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Meet Ladd McIntosh

Craig Jolley By

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Johnny Richards wrote really great for trombones. So did Bill Holman and others who wrote for Kenton. The guys in my trombone section are all wonderful players. Phil Teele's got to be the best bass trombonist in the world. Eric Jorgensen is the most unusual trombone soloist I've ever encountered. He's fearless, and he's in your face. He used to play in circus bands, and sometimes he plays circus music in his solos. Bruce Fowler's solo concept is unlike anybody else I know—he's much more fluid and subdued.

Ladd McIntosh Big Band

I started it in the summer of 1980 as a rehearsal band. We met once a week at Northridge [California State University at Northridge] where I was part-time faculty. I wanted to hear my stuff played by pros. In those days it was easier to find places to play for a big band, and I was driven to get it out there. I was trying to catch somebody's attention and make something happen. Seabreeze did put out two albums. All through the 80's we played a lot, got great write-ups. For about three years we played once a month at a great club in Santa Monica called At My Place. One day when I showed up there was already a line down the street to get in to hear my band. I'd like to do some major jazz festivals. I always wanted to play the Monterey Jazz Festival with my band, but I think they may have looked at me as an educator, not as a professional. It's difficult to find a place to house eighteen musicians. There's a club we could play where you have to put up $500. If they get at least $800 at the door you get your money back plus more, but I'm not willing to do that.

Zanzibar

I had a group in the late 70's called Zanzibar with six woodwinds, two French horns, no brass, strings, a keyboard player who also played synthesizer, Tom Fowler on electric bass, and two percussion. I tried to get as many string players as possible. We gave a couple of concerts with at least 20 strings. My inspiration was Weather Report. It was some of the most exotic stuff I've ever written. I pushed that group for two or three years. I did about 15 charts, and about two or three had the words "space pig" in the title.

Early musical background

Mom and Dad were both influences, actually. My mother played classical piano. She taught me to read music before I went to kindergarten. She just turned 88, and she still wants to learn to improvise. I tell her some things, but she doesn't remember. She was always positive about my ambitons, told me to follow my heart. My father was a part-time jazz musician, played saxophone and clarinet and sang. He was into Coleman Hawkins, had an Otto Link mouthpiece, had a big sound like Hawkins. He transcribed Hawkins' "Body and Soul" solo when it came out in 1939. I'm sure Dad's the reason I play saxophone. He was very well known in the Akron, Ohio area, and I got to hear him in clubs. When I was five at a club called Welch's they got me up on the stage, and I sang "I'm Looking over a Four Leaf Clover." Everything stopped-the cooks came out of the kitchen, and the waitresses stopped waiting. I loved that. In a way Dad kind of terrified me. When I was fourteen I was in a solo contest, and he came to hear me. I had a school alto, a piece of crap. I was playing "Valse Impromptu" by Clyde Doerr. A key came off the horn and hit the floor. My dad was furious. He said, "Next year you're going to play 'Come to Jesus' in C!" He went out and grudgingly bought me a brand new alto, a Pan American, not a very good make. It eventually turned green from the acid in my system. The better I got at it the more he didn't want me to be a musician. There was a dance band in my high school, but all we did was play twice a year for the school plays. When I was 16 my Dad brought home some Kenton records, and I really started getting into them. I got a partial scholarship to Ohio State where Burdette Green, a wise man, was my saxophone teacher. When I was 20 he got me my first gig, a seven-piece band with four horns. I was the youngest guy in the band by ten years, and I played baritone. I worked my way through college mostly on baritone. Burdette is still teaching at 76. We saw him last summer. I played him the Temptation CD, and he was so proud.

Playing vs. bandleading

My master's degree is in woodwinds performance. I still play at the Mancini Institute just to let them know the old man knows what he's talking about. If something comes along I do it. I played a wedding reception a while ago for some good money with four pieces, some Frank Sinatra songs. I used to play soprano on certain tunes with my big band, but as time went on we didn't play those tunes any more. I would rather focus on the music, the performance and let these guys shine. That's one of the things they appreciate about me—I give them the opportunity to stretch out. When I was still teaching at Northridge I would do a few clinics and concerts at various places. I almost always played at those.

Classic American songwriters

I love their abilities to write great melodies: George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington. Gershwin's orchestrations were pretty lame, but Porgy and Bess —Oh man!

