a march rhythm, insistent tom drum beat, and Ellingtonian clarinet writing over the sax section, settling into a jaunty medium swing tempo. Next followed a soulful Duane Benjamin trombone solo and an energetic clarinet solo from Nudell, leading finally into an exuberant, Satchmo-like, Mike Price trumpet solo. The leader introduced a famous Japanese folk song (name not accurately recorded), which had a "Maiden Voyage" like vamp introduction, and a haunting clarinet melody. A vigorous clarinet solo from Nudell, played in fast swing tempo, was nicely cushioned by cool saxophone backgrounds.

Telecaster, another Ellington theme from Such Sweet Thunder, featured Pablo Calogero on baritone sax, in a moving, Harry-Carney-like rendering of the ballad melody. Madness in Great Ones was a medium-up swinger with a bebop melody, and featured a very swinging rhythm section and bombastic, raucous trumpet section work in the upper range, and some extreme Cat-Anderson-inspired trumpet on top from Walt Johnson. The beautiful ballad Isfahan, from the Far East Suite, was as expected a solo feature for the alto sax, and Lee Secard  evoked a Johnny Hodges sound as he played the sumptuous melody, a definite high point of this concert.

Not to be outdone, the concert finished with "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," which was first played at the legendary 1956 Newport Festival, and at which Paul Gonsalves' twenty-seven choruses set standards for excesses in jazz that have, alas, often been exceeded since. Fortunately, the present performance had none of these excesses, featuring a two-chorus, very spirited piano solo from O'Rourke, about five choruses of top tenor playing from Woodard, more choruses with unexpected key changes and piano eccentricities from O'Rourke, and workouts for all sections of brass and reeds, and near the end, a strong trumpet solo from Price.

Given that, of Ellington's thousands of compositions, probably less than a hundred of his tunes are played regularly, and probably "done to death," it was refreshing to enjoy this unconventional Ellington feast, and was a tribute to Mike Price's determination to keep alive some of the less often heard but challenging music from a great twentieth century master.

Steve Huffsteter Big Band

Trumpeter/composer/arranger/leader Steve Huffsteter has been a mainstay of the West Coast jazz scene for nearly six decades, and in the trumpet sections of the big bands of Stan Kenton, Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin, Bob Florence, Mike Barone, and many, many others. He has led his own big band of top shelf players for many years now, and has built up a large repertoire of original compositions and arrangements. In this performance they played largely original material, which he indicated was mostly recent output.

Opening with a delightful, fast and swinging 3/4 tune, "B.B.B.S.," the band hit the ground running with a fine and fluid solo from the leader on trumpet, and a very swinging trombone solo form the young Ido Meshulam. The band launched into "It Had To Be Duke," a clever Huffsteter original based on the It Had to Be You motifs, draped over the chord structure of Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone." Keith Bishop led off with an authoritative baritone sax solo, followed by energetic solos from trombonist Les Benedict and trumpeter Mark Lewis. An unnamed ballad followed with nice piano intro and fills from Stuart Elster, and was a feature for the fine tenor playing by Jerry Pinter, who played the melody and solo, along with the warm brass backgrounds much favoured by Huffsteter, and a final tenor sax cadenza.

"Rhizome" (name and spelling unconfirmed) was a fast rhythm-changes-like tune, with a Thad-Jones-like melody played by the ensemble, and a feature for tenor man Dave Thomason, who played two strong solo choruses. Innocence was a charming, playful waltz, featuring two choruses of Elster's piano solo, first with rhythm section alone and then with ensemble backgrounds. Mark Lewis played two fine and mellow flugelhorn solo choruses, before the band went into 4/4 time, and Thomason put in some spirited soloing over a repeated turnaround, before his own solo chorus. Clarinetist Ian Roller took the melody out to the final piano vamp. This was a very attractive tune.

"Diz-Ception" was a fine Huffsteter original, and another fast, swinging 3/4 waltz tune, based upon a short two- note motif. Mike Abraham played a fine, energetic and melodic guitar solo, followed by an exciting soprano sax solo from Ian Roller. A great Kim Richmond flute solo led into a climactic ensemble ending. Melancholia, a Huffsteter tune (not to be confused with the Ellington composition), began with a mysteriously over a Latin rhythmic feel, before Ido Meshulam took the melody on the trombone over a nice flute-muted trumpet background, before playing a sensitive but virtuoso trombone solo accompanied by the rhythm section.

Huffsteter introduced "Night Walk" as his "oldest hit," an attractive, minor Latin tune, playing the melody on his trumpet, leading into a fine trumpet solo, and a playful soprano sax solo from Ian Roller. The final tune that snuck into the program was Huffsteter's "Sneaky," introduced with apologies to Henry Mancini. It opened with Keith Bishop playing a panther-ish bass clarinet ostinato and some stealthy muted trumpet from the leader. Bishop then followed with a gruff but energetic baritone sax solo, and after some playful, cheerful trumpet section work, Kim Richmond played a vigorous alto saxophone solo.

This was a swinging band of great players, playing fine original music. The leader had, as always, an endearing stage manner, with plenty of mild self-deprecation and dry humour.

The Luckman Jazz Orchestra

Veteran saxophonist Charles Owens leads the Luckman Jazz Orchestra, out of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State University. They presented a solid menu of long-time classic modern jazz fare, with a deep sense of the music's rich legacy and traditions, into which they were able to inject new life and energy.

