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

Simon Pilbrow By

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Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Woodchoppers' Ball"
Four Points by Sheraton at LAX
Los Angeles, CA
May 23-27, 2018

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Panel 3: Cousins -Moderated by Ken Borgers

Moderated by Ken Borgers, this panel featured Woody Herman alumni from the last phase of Woody's band and life, the 1980s. These were trumpeters Ron Stout and Mark Lewis, saxophonists Mike Brignola, Jerry Pinter and Frank Tiberi, trombonist John Fedchock and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Each described how they came to join Woody's band, how formative it had been to their musical development, the standards that he expected of his players and of the band as a whole. Each was asked to give an account of his first night playing with his band, which led to some interesting reminiscences, in some instances about 'being thrown in the deep end' during high-profile band engagements. Some spoke about the big shoes of predecessors that they realized they were stepping into -for example, Jeff Hamilton spoke in glowing terms of brilliant drummer Ed Soph, who he stated "was responsible for the revolution in big band drumming" during the 1970s. Borgers enquired of the panel as to what were Woody's "magic leadership qualities." All expressed similar sentiments, and were all in agreement about Woody having nurtured so many young jazz musicians over many decades, but Hamilton offered perhaps the most articulate summary of Woody Herman's leadership style: "Woody led without leading."

Concert 12: Road Father -Music of the Seventies -CSULB Concert Jazz Orchestra with Special Guests: Alan Broadbent and Gary Anderson

This concert featured a first class university jazz band, Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB) Concert Jazz Orchestra, with special guests Alan Broadbent and Gary Anderson, directed by Jeff Jarvis. In between each tune, Jarvis gave a pre-prepared chronological narration of Woody's musical story, probably familiar to the audience by the final day of the festival, but of interest to his young student musicians.

Gary Anderson's arrangement of Copland's "Fanfare For The Common Man" opened the concert, with a spirited and inventive guitar solo, before guest Gary Anderson played a robust, muscular tenor saxophone solo, ultimately becoming inaudible beneath the crescendoing ensemble.

"Adam's Apple," by Wayne Shorter, a medium-paced blues, opened with four swinging, bluesy piano choruses from guest Alan Broadbent, before the trumpet section stated the melody, launching a fine, upbeat alto sax solo by Tanner Olivas. An attractive saxophone soli passage with flugelhorn on top was followed by Phineas Crisp's lively plunger trombone solo, ending with blaring brass ensemble choruses.

Chick Corea's "Spain," arranged by Gary Anderson, with the "Crystal Silence" melody incorporated into the introduction, featured tenor saxophone melody and flutes over mellow brass backgrounds. After an attractive reed interlude with soprano sax leading, the pianist, Alex Flavell, played an exciting solo, with rhythmically daring, upper-register right hand work, followed by a warm flugelhorn solo by Cade Gotthardt. The ensemble playing was very well executed. Two compositions of Keith Jarrett followed in succession. "Fortune Smiles," arranged by Gary Anderson, had a nice, straight-eights feel, Anderson's solo tenor sax taking the melody and a soulful, energetic solo, above tight rhythm-section work, complex electric bass-lines, and dextrous drumming. "The Raven Speaks," a brassy arrangement over a propulsive rock beat, featured an aggressive, hard-hitting solo from Stephen Wood, a forceful, brash solo from Ken Eernisse, incisive rhythm section comping, and a driving soprano sax solo from Erik Larsen.

"Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love," the wonderful ballad by Charles Mingus, featured sweet-sounding, Johnny Hodges-like alto sax work from Erik Larsen, some mellow brass section work over exquisite brushwork from drummer TYLER KREUTEL , and a passionate solo from tenor saxophonist Stephen Wood. Broadbent was featured in his own composition/arrangement, "Bebop and Roses," taken at a medium-up swing tempo, in three piano solo choruses, the first two showing his Lennie Tristano influences, the final with Evans-ish, closed-octave block chords. Soloists included Ryan DeWeese's fiery bebop lines and Phineas Crisp's fresh, agile bone lines, and after some bold ensemble interplay and a final brass fanfare, it was all over. All in all, this was a pleasing performance by a spirited and accomplished college band, and a nice showcase for the arranging and solo skills of two key 1970s Herdsman, Anderson and Broadbent. Concert 13: Jeff Hamilton Trio

As he introduced his highly-regarded trio, leader/drummer Jeff Hamilton mentioned that this outfit—with Tamir Hendelman on piano, and Christoph Luty on bass—had now been performing together as a unit for eighteen years. This was readily apparent by the trio's empathic, tight and hard-swinging performance delivered on this Sunday afternoon.

Hamilton, drumming alumnus of the mid 1970s Woody Herman band, put together a terrific program that included some imaginative and clever reinterpretations of key Herman repertoire, as well as some of their current, JazzWeek chart-topping album, Live At San Pedro. The trio continues to extend the lineage and traditions of hard-swinging jazz piano trios, with strong links to the Oscar Peterson, Monty Alexander and Gene Harris trios, and the Count Basie Big Band, each of whose ranks Hamilton has been a distinguished member.

"Sybil's Day," by Jeff Hamilton, was a hard-swinging, rabble-rouser, featuring a very exciting, bluesy Hendelman piano solo. Hamilton surprised with an inclusion of the iconic Second Herd classic, "Four Brothers," opening with the sounds of Jimmy Giuffre's final chorus, before the leader's drum solo, and band statement of the melody, and another vigorous piano solo from Hendelman, tearing through the chord changes. The trio then took the audience even further back to the First Herd, with Woody's "Apple Honey," which remained a perennial chart in the Herman repertoire. A surprise to hear Hamilton play this on brushes, it was nevertheless taken at a blistering tempo, with a rip-roaring piano solo, and a very resourceful, brushes drum solo chorus from Hamilton.

