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

Simon Pilbrow By

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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

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

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