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 Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band Roger Neumann
has led this happy band for many decades. One current member, trumpeter Jack Coan, was also a foundation member in 1975. They play a repertoire of standards and classic jazz tunes, using the leader's own fine and swinging arrangements, and a distinguishing characteristic of Neumann's band is that every player is given solo opportunities. His arrangement of "I Thought About You" began with Neumann taking the melody on tenor, with a nice brassy restatement of the melody, before taking a full-bodied, swinging solo. There were some quick 8-bar solos from pianist Geoff Stradling, bassist Kirk Smith and drummer Matt Witek, more Neumann tenor, and a final ensemble shout chorus.
"Undecided," by Charlie Shavers
, was taken at a fast swing, and was a tour-de-force for the whole band, starting off as a feature for the tenor saxophones. There was some ferocious tenor soloing from Carol Chaikin
, rip-roaring tenor from 89-year old Bob Efford
, and more tenor from Neumann, before each of the five reeds took quick-fire eight-bar solos, leading to a three-tenor chase, some fine trumpet from Bob Summers and some fiery trumpet section work. Scott Whitfield played two energetic above-the-register bone choruses, as did Stradling on piano. The band dropped to half time for a sax soli, and the erstwhile Jack Coan played a nice solo with some fine plunger work. Then, back to the fast tempo for a piano chorus from Stradling, and a repeat of the sax soli at the fast tempo, followed by full-bodied ensemble and three-at-once tenor battling, and final trumpet pyrotechnics from Jamie Hovorka
, by far the busiest man at festival. After the band and audience had drawn breath, there was a change of pace for "If You Could See Me Now," Tadd Dameron
's beautiful bebop ballad, with Phil Feather's passionate alto sax taking the melody and later a fine solo, interspersed with the band, and improvising nicely to the end over a repeating vamp.
"Blues For Frank" is Neumann's clever incorporation of nine tunes associated with vintage Sinatra into one convoluted but fun blues tune, and featured a thoughtful bluesy solo from baritonist Jennifer Hall, fiery bebop alto from Brian Scanlon, contrasting easy-does-it piano from Stradling, a soulful virtuoso trombone solo from Ido Meshulam
, nice walking bass solo from Smith. We heard brilliant, fiery, upper register trumpet soloing from the young Barbara Laronga, contrasting cool, relaxed trumpet from Hovorka, building up to staccato, double-time bursts. Bass trombonist Julianne Gralle played a fine tuba solo, trading with Kirk Smith's bass for several choruses, incorporating friendly exchanges, and Gralle's birthday greetings to the bassist, before a spirited ending by the band.
Madeline Vergari came to the stage to sings three songs with the band -a neat, rollicking "All Of Me," a delightfully re-harmonised "When I Fall In Love" with lush flute-plus-flugelhorn section harmonies, and a hard-swinging "OK, All Right, You Win." The band's finale was "The Flintstones Theme," taken at breakneck speed, with some fleet-fingered Stradling piano, a mighty saxophone section soli, blistering harmon-muted trumpet from Mark Lewis, a fast-and-furious trombone solo from Alan Kaplan
, and a fearless alto solo from Brian Scanlon
. The band engaged in nice ensemble trades with Matt Witek's drum breaks, and slowed to half time for a cheerful, swinging ending, with the band shouting, "Wilma!." Film Session: Big Band Modern
The final film session on the big band story explored the big band beyond the bebop era, with a curious mix of film footage from more of the bands who were modernizing their repertoire in the 1950s and beyondincluding the bands of Les Brown
, Charlie Barnet
(who, incidentally, voiced his reed section with soprano sax atop decades before others did), Harry James
(who had engaged young modern arrangers like Neal Hefti
, Bill Holman
and Bob Florence
), the Sauter-Finegan band (with some less-than- animated conversation from them both). There was discussion about the emergence of rehearsal bands such as those led by Shorty Rogers
and Bill Holman, and the influence and continuation of such institutions long into the future. There was footage of the brilliant British reedman Tubby Hayes
and some of Don Ellis
' band playing the wonderful "In A Turkish Bath." It was a curious film session, considering that the story of the post war big bands, although well past their popular heyday, is a long and very much continuing story. Given the content of the three prior film sessions, one might have hoped to have seen some short footage of more of the influential bands from then until nowsuch as the 50s Basie and Ellington bands, Gil Evans
with Miles Davis
, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson
, '60s-'70s Woody Herman
, Thad Jones
, Akiyioshi- Tabackin, Clarke-Boland, Sun Ra
, McConnell Boss Brass, Maria Schneider
and othersmight have shown more of the evolution. Filling an hour with the great post-war big band story can be approached in many ways, of course. Carl Saunders Septet
There had originally been scheduled a performance, by The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, of the Gil Evans "Sketches of Spain." This was evidently cancelled, as the charts had not arrived in time. In place of this was a fine septet organized at short notice for the occasion, with a formidable combination of three fine trumpeters, one trombone and rhythm section. The audience was treated to some relaxed, loose-but-tight small group jazz of the kind that is rooted in the early hard-bop jazz of the mid-1950s, remains timeless but does not stand still.
