Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival - Woodchopper's Ball: Part 1-4

Simon Pilbrow By

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"With Someone New," by Flip Phillips, was a tour-de-force for young tenor-man Jason Fabus, who took the melody and then proceeded to a superb solo—with his big sound, feel and dynamics, breathy tones when at low volume and a full-bodied sound at upper volumes. Dan Barrett played a soulful, plangent solo chorus, with his solotone-muted trombone, before Fabus took the melody for the final time, and engaged in a conversational duet cadenza with Barrett.

"Crazy Rhythm" featured happy trombone choruses from Barrett, interspersed with witty Bill Harris-like quotes, driving tenor sax and cheeky piano solos from Fabus and Dawson, drum trades with Kreutel, a very rhythmically supple drum solo, and an aptly crazy, punchy ending. Stan Getz' tune "And The Angels Swing" was a minor-key, mid-tempo swinging bebop tune. Dawson shone with his quirkily-accented, serpentine bebop lines, as did Fabus, with his assertive, masterful post-bop solo. Leader Barrett's contrasting bone solo led to exciting drum trades and nice bone-sax harmonies on the final melody.

Into ballad mode with "Everything Happens To Me," Dan Barrett's trombone melody was supported by the unexpected pleasure of Jason Fabus harmonizing the melody with piano accordion and taking the bridge. A nice bebop accordion solo followed, full of great ideas but not yet the polish of his terrific tenor work. A neat Dawson piano solo preceded the bone and accordion walking off stage, down the aisle into the audience for the final chorus. The concert finished with a happy "John Hardy's Wife," by Mercer Ellington, originally recorded by Bill Harris with Ben Webster. This light-hearted melody was taken at a medium swing tempo, and launched into a swaggering Barrett trombone solo with some nice smears, then sparkling bebop piano from Dawson and nicely animated drums throughout. All in all, this concert was an engaging performance, and an apt tribute to the lively musical character of Bill Harris.

Concert 3: The Four Brothers Sound

Ken Poston introduced the concert with a brief description of the history of the Four Brothers' sound—its origin in the octet, led by trumpeter Tommy Di Carlo that played Pontrelli's in Los Angeles in early 1947, with a four-tenor-sax lineup of Herbie Steward, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Giuffre and Stan Getz, playing arrangements by Gene Roland and Giuffre. Woody Herman heard this group, immediately liked the Lester Young-like harmonized sax section sound and, later the same year, when he organized a new band, he hired Sims, Steward, Getz and Adam Schroeder played impressive solos over neat three-sax backgrounds, with Cohn's own unison shout chorus leading into the familiar, harmonized chordal bridge. Over the years, each incarnation the Herman Herd sax frontline managed to preserve the unity of the Four Brother's ensemble sound, but the soloists would come to depart widely from the Lester- influenced styles of the first generation, under the many influences of evolving jazz saxophone titans, the latter generations being quite Coltrane-inspired. Some of this diversity was evident in this concert, and in later concerts to a greater degree. Their next tune, Allen's original "The One For You," was a minor-key, mid-tempo swinger. After their brother-ish melody sections, the four saxophones played very contrasting solos, Ken Peplowski playing fleetly in the upper register with a soft tone, Allen with a big bluesy sound, baritonist Schroeder with a more Pepper Adams-like, hard bop sound and phrasing, and muscular double-timing, and Neumann pulled back with a lazy, laid-back, bluesy solo. Pianist Josh Nelson played a relaxed, unhurried solo moving into probing block chords, before the frontline returned to the raunchy, unison melody and finished in harmony.

A softer, Four Brothers sound was featured on the ballad standard, "It Never Entered My Mind." Peplowski led the melody, evoking a Getzian sound, over a lush sax section cushion of more contemporary harmonies, with Schroeder's baritone taking over the melody. Nelson played some beautiful piano solo lines backed by the reeds, with a dynamic return to the melody and a final chord in modal fourth harmonies. "Begin The Beguine and Don't Stop" was a medium-up swinger with a mix of unison and quite advanced brotherly four-part harmony, and stellar solos from Peplowski in brilliant double time, Allen's big tenor, Schroeder's energetic baritone and lastly, Neumann's vigorous tenor. This was inspired ensemble arranging, and an interesting reimagining and advancement of the Four Brothers sound.

Gerry Mulligan's "Five Brothers," originally recorded by five tenors (Getz, Sims, Cohn, Allen Eager and Brew Moore) was played here, perhaps anomalously with four saxophones, featured double chorus solos from each—an energetic Schroeder baritone, gleeful and exuberant Allen tenor; a smooth, Getzian, Peplowski solo complete with quotes from "Giant Steps," and a contrasting raunchy, mischievous and big-toned solo from Neumann. Trades of eights and fours followed in the same order, before bassist Dave Stone played two fleet-fingered bass solo choruses and the reeds returned with a mighty shout chorus.

From Finian's Rainbow, an unlikely choice of "How Are Things In Glocca Morra," by Lane and Harburg, began with a mournful introduction and verse, leading into the main melody, with neatly descending and quite beautiful harmonies and a softer brotherly ensemble sound. The final offering was Frank Loesser's "Luck Be A Lady Tonight," beginning with a super, strong introduction/verse, and then a boppy, up-tempo, unison rendition of the main melody. Josh Nelson played an agile, colourful piano solo, focusing on the lower register. The reeds followed with double chorus solos: Peplowski led off with a fluid tenor solo that began phlegmatically and became more boisterous; Schroeder with a muscular, Pepper-ish baritone solo, Neumann with a mercurial solo that became increasingly bold and bluesy. Allen unleashed a sanguine, powerful solo that led to a mighty, powerhouse drum solo from Doug Weller and a strong shout chorus. All in all, the concert showcased the durability of the Four Brothers sound, both in its classic Lestorian sound but also many new and distinct textures and sounds that this fine instrumental combination could inspire.


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