Bela Bartok

I always told my students music is three things: imagination, logic, and clarity. Bartok could take a flute and put it in the middle of an orchestra, and you could still hear that flute. His Concerto for Orchestra , the 1923 Dance Suite , The Miraculous Mandarin. He wrote a piece for antiphonal string orchestras (two separate string sections), percussion, and celesta in about 1936. It pre-dates stereophonic sound. I arranged two of the four movements for Zanzibar with jazz solos in the middle. That was really fun to conduct with a lot of odd meter stuff. I kept the antiphonal idea—my woodwinds and French horns became my other string section.

Claus Ogerman

I love his string writing. The stuff he did for Diana Krall on that Look of Love album. Gate of Dreams —he wrote it for a New York dance company in the 1970's with Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, and George Benson. Symbiosis with Bill Evans. The record he did with Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim-it's just a string section, a flute or two, and a trombone with a felt mute. I found a wonderful Gene Lees Jazzletter online that devoted the entire issue to Ogerman.

Oliver Nelson

For my 20th birthday my great aunt gave me five bucks. I bought Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. It was over my head at first, but eventually I transcribed "Stolen Moments" the great jazz standard he wrote for that album and used it in my classes. I knew Oliver. I first met him at the very first jazz festival I took my Ohio State Band to in 1964. He approached me and asked to see one of the pieces I had written. I got out the score, and he critiqued it for me. He loved some of it and was critical of other parts of it. Two years later he borrowed some of my ideas for the opening of one of his "Sound Pieces." He was also a judge when we won in Miami in 1967. Bill Fowler brought him out to Utah on several occasions. I got drunk with Oliver once. I was barfing in his toilet, and he kept asking, "Are you okay, man?" And I performed with him at least twice at the Monterey Jazz Festival when I was director of the All-Star High School Jazz Band. He even called me up from time to time. The last time he did that he told me that his hand was rejecting the pencil. He was working too hard writing music for The Six Million Dollar Man TV show. His condition didn't sound good. I moved to LA in September 1975, and he died suddenly the next month. I always wondered if Oliver would have been able to open some doors for me. He certainly seemed to appreciate my talent. I have always treasured the times I got to spend with that very creative man.

Other inspirational composers

Gerald Wilson rhythmically. He gets down and dirty. Those albums he did in the 1960's for Pacific Jazz. We just saw him at IAJE, and he remembered my Ohio State band from the Notre Dame Jazz Festival. Gil Evans for the colors, the tension, the clusters. Those albums he did with Miles Davis. Johnny Mandel-the album Pearls with David Sanborn, about 1993. Sanborn gets a wonderful sound with that orchestra behind him. Mozart for his cleanliness, melodies, and integrity. Every note is right.

Inspirational soloists

Cannonball Adderley for his earthiness and swing. Phil Woods—you can hear the Parker in him, but I'm not much of a Parker fan the way I am with Cannonball and Phil. Gene Ammons-I transcribed his "My Romance" solo [ Boss Tenor , 1960] and learned it. Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis for his fire, energy, and command. The Basie Band would be playing. It was so wonderful itself, but Lockjaw would notch it up a couple of degrees when he soloed. Miles Davis took me a while to get next to. Kind of Blue opened a new door after bebop, and I tell my students at the Mancini Institute to buy it. Bitches Brew didn't have the immediacy for me.

The Henry Mancini Institute (HMI)

It's for four weeks in the summer. They take over the music building at UCLA. Jack Elliot started it, and when he died Patrick Williams became the artistic director. Last year they auditioned 500 students from all over the world. They pick an orchestra of 77, and they pick seven composers. There's a big band within the orchestra. All they have to do is get themselves to Los Angeles. Everything is scholarshipped. They work really hard for four weeks, and they do a lot of performances. I teach beginning and intermediate improv. These students at HMI are all at a very high level. Because they're orchestrally trained for the most part they don't know much about jazz. It's amazing how fast they can progress. I give them ideas about scales and what notes to emphasize and tell them it's okay to make mistakes. My class this year was seven of the eight legit winds, five French horns, a tuba, and a harp. Because I have Sibelius now the instrumentation doesn't matter. I can write lead sheets for whatever I want to do. (They're mostly modal tunes.) Last year I had almost all string players.

Inspiring musicians to play at their best/conducting
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