"Walkin,'" strongly associated with the '50s Davis outfits, featured multiple blues choruses from the three trumpetsgreat bebop from Bob Summers
, Hubbard-ish post-bop from Ron Stout
, restrained upper register magic from Carl Saunders
, super piano bop from Christian Jacob
and some virtuoso bass from John Belzaguy. Towards the end there was some inspired, unaccompanied trumpet soloing from Summers, Stout and Saunders all playing simultaneously, and yet leaving space for one another. Summertime was played a la Miles/Gil Evans, with Ron Stout taking the Miles harmon-mute melody call and Summers and Saunders playing the ensemble response. Christian Jacob played a relaxed but adventurous, risk-taking piano solo, and along with his crisp comping, the rhythm section found a swinging groove. Saunders played a very high-register but restrained solo at a low volume with bumble-beeish lines, followed by a thoughtful Stout solo. What's New was a Clifford-ish interpretation of this fine ballad by Bob Summers' thoughtful and soulful trumpet, with an exquisite piano solo from Jacob, before a final, tongue-in-cheek Summers trumpet cadenza. The final offering was "Solar," attributed to Miles Davis
, but evidently by the tragic but brilliant trumpeter Sonny Berman
. Carl Saunders scatted the melody, Ron Stout and Bob Summers both took burning solos, before Saunders took an extended scat solo. After a burning bebop piano chorus from Jacob, the two trumpets and a scatting Carl played on and gradually faded over a repeating vamp. This small group treat thus came to an end. Three trumpets together can sometimes be a recipe for competitive grand-standing, but this instead was a friendly encounter between three fine trumpeters of contrasting styles, with great mutual regard and nothing to prove, who delivered an hour of great music. The Bill Holman Band
The brilliant Bill Holman
, recently turning 90, and with more than six decades of outstanding jazz composing, arranging, band-leading, is a true giant of jazz, and needed no introduction to the audience. His complex, busy, probing, polyphonic and swinging arrangements are many and varied, and greatly admired by his dedicated big band which he has rehearsed weekly for decades and which plays his demanding charts with virtuosity, polish and great swing.
The band opened with "No Joy In Mudville," led by the solo trombone of Erik Hughes
, followed by the reed section playing the slow, bluesy theme against a medium tempo band. A lively baritone solo from Bob Efford
was followed by the band trading with drummer Jake Reed
, and later a happy, bebop bone solo from Hughes. The beautiful Tadd Dameron ballad, "If You Could See Me Now," was a feature for Ron Stout's trumpet, taking the melody over mellow brass, nicely re-harmonized by Holman, and then soloing over muted trombones. Going into double-time over a surging ensemble, Stout then returned to the melody and played a fine solo cadenza.
"Thick, The Air," was a medium-to-up-tempo swinger, with a cheeky soprano-sax-plus-trumpet melody over bright, brassy harmonies. A fine soprano sax solo from Bruce Babad
moved into some explosive brass figures, leading to a swingingly assertive, post-bop trombone solo from Erik Hughes, a sax section melody over rising brass section figures. A nice saxophone soli passage gave way to jagged brass figures and a bold, staccato ending.
