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

Simon Pilbrow By

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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.
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