An arcobass feature for Christoph Luty was George Gershwin's "Someone To Watch Over Me," with some delicious piano re-harmonisation emerging beneath the bass melody, and tasteful Hamilton brushes. A thoughtful piano solo, gently meandering in the bridge section, was followed by Luty's bass returning to the melody, and his inspired bass cadenza. A mid-tempo re-imagining of "Poinciana" respectfully including nuances of Ahmad Jamal's indelible arrangement, featured insistent brushes rhythms from Hamilton, a strong bass solo from Luty, and relaxed, crispy swinging piano from Hendelman.

Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody'n'You," written for Woody in the early 1940s, featured a sprightly Hendelman piano solo, and a melodic Luty bass solo, amid an interactive piano-drums conversation, before a masterful, high-energy drum solo from Hamilton. For "Bijou," by Ralph Burns, the much-loved First Herd showcase for trombonist Bill Harris, Hamilton invited trombonist John Fedchock as guest soloist onto the stage, for a remarkable quartet remake of the original big band arrangement. Fedchock played an energetic, warm, smooth solo and Hamilton delighted with a conga-like, hands-only solo on drums.

The trio's final offering was the blues "Cousins" by Johnny Coppola, with its usual raunchy introduction, and featured a rollicking Hendelman piano solo, and a bass solo in which Luty deftly traded with himself—playing alternately regular bass solo, and then arcobass. Hendelman then played a chorus of unaccompanied right-hand piano, a chorus with two hands, then together with the trio, finishing as raunchily as they had begun. So ended an outstanding concert of toe-tapping, hard-swinging, trio piano jazz, but not before a standing ovation from the very attentive, enthusiastic audience.

Concert 14: John Fedchock Big Band

John Fedchock's reputation as a gifted trombonist and composer/arranger was established during his tenure with Woody Herman in the early1980s and has continued, predominantly on the East Coast, in the years since. During this time, he has released many outstanding big band albums featuring his compositions. In this concert, he showcased some of his works, spanning the past three decades, most prominently with selections from his critically acclaimed 2015 Album, Like It Is.

Fedchock assembled a front-rank big band cast for this West Coast performance, including many of his fellow 1980s Herman alumni—trumpeters Mark Lewis and Ron Stout, saxophonists Mike Brignola and Jerry Pinter, and drummer Jim Rupp. The band hit the ground running with "Up And Running," title track of his 2007 album, a fast 'blues-with-a-tag.' Fedchock led the way with a fleet trombone solo, before an agile, boppy trumpet solo from Mark Lewis, a ferocious alto solo from Brian Scanlon, a serpentine tenor solo from Rob Lockart, and finishing with the band's powerful ensemble playing. "Like It Is," title track from his 2015 album, was described as a "funky cha-cha," and lived up to this appellation, featuring the passionate alto saxophone of Tom Luer on the melody. Solos included Luer's funky, nimble alto sax and Ron Stout's agile, feisty trumpet.

"The Chopper," from Fedchock's 1988 On The Edge album, was introduced by the leader as having been derived from combinations of Woody Herman clarinet 'licks,' and was featured at the 50th Woody Herman anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall. It was a hard-swinging, bluesy tune, featuring a unison reed section riff interplaying with a trumpet riff. Solos included Mike Brignola's rollicking baritone sax, Dave Bryant's warm, agile trombone, Peter Olstad's high-note trumpet power, in the midst of which was heard a bubbly sax soli passage with Ron Stout's flugelhorn atop the reed section. Moving into a gentler mood, "Never Let Me Go," Jay Livingston's haunting ballad, began with a mellow flugelhorns-plus-trombones section intro, and the leader's pure-toned trombone took the melody and a lovely, evocative solo. Throughout the arrangement, Fedchock achieved rather beautiful harmonies and textures, with rises and falls in density.

Fedchock introduced his arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy," indicating that it had been written some 35 years before and had been recorded at the Woody Herman 50th anniversary concert. (It was also on Fedchock's 2003 No Nonsense album). This rhythmically tricky arrangement featured an angular Ron Stout trumpet solo, a muscular Jerry Pinter tenor sax solo, a Trane-leaning Brian Scanlon soprano sax solo, over a tight rhythm section vamp, with driving drums from Jim Rupp. Another offering from Like It Is was "Hair Of The Dog," which was a quirky blues with a lighter mood. Bassist Trey Henry played the melody above jagged piano chords and drums, leading into a saxophone section riff, with a Thad Jones-like call-and-response with the brass section. Solos were from trombonist Ryan Dragon, who played an initially laid-back solo which went increasingly 'outside' and featured deep bass register blasts, and Jerry Pinter played a swaggering, 'tough tenor' solo with faint echoes of Oliver Nelson's approach to intervals.

Another Fedchock arrangement from Like It Is was "Ojos De Rojo," by Cedar Walton, a fast latin-rhythm chart, with unison trombones playing the attractive theme, and Trey Henry's imaginative bass figures. Pianist Ed Czach played a fine solo with agile double-octaves, Mike Brignola played a cheerful, peppery solo and Fedchock played some brilliant, upper-deck, rapid-fire trombone gymnastics. Drummer Jim Rupp continued to swing the band hard.
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