The major and much anticipated feature of the this concert was Holman's brilliant re-working of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concerto de Aranjuez," Echoes of Aranjuez, which Holman had written and recorded a number of years earlier. In his hands, this much-loved 20th Century guitar concerto was re-birthed and transformed into an epic, many-layered work. Whereas Rodrigo's concerto was in three distinct movements, each built around a strong theme, Holman's arrangement positioned the various themes in new places, merging elements of the three original sections somewhat together, re-visiting motifs in unexpected places, and generating a splendid arrangement in four movements.
"Part I" opened in six-four time, set up by the rhythm section, and featuring Bob Efford
's baritone saxophone (at 89, this longstanding band-member was just as vital as, but somewhat younger than, Holman) playing the opening theme in 6/4, followed by a swinging baritone solo in 4/4 time. There was much contrapuntal interplay in the reed section and ensemble surges that followed, as the band swung hard through Holman's brilliant arrangement. Bill Holman's genius in weaving great melodiesRodrigo's and his own -in contrapuntal and polyphonic interplay, maintaining overall structural cohesion, and a strong sense of swing, was completely in evidence throughout, as he effectively re-crated a whole new jazz composition from the elements of the original concerto.
"Part II" opened with Bruce Babad's flute, teasing with motifs of the famous slow melody over some ambiguously harmonized clarinets. Ron Stout brought the melody to life further on flugelhorn, before handing it back to the flutes. There followed some sectional call-and-response from the band, and fine soprano sax work from Bruce Babad, and clever 4/4 band working over a 6/8 rhythm section work, before more band flirtations with the theme. Christian Jacob played a fine, rubato, solo piano interlude, leading to a fast swinging piano solo in tempo with the rhythm section, joined by swinging backgrounds from the band. Doug Webb
played some strong, rubato, unaccompanied tenor sax, teasing with the third main theme of Concierto before also returning to tempo and into more ferocious tenor solo work, and some vigorous ensemble up-tempo playing, fine tenor trades with the drums and vigorous interplay between ensemble and drums.
"Part III" began with a return to the second theme over a re-harmonized background, growing in density and then leading into the third theme in three-four, and Ron's Stout's trumpet playing and improvising around this melody. More polyphonic interplay in the band, then the first theme reappeared with Bruce Babad on soprano sax and Webb on tenor sax, playing fragments of this melody, followed by a chaotic free-form section with plaintive squeaks and squawks from the band. The band returned to tempo and again picked up the first theme, followed by a fine, 6/8 time drum solo from Reed. Exuberant brass led into the second theme above the band for the finale.
"Part IV" was a final short, energetic movement with punchy ensemble work, tempo changes but plenty of swing, and the band ended exuberantly on a high note.
The performance by the band of this difficult and demanding piece was impeccable, and the audience's enthusiastic applause was long and appreciative. Holman treated the crowd to an encore, his fast swinging arrangement of "After You've Gone," featuring spirited solos from Stout's trumpet, Scott Whitfield
on trombone, and Webb on tenor.
The audience needed no proof of his place as a giant of jazz, but Holman has not been one to rest on his laurels. With great energy and spirit, he delivered a concert of brilliant music with his first-rate band, in a memorable, world-class performance. The Les Hooper Big Band Les Hooper
has been a much-awarded composer-arranger across many musical fields, incorporating television, movies, jingles and commissioned orchestral works, as well as jazz, and has many published arrangement and scores. He led a swinging band that played across a range of his stylistic palette.