They opened with Gerald Wilson's "Viva Torado," and featured some mellow flugelhorn from Winston Byrd, and a piano solo from Lanny Hartley, in which he interspersed flurries of notes with chordal punctuations, before a powerful brass finale. Charles Mingus' much-loved ballad, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" was a feature for tenor saxophonist Keith Fiddmont, who opened with a solo cadenza before being joined by the saxophone section. He then played a fine, impassioned tenor solo, was joined with the melody by the trumpet section, and then led the closing melody over some nice horn backgrounds. It was a thoughtful tribute to both Mingus and Lester Young.

Horace Silver's funky Latin tune "Nutville" was a flute feature for Charles Owens, joined in the melody by muted trumpets, and then in his solo, which he played with a warm lyricism. The trumpet section played a tricky unison bebop line, before the leader engaged in flute conversation with drummer Mel Lee. The trumpets delivered the return melody, with open and then muted harmonies. Ellington's The Sunset and The Mockingbird featured splashes of Hartley piano with horn backgrounds, Keith Fiddmont on clarinet and fine Hodges-inspired alto saxophone glissandos from Lee Secard, and more tickling, trilling piano. Charles Mingus' "Fables Of Faubus" began with its characteristic gruff, deep baritone riff played by Pablo Calogero, followed by the swinging ensemble rhythms against a marching beat, and then the contrasting and haunting saxophone bridge. Secard gave a fiery, passionate alto solo before a change of pace to a warm trumpet solo from John Thomas. Eddie Harris' "Being Green" (introduced with no reference to being Hibernian or ranine) was a funky eight-to- the-bar tune which featured a fiery, funky tenor solo from Ian Vo, and a rhythmic, equally funky trombone solo from Jacques Voyemant, leading into some punchy brass section work before an energetic conclusion.

This was overall a very enjoyable performance by a spirited, swinging big band, with deep respect for jazz's landmark compositions, and the solo depth and vision to credibly reinterpret and advance them.

Carl Saunders' Bebop Big Band

Trumpeter/composer Carl Saunders has led a strong big band over many years, with a great deal of swing and solo depth, and a broad repertoire that champions many fine but underappreciated composer/arrangers, particularly the late trumpeter Herbie Phillips, with whom Carl worked extensively, and who deserve much wider recognition.

"No Blues in Lugano," by Herbie Phillips, was an easy swinging opener, and began with a unison trombone line, and featured a relaxed but dextrous solo from tenor man Doug Webb and a characteristic lyrical, long-phrased trumpet solo from Saunders. The band played with superb dynamic range, tight but relaxed, over the grooving rhythm section of Christian Jacob, Dave Stone and Jake Reed. Modern jazz staple, "Two Bass Hit," arranged by Larry Dominello, featured the evergreen Bob Efford's bass clarinet and Ron Stout's harmon-muted trumpet, leading into fine solos from Jerry Pinter, tenor, and Bob Efford on two choruses of spirited baritone sax. The arrangement concluded with some effective tandem walking between piano and bass in tenths. "Out of the Past," by great jazz composer Benny Golson, and arranged by Jackson Stock, was a medium tempo, easy-going swinger, with a fluid bebop melody, and featured a muscular, serpentine tenor solo from Jerry Pinter, a fleet trombone solo from Francisco Torres, and a swinging eight bars of bass solo from Stone, before a powerful ensemble shout chorus.

"Getting Sentimental Over You," also arranged by Phillips, showcased Scott Whitfield, with a fluid, swinging trombone solo, with great dexterity and seemingly effortless playing above the upper register, climaxing at the end with a virtuoso trombone cadenza. The band then played another Herbie Phillips arrangement, "I Think I've Got The Blues." This was a slow, rollicking blues, which kicked off with an ensemble blast, the leader taking the melody in unison with the reed section, with the band swinging throughout like the Basie band. A soulful trombone solo from Francisco Torres was followed by a commanding, tough tenor solo from Jerry Pinter, and Bill Holman's arrangement of Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" featured Saunders with Stone's bass, and then a two-chorus, brilliant trumpet solo, the leader's phenomenal bebop chops never ceasing. A brassy shout chorus followed and more Saunders' fluent improvising over the turnaround, with quotes of Flight of the Bumble Bee and other trumpet wit.

Two more Herbie Phillips arrangements followed. "Cottonmouth" opened with a call-and-response passage between Saunders and mellow horn backgrounds, then two fiery bebop fiery alto solo from Bruce Babad , more Carl trumpet, all over a very driving rhythm section. Phillips' "Its April," was a charming samba, featuring a marvellous Christian Jacob piano solo, swaggering bebop alto sax work from Brian Scanlon, more Carl trumpet brilliance, fine trombone solo from Kevin Hicks, and another sparkling piano solo from Jacob, repeating saxophone riffs and final trumpet conversations between the leader and the band.

At the conclusion, one was left with no doubt that Herbie Phillips was a tremendous arranger, and that Saunders leads an inspired, virtuoso band that is polished but exuberant, and plays with a relaxed swing.

Film Session: Oop Bop Sh'Bam

Ken Poston continued the Big Band story through the war years, with the eventual influence of the emerging modern jazz of the bebop era. Many big bands that had thrived in the heyday of the late 1930s did not survive the 1940s. Many lost personnel to the war effort, big band swing music as a popular music form waned with the next generation, the economics of touring big bands were increasingly non-viable, and many bands disbanded, some like Count Basie and Goodman re-formed and were able to continue. New big bands arose, deliberately conceived to express bebop in a big band setting, such as that led by Dizzy Gillespie. The swing era bands that did survive had to decide to either preserve their swing era style intact or assimilate some of the small group bebop revolution and modernize. These included Gene Krupa, Elliot Lawrence and Claude Thornhill, incorporating young arrangers like Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans, and probably most successfully and durably, Woody Herman. Film footage was shows of the Herman, Lawrence, Gillespie, Krupa and Les Brown bands.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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