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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.

This pleasant concert concluded with a fast "Limehouse Blues," a Fedchock arrangement from his 1992 album, New York Big Band, with plenty of room for soloists to display their chopsmanship. Opening with two choruses of super-fast bebop from pianist Czach, the reeds pick up the very smooth, unison melody over crescendo ensemble work. Mark Lewis obliged with a magnificent, confident trumpet solo, in two choruses of sustained brilliance. Tom Luer, no less inspired, played two choruses of rapid-fire, bebop alto magic, Rob Lockart gave two choruses of very articulate, big-toned tenor, before a Lockart-Luer saxophone chase, in eight-bar trades, and a final powerful end from a tight ensemble, who executed this demanding chart very well.

Concert 15: Woody Herman Orchestra -Directed by Frank Tiberi

For the finale of the festival, the irrepressible Frank Tiberi, associated with the Woody Herman organization since the late 1960s, presented a concert, leading the continuing WHO (Woody Herman Orchestra), the personnel almost entirely comprising alumni. Tiberi, now a sprightly 89, and still in top form on clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones, and fronting the WHO, demonstrated, as if there were ever any doubt, that regular inoculations of the music of Woody Herman would probably increase herd immunity.

Opening with their erstwhile signature theme, "Blue Flame," they quickly launched into some fast Ellingtonia, "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." This was a tour-de-force with solo space for many—Mike Brignola's friendly baritone; Dave Ryan's cheerful, fleet trombone and John Fedchock's fast-and-furious trombone and then trombone trades; Mark Lewis' fiery, bright bebop trumpet and Ron Stout's mellow, fluid trumpet, and then trumpet trades; and vigorous tenor sax choruses from Frank Tiberi and Gary Anderson, before the final ensemble blast.

Jimmy Giuffre's evergreen "Four Brothers," a major landmark in the evolution of modern jazz big-band language, has remained prominent in the Herman repertoire since its debut in 1947, and is always a winner. The 'Brothers' sax section of Frank Tiberi, Rob Lockart and Jerry Pinter on tenor saxophones and Mike Brignola on baritone sax excelled in their section work, unison passages and solos, with strong support from the driving rhythm section, particularly Jim Rupp's drums. Ralph Burns' 1948 ballad beauty, "Early Autumn," featured the sensuous saxophone section passages and, for a change, Ron Stout's trumpet on the melody in place of Woody's alto sax bridge. Alan Broadbent took a playful piano solo, full of tasteful block chords, and Tiberi excelled with a tender tenor sax solo. Herman's "Apple Honey" was taken at breakneck speed (I counted 300 beats per minute), and as usual, was an energetic workout for many soloists. Double choruses were heard from Rob Lockart's rapid-fire tenor, Fedchock's 'bull-at-the-gate' trombone, Mark Lewis' blistering bebop trumpet and Ron Stout's flurries of mellow, post-bop trumpet. Lewis and Stout sparred in trumpet trading for two more choruses, and Broadbent took an exuberant piano solo, with notes just flying by. Tiberi took the Woody clarinet role, over nicely-crafted, plunger trombone-plus-reeds backgrounds, before the grand entrance of trumpeter Kye Palmer, with his high note acrobatics in the fine tradition of the great Pete Candoli.

Next was the John Fedchock arrangement of the beloved Raksin/Mercer ballad "Laura." Opening with a mellow, brassy, flugels-plus-bones introduction, Fedchock himself led with the melody, over his thoughtfully arranged ensemble backgrounds. He continued into a wonderful, virtuosic trombone solo, followed by some dynamic section work, crescendoing to bold brass backgrounds, before returning to a quiet ending with mellow brass.

Tony Klatka's arrangement of John Coltrane's "Naima" was next, in 6/4 time, with intricate bass lines from Trey Henry, and the melody arranged for flutes, flugels and trombones. Broadbent played energetic piano over vigorous, multilayered drum rhythms. Tiberi followed with a lush, soprano sax solo, and a Rupp took a solo chorus, before the melody reappeared as it begun, over a cushion of mellow brass, Tiberi taking the melody on tenor sax.

"Greasy Sack Blues" composed and arranged by trumpeter Don Rader, began with four bluesy, easy-going piano choruses from Alan Broadbent and another four from Trey Henry's bass, before there was a deft key change, and into Harmon-muted trumpets in unison on the melody, joined by the reeds. Gary Anderson delivered a 'dirty blues' tenor solo, full of twists and turns. Pete Olstad followed with four plunger-muted trumpet choruses, that might well have sounded just as effective played with open horn. Trey Henry then gave four courses of very inspired, swinging bass, emptying his bag of bass tricks into a virtuoso solo. Ensemble 'shout' choruses began with quiet staccato chords, gradually powering up to a crescendo, above which Kye Palmer's stratospheric trumpet screeches brought it to its final climax.