"Chicken Parade" opened with the concert with a jazz-rock-funk mood, featuring Pat Kelley's guitar in front of the band, Adrian Rosen's electric bass lines, and a funky alto saxophone solo from Bruce Babad, a fluid tenor sax solo from Alex Budman, before a hot-blooded Kelley guitar solo and some high-octane brass section work with clean unison trumpet lines. A Dixieland tune "That's A Plenty" was next, featuring a three-horn (trumpet, soprano sax and trombone), dixieland 'band- within-the-band' frontline, almost registering a Star Wars 'Cantina Band' sound. This was fast, fun and swinging, and featured a cheerful Jeff Bunnell
trumpet solo, fine bebop trombone power from Andy Martin
, a Dixieland-ish Bruce Babad soprano sax, and nice drum breaks from Jake Reed
. There was some busy, collective improvisation from the three-horn frontline, and Reed's fine stick-work gave this Dixie staple a contemporary but timeless feel. "One Of These Days" was a happy, boppy samba melody, and a feature for Phil Feather's flute, creating an avian, fluttering flute solo, and Jeff Bunnell's trumpet, with a bubbly, peppery solo. The whole band achieved a jolly, cheerful mood. Johnny Mandel
's popular Emily, heard in several fine arrangements at this festival, featured Chris Eble
's flugelhorn. After an initial rough start, the song settled into a nice 4/4 time, with lovely acoustic bass bell-tones from Adrian Rosen, before Eble's warm flugelhorn solo in 3/4 time, particularly settling into his second chorus. There were nice, mellow horn backgrounds, leading into the melody, back into 4/4 time, and Eble's trumpet cadenza. A reworking of Donald Fagen
's "New Frontier" was in straight-eights, with Reed's insistent drumming, and a funky alto sax solo from Babad, in and out of double time. It settled into an easy-going, relaxed mood, but overall, not an overly adventurous arrangement. The mood changed with "Shuffleuphagass," a bluesy vamping, medium tempo shuffle tune, with fine melodic interplay between trumpet melody and bones-plus-reeds, somewhat like a swinging equivalent of Kenny Dorham
's "Una Mas." Settling into a regular 4/4 swing, it featured a high register trumpet solo magic from Carl Saunders, a swaggering, behind-the-beat trombone solo from, Jacques Voyemant
, and a contrasting, heraldic trumpet solo from Jamie Hovorka. A big-toned, jagged-phrased tenor sax solo from Bram Gilk led back to the shuffling vamp to finish it off.
"Hop and Cool" featured fine brush work from Jake Reed, and a beautiful, brassy ensemble passage, with nice bass work from Rosen. The band eased into a nice, mid-tempo, swinging groove for a bluesy Dave Ryan trombone solo, and more cool, upper-register trumpet soloing from Carl Saunders
, before more brassy interludes. The melody returned with a wonderful mellow sound of flutes, flugelhorns, bones and tuba, with bass matching the rhythms of the melody, on the main theme, with its quite delightful chord changes. To this listener, this was definitely the best piece of this concert.
In a nod to Miles Davis, "Freddie Freeloader" was lovingly re-created to evoke the sound and feel of the original Kind Of Blue
recording in the first reading of the melody, and joined in the second one by the whole band. Jeff Bunnell played a fine, laid-back bebop trumpet solo, Alex Budman
played a playful but adventurous tenor solo, followed by a brassy and lively shout chorus from the whole ensemble. Phil Feather
delivered an easy-going but fluid alto sax solo, with some Adderleyan swagger, and Rosen played a playful bass solo, complete with double-stops, slips and slides and other cheeky bass devices, while keeping the groove throughout. The band ended a la Miles, as they had begun.
"Barn Burner" was a fast Apple-Honey-like, swinging tune over 'rhythm changes,' with a brassy 'bridge.' It featured fine fleet-fingered bebop fire from Babad's alto sax, eight-bar quick solo flashes from each of the trumpets, and two brilliant trombone choruses from Andy Martin, and an exciting shout chorus from the band, another strong Babad alto solo, before the band reprised the theme. The band, strong from the beginning, seemed to reach their peak in the latter half of the concert, and the final three songs were definitely the finest. Jazz America Traditional Jazz Band
The Jazz America organization was founded many years ago by the late West Coast tenor giant, Buddy Collette
, and engages young musicians aged from 12 to 20, and runs a ten week program with regular Saturday rehearsals, building up to a final performance, and developing their instrumental, ensemble, and improvising skills along the way. Bassist Richard Simon
, featured in several performances at the festival, leads and conducts this fine youth band. It was, as he pointed out, the only band in the festival with both a banjo and a tuba. From its inception, Simon explained, Collette's vision was that the young players be steeped in jazz history from its beginnings, learning to play the music in a systematic and sequential way.
