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Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival - Woodchopper's Ball: Part 3-4

Simon Pilbrow By

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The 1930s Count Basie classic, "Lester Leaps In," was performed in tempo throughout, however Broadbent incorporated some wild right hand triplet flourishes and some deliberately wayward left hand lines, which altered the harmonic framework of the piece, perhaps too much—before he returned to a minimalist restatement of the melody. "Reflections in D" by Duke Ellington must surely be one of the Duke's most beautiful ballads, and Broadbent handled all the 'sweet spot' harmonies with great care. On the 'out-chorus' he moved the melody to the left hand with sustained bass notes and more right hand flourishes, which gave it a sweeping, emotionally powerful ending.

John Lewis' "Django" began with a dramatic, Beethovian start, before slotting into a lazy, mid-tempo swing feel, with the right hand dancing over the static left hand notes, then into a walk before breaking into quirky, independent left and right hand interplay. In Lewis' bluesy interlude sections, Broadbent played bluesy right hand figures over strong boogie bass ostinatos, before he continued into the next chorus with bluesy right hand lines over dark lower register chords. The next interlude featured heavy right hand tremolos over his boogie bass ostinatos, before a dramatic Lisztian ending with grand, two-fisted chords, and fading into a rhapsodic coda. This led to rapturous applause, and Broadbent obliged with an encore, choosing David Raksin's "The Bad And The Beautiful." After a lovely rubato intro, the melody rang strongly in his strong right hand chords over left hand arpeggiation, and more extravagant right hand runs, weaving in and out of the melody, and creating more luxuriant piano sounds.

Did it swing? Was it all jazz? Was there any connection to Woody Herman? Does it matter in the end? There was much debate afterward. There is no doubt that Broadbent paints with a broad brush, and that he has extraordinary command of the piano, and has a solid reputation as a swinging trio pianist. However, alone at the piano on this occasion, he used the freedom to express other facets of his musical personality.

Concert 10: The Swinging Sixties -Directed by Michael Berkowitz

Ken Poston introduced this concert, with mention of some of the key musical personalities in the 1960s Woody Herman Herds, including trumpeter Bill Chase, tenor sax virtuoso Sal Nistico, trombonist Phil Wilson, pianist/arranger Nat Pierce and drummer Jake Hanna. Drummer Michael Berkowitz led this exciting band in a re-creation of some of the 1960s Herds' repertoire.

The concert opened with "Mo-Lasses," composed by Count Basie trumpeter Joe Newman, an aggressive bluesy tune. Featured soloists were Roger Neumann, whose raunchy tenor stayed mostly in the upper register; some forceful, full-bodied and punchy trumpet from Jeff Bunnell, and back to the bluesy head, with assertive drumming from Berkowitz. "Jazz Me Blues" (by Tom Delaney, arranged Pierce), a medium-fast swinger, featured muscular tenor from Gary Anderson, confident trombone from John Fedchock, and fluid clarinet from Kim Richmond, before a strong ending from the band.

A change of mood, and Henry Mancini's "The Days Of Wine And Roses," arranged by Nat Pierce, featured alto saxophonist Kim Richmond's passionate statement of the melody. Mark Lewis followed with a dynamic trumpet solo with crescendos and diminuendos, unexpected bursts of notes, particularly in the upper register. After a vigorous ensemble shout chorus, the band hushed to make way for Richmond's alto sax, and some softer, Hodgian phrases.

"Hallelujah Time," a happy, fast, swinging, gospel-like tune, was taken by the reed section, and showcased Gary Anderson and Larry McKenna in an exciting tenor chase with punchy ensemble interjections. The pace slowed right down for "It's a Lonesome Old Town" (by Kisco, Tobias and Van Alstyne), a slow swinging ballad, originally a feature for trombonist Phil Wilson. On this occasion, the spotlight was on John Fedchock, sharing the melody with Richmond's clarinet. Fedchock played a smooth, impeccably pure-toned but emotionally moving trombone solo with a nice cadenza. "That's Where It Is" (by Teddy Castion, arranged Nat Pierce) was a fast-and-swinging gospel-influenced tune, which featured upper register pyrotechnics from trumpeter Ron King, and muscular, big-toned tenor from Gary Anderson, and driving drums from the leader.

Woody Herman had an abiding love and respect for the music of Duke Ellington, and in this concert, Tommy Newsom's arrangement of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" was performed. Taken at a slow-to-medium tempo, Keith Bishop took the melody on baritone sax, with echoes from Ron Stout's plunger muted trumpet making a nice call- and-response, and the contrast of Kim Richmond's clarinet on the bridge, and the trumpet section snatching the melody for the final "A." A solo chorus was split between Mark Lewis' brilliant harmon-muted trumpet and Fedchock's cheerful trombone. Some punchy ensemble excitement was then followed by quiet brassy backgrounds over Chris Conner's walking bass, a nifty key change, and a return to the baritone sax-and-trumpet conversation between Bishop and Stout.

Sonny Boy (by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, arranged Ralph Burns), was a showcase for the trombone and vocal talents of Scott Whitfield, who sang the Woody vocals on the melody, and followed with a virtuoso trombone solo chorus with some splendid double-timing. Some lively, brassy, ensemble shout choruses and more Whitfield vocals continued the excitement to the end.

Slowing the pace and quieting the mood was the lovely Nat Pierce arrangement of Newley and Bricusse's "Who Can I Turn To," originally recorded on My Kind Of Broadway, which began with Rich Eames' neat piano intro. Kim Richmond's alto sax carried the melody over sensuous reed-and-bone section backgrounds, and then a haunting alto solo. Larry McKenna followed with a superb, lyrical tenor solo, the notes and phrases always landing beautifully in the right places, before the band returned to the melody, handing it back to Richmond's alto for the final melody and a bright cadenza.