Harold Arlen's "Come Rain Or Come Shine," arranged by Bill Stapleton, was a feature for Ron Stout's flugelhorn. Taken at a slow, swing tempo, Stout caressed the melody above the mellow ensemble passages, and played a very thoughtful flugelhorn solo. "Woodchoppers' Ball," now in its eighties, continues to age well and still evokes the relaxed swing of its earliest incarnations. Its catchy head-arrangement of a simple, repeating-noted melody has been through many evolutions, captured on many recordings over the band's history, including its overlaying with such blues countermelodies as "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid." Frank Tiberi took the Woody clarinet melody, before affable solos from Rob Lockart's easy-going tenor sax, Dave Ryan's relaxed, gruff trombone, Mark Lewis' bright trumpet, Alan Broadbent's laid-back, Basie-ish swing, with quotes from "Lester Leaps In" and jagged chordal reharmonisations with shards of "C-Jam Blues." Trey Henry played some brilliant, rhythmically tricky bass. The final head used "Blues Walk" as a countermelody, jumping up a half-step, and finishing with more Kye Palmer trumpet pyrotechnics.

After an intermission, Bill Holman's fast, polyphonic arrangement of "After You've Gone" began with Frank Tiberi leading the melody on soprano sax, kicking off a bold brass section passage. Solos were from Tiberi's vigorous soprano sax, Mark Lewis' blistering trumpet, Jerry Pinter's brawny tenor saxophone, and this masterful chart ended with a bluesy clarinet-plus-piccolo cadenza.

John Coltrane's "Central Park West," arranged by John Fedchock, began with a pensive intro of brushes, noodling piano and bass. Another brassy reading of the melody bought out its rich harmonies, joined by a nice unison saxophone countermelody. Frank Tiberi's beautiful and brilliant tenor saxophone solo lead to a crescendoing ensemble then quiet trombones in unison with a flugelhorn countermelody. Tiberi returned to take the band home, probably one of the finest ballad performances of the festival. Alan Broadbent composed and arranged "Sugarloaf Mountain," a medium, straight-eight piece, which featured John Fedchock's relaxed trombone on the melody over flugelhorn backgrounds. He went on to play a very mellifluous solo, and an exuberant brass section passage handed back to Fedchock's trombone for the final melody and vigorous solo vamping to the finish. Johnny Green's "Body and Soul," immortalized by Coleman Hawkins in 1939, effectively throwing down the gauntlet to all tenor saxophone players who followed. John Coltrane's 1960 landmark reworking of the chord changes gave it a significant leap forward. Nat Pierce's arrangement incorporated some of Trane's intro and bridge chord changes, and Frank Tiberi played a magisterial tenor solo above finely-crafted ensemble backgrounds, finishing with a masterful solo cadenza, extending Coltrane's vision further. Tipping his hat to the great Coleman Hawkins, Tiberi quoted the final two phrases of the Hawk's famous 1939 solo, very softly, fading beautifully into the final band cadence.

"Fanfare For The Common Man," by Copland, arranged by Gary Anderson (and heard earlier in the day by the CSULB) which became a 1970s Herman Herd anthem, began with its dramatic three-trombone fanfare, and continued into the intro vamp, with brilliant, insistent drumming from Jim Rupp and dextrous electric bass lines from Trey Henry. Rob Lockart played an adventurous flute solo over the vamp, with nice 'outside' fluttering phrases. Jerry Pinter soloed with his big tenor sound, up close to the mike, before a dynamic Jim Rupp drum solo and a climactic ending by the band, which had executed Anderson's chart superbly. The final piece for the concert and for the entire festival, was mid 1960s Herman staple, "Cousins," by Johnny Coppola and Vince Guaraldi. The intro featured Kye Palmer's powerful trumpet an octave above the band, and was followed by the strong unison melody from the saxophone section, and a neat, quite brilliant, harmon-muted trumpet solo from Ron Stout. Thus ended a fine festival that chronicled fifty years of marvelous music from one of Jazz's most beloved bandleaders and one of its greatest and most enduring bands. Ken Poston and his team and the musicians again excelled in this tremendous musical celebration.

Ken Poston's final wrap-up at the close of the festival acknowledged the musicians and the superb music, and the great efforts of those who volunteered their time and energy to make it happen, and encouraged patrons to sign up for the October LAJI festival: "Something Cool—Celebrating the Great Vocalists of The West Coast Jazz Era."

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