They featured a sampling of some of the earliest recorded jazz, from a century earlier, when the ODJB (Original Dixieland Jass Band) made the first jazz recordings in 1917, playing "Second Line," "The Original Dixieland One-Step," and continuing with "Livery Stable Blues," and "Bourbon Street Parade." The band was quite polished and almost all players were featured, if briefly, and showed a range of proficiency and experience, but a great deal of enthusiasm and willingness to play a solo. Other tunes performed were "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "Honeysuckle Rose," "Arabian Rhapsody," "Lady Be Good," "Riff Tide" and "Victory Stride." Richard Simon's enthusiastic leadership and witty introductions were much appreciated, as was his obvious passion for giving these young musicians an opportunity to develop their love for jazz. Notable were Jeremiah (drums), Harmony (on bass), Jordan (an alumnus on banjo), Lorenzo (on tuba) and many unnamed trombonists, trumpeters and saxophonists. The BBB featuring Bernie Dresel Bernie Dresel
is a formidable big-band drummer with extensive experience for many years as the drum anchor of the Big Phat Band, but who in recent years has led his own powerhouse band.
Monk's "Straight No Chaser" began the concert at a fast tempo, with a blistering Carl Saunders trumpet solo, vigorous alto-tenor sax trades between Brian Scanlon
and Rob Lockart
(as I recall), and an energetic trombone solo from Nick Daley, and featured brilliant unison trumpet section bebop lines. "Five Spot," by Walter Murphy, was a fine-but-tricky medium-up-tempo swinger, which featured an intrepid, ferocious tenor sax solo from, Sheila Gonzalez, and a beautiful, mellow, bebop guitar solo from Andrew Synowiec. "Sunny Side Of The Street," arranged by Nan Schwartz, at mid-tempo pace, featured Carl Saunders
's trumpet in cascading, playful lines, before a nicely- reharmonized ensemble passage. Synoviec played an adventurous guitar solo, with imaginative, probing lines, returning to the easy-going melody, a spirited drum break for the leader, and a strong ending.
Samba Quinte was a fast, happy tune, with trombones and tenor saxophones featured on the melody, handing over to the trumpets in a nice harmonized line. Brian Williams
played a muscular baritone sax solo that would have made Pepper Adams
and Nick Brignola
stop in their tracks, reaching into the upper register. Alan Kaplan played a supple, fast trombone solo with sparks flying, Dresel's dynamic drumming constantly driving the band. A change of pace to Monk's ballad "Round Midnight," which featured Carl Saunders, over rhythm section, then quiet reeds. A Gil Evans-ish ensemble blast then propelled Saunders into his solo, the band in a double-time swing, as he played his long sinuous lines into the upper register, before returning to the tune, the traditional Monk coda, with Saunders' cadenza quoting from The King And I.
"Wiggle Waggle" was a Latin jazz tour-de-force, beginning with a guitar-bass-drum vamp, joined by the brass. Trumpeter Jamie Hovorka, apparently un-fatigued by his record number of appearances at the festival, entered with a fiery, staccato burst of notes, before unleashing a powerful trumpet solo, sparks flying into the upper stratosphere. Bernie Dresel's driving rhythms then hushed to make way for or a thoughtful bass solo from Johnny Hatton, before rising in a crescendo of clever stick-work to return the main melody.
"Soulful Mr. Timmons," composed by James Williams
, dedicated to great hard bop pianist and Jazz Messenger Bobby Timmons
. Arranged by trumpeter Jeff Bunnell
, it opened with an 'easy-does-it,' chordal guitar solo from Andrew Synowiec, before a unison brass section arrived with its gospel-ish, hard-bop melody. After some saxophone section solo work, Jeff Bunnell played a masterful trumpet solo, with his big sound and lots of upper register sparks.
"Crossing The Boulevard" was a burner, beginning with very fast cymbal work from Dresel, and featured a commanding solo from Rob Lockart on tenor sax, full-bodied brass section passages, and a brilliant, gladiatorial trumpet solo from Saunders. Bernie Dresel played a fine and muscular drum solo, before a screaming band finale.