The swinging "Sig Ep," by trumpeter Jack Gale, from Woody Herman 1963, its structure based on "Ja-Da," was heard initially with unison reeds, joined by brass interjections, climaxing in a full ensemble. Solos were from Gary Anderson's big- toned, muscular tenor sax, and from Bobby Shew's terrific, bluesy trumpet. Ensemble passages aptly quoted from Sonny Rollins' "Doxy," with Berkowitz's mighty drum work matched by the tight ensemble, returning to the reed melody and a punchy ending.

The 1960's Woody Herman band moved forward in a number of directions. One significant influence on the band was John Coltrane, particularly on the evolving solo styles of the reed players in the band in the decades that followed, and on the incorporation of some of his compositions like "Giant Steps" and "Naima" into the band book. "Dear John C," composed and arranged by Bob Hammer, reflected Coltrane's modal compositional influence. Somewhat patterned on "Impressions" (Coltrane's adaptation of Morton Gould's "Pavanne" to the structure of Miles Davis' "So What"), it began with a driving rhythm section and deep baritone sax bell-tones, and the melody was carried by the reed section in unison initially, harmonized on the bridge. Ron Stout played two choruses of modal trumpet magic, and Gary Anderson followed with two sinewy tenor choruses, with crisp, modal comping from Rich Eames.

Nat Pierce's arrangement of "The Good Life," by Jack Reardon and Sasha Distel, began with a bold start in a two-beat, medium-swing feel, with Richmond's passionate alto sax lead. A solo chorus was split between tenor sax man Larry McKenna's wonderful melodic lines and Mark Lewis' sparkling, harmon-muted trumpet bebop lines, and it finished with a powerful ensemble shout chorus. The concert concluded with Raoul Romero's arrangement of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things," also from My Kind Of Broadway. Taken at a fast tempo in four, this magnificent arrangement has weathered very well, maintaining the original excitement, and featured spirited clarinet solo work from Richmond, and a brilliant, virtuoso trombone solo from Scott Whitfield. The final climactic ensemble melody passages, with its cleverly-altered chord changes, brought this fine concert to an exciting end.

Film Session 4: Fanfare for the Common Man -Rare films from the L.A. Jazz Institute Archive

Ken Poston's final chapter of the Woody Herman story on film began with a Jerry Lewis Show appearance by the Herd from 1957, with performances of "Blue Flame" and "Caldonia," featuring tenor man Paul Quinichette and pianist Nat Pierce. "Come Rain Or Come Shine" included Lewis' zany vocals with the band and then in tandem with the Charles Sandford string orchestra.

A 1965 appearance in the Ed Sullivan Show, showed the band in magnificent form, playing the fast and swinging "My Favorite Things," featuring Bill Chase trumpet, Phil Wilson on trombone and Ronnie Zito's driving drums.

A 1966 Vienna performance of Horace Silver's "The Preacher" featured Julian Priester on trombone and Sal Nistico's spirited tenor sax. More Ed Sullivan Show appearances included a 1967 date showcasing Woody on soprano sax, on a fast "Boogaloo," along with Cecil Payne's baritone sax and Zito again on drums. In 1968, the band was shown with Tony Bennett, singing "Get Happy" and "There Will Never Be Another You," and the talents of drummer Ed Soph, baritonist Nick Brignola, pianist John Hicks, and special guest, tenor giant Zoot Sims, were well displayed. A Canadian In The Mood Show, broadcast from 1973, showed Woody along with a pianist Alan Broadbent, guesting with the Guido Basso Orchestra, and playing the Herd's arrangement of "25 or 6 to 4" and "MacArthur Park."

Ken spoke about the increased recruitment by Woody of accomplished students from the ranks of the North Texas State Jazz lab band other top jazz breeding grounds. From a 1977 tour of Poland, Woody's band played Chick Corea's "Spain," beginning with the melody of "Crystal Silence," and featuring Frank Tiberi on bassoon and solos from a youthful Lyle Mays on piano and future tenor star Joe Lovano on tenor sax. Also shown was John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" in Bill Stapleton's marvelous arrangement, with a ferocious tenor duet between Lovano and Tiberi, accompanied only by drums.

In 1979 festival in Nice, France, showed Woody on soprano sax, playing Gary Anderson's arrangement of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare For The Common Man." Also noteworthy were Gary Smulyan on baritone sax and Bob Belden on tenor saxophone. A 1984 Disneyland appearance showed Tiberi, baritonist Mike Brignola, trombonist John Fedchock, trumpeters Mark Lewis and Ron Stout, all of whom featured prominently in this current Woody Herman festival.

Concert 11: One Night Stand: Charlie Barnet vs. Woody With The Herman Battle of the Bands

One Night Stand With The Battle Of The Bands was a re-creation of the famous Rendezvous Ballroom encounter on July 30, 1949, between the Woody Herman and Charlie Barnet bands, recording originally released on LP on the Joyce label. Assembled for this Sunday Brunch feature were two all-star big bands, both ready to reinvent the occasion. There was much banter between the two leaders, Ken Peplowski (fronting the Woody Herman team) and Mike Berkowitz (leading the Charlie Barnet team from the drum chair), with Peplowski often seeming to have the upper hand. The Barnet band won the toss, and launched into their first tune (name not announced) with some bright, energetic work from Bobby Shew, effervescent piano from Brian O'Rourke and feisty ensemble work.
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