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