Dresel led from the drums throughout, with his powerful playing and his lively personality, and engaging manner. This was definitely a drummer's band, with a drummer used to playing between forte and fortissimo, and the sound desk probably could have adjusted their levels down accordingly, as the volume was mostly unnecessarily loud. Peter Myers Orchestra Peter Myers
has had a very successful career as a composer and arranger. Beginning his musical life as a trombonist, he has composed extensively for film and television, received many awards, and currently runs a big band that is dedicated to the preservation the music of a range of American composers, both in and out of jazz. Although this band is less than four years old, it has a committed band of fine musicians and a large book of his adventurous arrangements.
"Sister Sadie," by Horace Silver
opened the concert and featured vigorous solos from Rickey Woodard
and Lee Secard
on tenor and baritone saxophones. An Ellington composition (name not recorded) from "Anatomy Of A Murder" was featured next with Kim Richmond
playing a Hodges-inspired melody in call-and-response with the band, and soloing over the bridge. There followed a quirky saxophone section part over a march-like drum rhythm. Charlie Owens' clarinet was featured over a thoughtfully Ellingtonian woodwind backing, followed by bassist Mike Alvidrez trading with the orchestra, some Ellingtonian piano chords from leader Myers, and then an impassioned alto sax solo from Richmond. Fats Waller
's "The Joint Is Jumping," was announced by Myers as a "mash-up on steroids," and indeed, it was Myers' musical humour at its best, with many other tunes spliced in to the arrangement. Each one was idiomatically arranged into the ensemble with appropriate instrumentation, including "Bernie's Tune" (à la Mulligan), "It's All Right With Me" (à la Jay and Kai), "Milestones" (à la Miles), "Giant Steps" (à la Coltrane), followed appropriately by a fine Charlie Owens
tenor sax solo, "Four Brothers" (à la Woody Herman
), "Love For Sale" (à la his own arrangement for Buddy Rich
) and others. Horace Silver
's "Señor Blues" began with a vamp, and continued with some eerie flute soloing from Kim Richmond
, before the melody appeared played by trumpets and saxophones joined by a trombone ostinato and some honking baritone sax echoes. Bob Summers
played a fine trumpet solo, before vigorous ensemble work set up a forceful Owens tenor sax solo. The song ended with a haunting vamp with flute trills over the rhythm section. John Lewis
' "Django" began with flutes over a bass trombone ostinato from Juliane Gralle
, before Bob Summers
' flugelhorn brought the melody, and continued with a fine mid-tempo swinging solo, over a nice unison trombone passage, cushioned by the wind section chords (flutes and bass clarinet). After the usual Lewis-ish interlude, Summers played a wonderful mellifluous flugelhorn solo, and after some nice bass trombone ostinato work, returned to the melody and a beautiful flugelhorn cadenza.
"Hoe Down," by Oliver Nelson
, was given a bluegrass-like treatment with idiomatic fiddle-like flute parts, at the expected cracking tempo, and continued at the original fast tempo, with vigorous section work alternating on the melody. It featured a very strong Nick Daley
trombone solo and a blue-grassy trumpet solo from Summers, complete with a cheeky quote from Oscar Pettiford
's "Blues In The Closet." Myers had cleverly inserted phrases from Copland's Rodeo Suite>
(which incorporates the same Hoe-Down melody borrowed by Nelson) into various places in his arrangement. The staccato trumpet fanfare intro returned the band to the main Hoe-Down theme, with some nice 'oom-pah' trombone sounds, more blue-grassy flute work. Try "A Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding
was presented as a swinging ballad. It began with muted trumpets and mellow trombones, and featured Rickey Woodard's big-toned tenor in an almost Webster-ish sound and phrasing. Settling into a rollicking, slow swing in a 12/8 feel, Woodard played an authoritative, magisterial solo and finished with a mighty solo cadenza. "Havana," a Weather Report classic by Jaco Pastorius
, commenced with a strident brass fanfare and some mysterious wind sections sounds, before Kim Richmond entered with curved soprano sax with a Shorter-ish solo over the nice major ninth chord sequences, before the ensemble played an extended boppy line with Alvidrez' bass. There was more brass fanfare before the return to the original Jaco Pastorius
bass line beneath the nice major ninth chord sequence. some unaccompanied Richmond soprano sax, ensemble fanfare and final cadenza.
Vocalist Loree Frazier
took to the stage for the final two songs. The first, a swinging arrangement of "I've Got The World On A String," featured her sultry-toned voice, fine rhythmic sense. She was singing a little flat which detracted, but this was redeemed somewhat in the final song, "On A Clear Day," which began with a beautifully chorded, Latin introduction, later going into swing, with superb ensemble work and rhythm section drive, led by Mel Lee
's driving drums.
Overall this was a fine performance by Myers' band featuring his own very idiosyncratic and at times, quirky, arrangements. It was based upon mostly familiar and well-loved material, but dressed up in ways one might never have imagined, and full of unexpected twists and turns. The band was tight, as was the driving rhythm section, and the very appreciative audience went out whistling the tunes. Ann Patterson Maiden Voyage
Ann Patterson is a fine saxophonist, jazz educator and bandleader, who, among her many achievements, has done much throughout her career to advance the cause of women musicians in jazz. She has led her Maiden Voyage since the early 1980s, an adventurous big band with an all-women cast that champions compositions by great lady jazz composers, including many great works that deserve to be heard more widely. She presented the current incarnation of this swinging band for the second last concert of the festival, and presented a good mix of their widely ranging repertoire, with engaging and informative introductions to each piece. Mary Lou Williams
blazed trails for many women in jazz, and one of this gifted pianist's many compositions, "Lonely Moments," was featured early in the concert. Evidently written for Duke Ellington
in the early 1960s, it was not recorded at the time, and had seldom been performed since then. It began with a ferocious tenor saxophone solo by Carol Chaikin
over an insistent tom drum intro from Tina Raymond, and featured a superb unison trumpet section passage in counterpoint with the reed section. This fine, quirky arrangement had many moods and it was a pleasure to hear this great piece brought to life after so long. Cedar Walton
's up-tempo Bolivia, now a virtual hard-bop jazz 'standard,' was arranged by late trumpeter Dick Cary, and began with a fine intro from pianist Kait Dunton
, vamping with bassist Jennifer Leitham
, and then some nice interplay between the brass sections and the reeds. Barbara Laronga
played a brilliant, boppy trumpet solo, and Scheila Gonzales
played a very powerful tenor sax solo, with fine support from Raymond's drums and Leitham's driving bass. The virtuoso trumpet section was then engaged in some vigorous trading of fours, with fiery exchanges and grand-standing, high note-pyrotechnics. Dunton followed with a fine piano solo, with dancing upper-register right hand lines and some fine two-fisted, rhythmic playing, vamping over Leitham's bass
Another Cary arrangement, "The Obligatory Blues," featured the flutes in its melody with friendly clarinet interjections. Sarah Bauza was featured in a playful trumpet solo, followed by more swinging, inventive piano from Kait Dunton. The final melody returned in the ensemble with some offbeat bass solo work from Jennifer Leitham. "Chief Natoma From Tacoma," another 1960s Williams composition, was a rollicking minor blues which featured Alisha Arde
's solo trombone, a vigorous alto sax solo from Scheila Gonzales, and a marvelous Barbara Laronga plunger-muted trumpet solo with plenty of sparks. Not to be outdone, Arde returned with her trombone and more fine plunger work on the final melody.
Thelonious Monk's cheeky "I Mean You" featured the fine baritonist Jennifer Hall along with bassist Leitham, together on the melody, followed by fine solos from each, the latter initially solo unaccompanied and then joined by piano and drums. A mighty ensemble section followed, propelled by the hard-swinging rhythm section, and ended with a short baritone sax cadenza. Claude Debussy's "(My) Reverie," familiar to many from swing era adaptations (e.g. Glenn Miller) and a 1950s Melba Liston
arrangement, was presented in a Tom Kubis arrangement on this occasion. Trombonist Lori Stuntz gave a nice, warm delivery of the melody in a slow swing tempo over some nice background band work, with the reeds taking Debussy's piano lines, before she played a hard-swinging and soulful trombone solo.
The band played a Melba Liston ballad (name of tune not recorded) which showcased the tender, sensuous side of Patterson's saxophone playing, before breaking into double-time swing, and her strong, passionate bebop alto sax voice bursting through. Lori Stuntz
took the final melody before the final, powerful alto sax cadenza from the leader. The band finished with There'll Never Be Another You, which was a fine up-tempo swinger. Beginning with a nice pedal-tone intro, flugelhorns and trombones in octaves followed with the melody, leading to harmonized flugels with reeds and a neat meter change into 6/4 time. Barbara Laronga took a magnificent flugelhorn solo, with her lyrical phrasing, gradually reaching higher into the upper register. Ann Patterson played a bebop alto solo of the highest order, followed by a fluid Kait Dunton piano solo and a powerful drum solo from Tina Raymond. The ensemble passages incorporated some lovely reharmonisation of this timeless Warren/Gordon standard. Tom Kubis Big Band Tom Kubis
has had a long career as a saxophonist and prolific composer/arranger and has led his virtuoso band of very enduring personnel for thirty years, showcasing his compositions and arrangements of standards and various jazz staples, and covering a stylistically broad repertoire. This concert was a fitting finale to a fine festival (apologiesalliteration always accidental).
Beginning with "Hey, We're Not Done Yet," a cheerful, tune based on Ja-Da changes, began with Kubis' muscular tenor sax, with a soulful solo into double-time, followed by a contrasting, relaxed solo from Ron Stout who was in top form. The pace slowed down for trombonist Francisco Torres, who played a quieter solo over piano, guitar and drums initially without bass, later joined by the whole rhythm section, building up to a very energetic, exciting solo. The band returned in full beneath a fine Mike Higgins guitar solo before some nice, easy going, soprano-sax-heavy reed section work, and indeed, they weren't done yet. In a tribute to legendary west coast trumpeter Jack Sheldon
, Here's That Rainy Day was a nice samba arrangement to feature trumpeter Jeff Bunnell
and alto saxophonist Rusty Higgins
. Bunnell led off with the melody, with an exuberant trumpet solo that ran to two fine choruses, with crescendo backing from the band. Higgins followed with a fiery bebop alto sax solo, with his big sound and great fluency, before handing the melody back to Jeff Bunnell. Fats Waller
's "Ain't Misbehavin'" was a bass trombone feature for Rich Bullock
. After an exciting intro, Bullock took the melody against nice backgrounds of flutes and brass, creating a playful, whimsical sound. This was followed by ensemble trading of fours with Bullock's bass trombone, before a swinging shout chorus from the band. "Day In, Day Out" was a driving big-band arrangement to feature the leader's vocalist daughter Nicole Kubis, who was in fine, swinging voice. The band then took the audience on the road, not in a bus, but with a "Bicycle Built For Two," a feature for fine reedman Sal Lozano
on soprano sax, in waltz time. Lozano played a superb, joyful solo with his rich, caramel sound, and was followed by pianist Jim Cox, who played some swinging, happy waltz time jazz piano. After a brassy interlude, Lozano was back in the lead with his fine soprano sax for a beautiful ending.
Ellington band classic "Caravan" was composed by trombonist Juan Tizol
, and this Kubis arrangement featured master trombonist Andy Martin
, taking the melody and three fiery solo choruses. A light, airy sax soli section with soprano sax on top was then followed by the full ensemble, after which was heard a brilliant, highly melodic drum solo from Ray Brinker
. Martin capped off the performance with a brilliant, virtuoso solo trombone cadenza. "Some Skunk Funk," a Brecker Brothers hit from the 1970s, featured alto saxophonist Kirsten Edkins
and trumpeter Ron Stout
. Edkins kicked off with a Brecker-ish, wild tenor sax solo, and Stout followed with a fiery, funky trumpet solo, all powered by the rhythm section work of Trey Henry's virtuoso funk bass lines and Brinker's highly energetic drums.