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"Modern Sounds," or: Running a Marathon in Full Body Armor

Jack Bowers By

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From October 19-25 Betty and I were at the Los Angeles Marriott Airport Hotel to attend Modern Sounds, the L.A. Jazz Institute's four-day salute to West Coast jazz, followed by a day-long tribute to Stan Kenton on the hundredth anniversary of the legendary bandleader's birth. We arrived a day early to be primed and ready for the event, which began at 8:30 Thursday morning with the first of four hour-long film mosaics and continued almost non-stop until somewhere around ten o'clock Sunday evening when the Gerald Wilson Orchestra completed the last of twenty-five concerts. The Kenton festival got under way at 10 o'clock Monday morning with an hour and a half of archival film and audio clips, followed by a panel discussion featuring Kenton alumni, concerts by the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California and an all-star orchestra partially comprised of Kenton alumni, and a late afternoon "meet the alumni" reception with drinks (no soft drinks that I could find, so I used a water fountain) and finger food.

Before delving into the particulars of Modern Sounds, it should be noted that on Wednesday evening I felt a slight soreness in the throat, which usually heralds the onset of a head cold, and realized I hadn't brought with me any extra vitamin C capsules, my first line of defense against that particular illness. Sure enough, by Thursday morning the cold had taken hold, and it was an unwelcome but resolute companion during the rest of our stay in Los Angeles. The weather certainly didn't help (temperatures at the four poolside concerts were chilly enough to make a Minnesotan shiver, with a brisk ocean breeze making it seem even colder), nor did my own absent-mindedness. Betty had insisted that I bring a jacket ("It may be cold," she cautioned) and, after resisting (and grousing), I relented and let her bring one for me. Unfortunately, on Wednesday, while en route to the hotel, she asked me told hold the jacket as she tended to some other business, and it hasn't been seen since. Like it or not, shirtsleeves would thereafter be the uniform of choice. Suck it up and move on, Bowers.

Two more brief items to note: Pete Rugolo, the chief architect of the "Kenton sound" whose compositions and arrangements were rekindled Thursday by a big band led by John Altman, died October 16, only four days before the performance, at age ninety-five, recasting what was to have been a celebration of his music (at which it was hoped he might be present) into a memorial concert. Second, composer / arranger Russell Garcia, also ninety-five, who was to have led a big band and smaller Wigville ensemble, fell several days before the event was to open and damaged a vertebra, making travel impossible. Even after the fall, Garcia was determined to make the trip but his doctor insisted otherwise, and Russ reluctantly stayed in New Zealand.

Thursday, October 20

Thursday's opening film, "The Birth of West Coast Jazz," embodied clips of Kenton, Rugolo, Woody Herman, Dave Brubeck, June Christy, Art Pepper, Laurindo Almeida, Maynard Ferguson and Teddy Edwards, among others. It was followed in short order by LAJI skipper Ken Poston's audio-visual presentation, "Dr. Wesley La Violette and the West Coast Sound," appraising the remarkable career of a classical composer / arranger whose influence as an educator helped shaped the musical perspectives of Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre and other young musicians, and contributed to the emergence of the "West Coast sound."

The weekend's first concert, at poolside, was led, appropriately enough, by tenor saxophonist Dave Pell, an early exponent of West Coast jazz whose popular octet emerged in the mid-1950s from the Les Brown Orchestra, in whose ranks Pell served from 1947-55, and included such well-known artists as Marty Paich, Mel Lewis, Don Fagerquist, Pepper Adams, Art Pepper, Benny Carter, Ronny Lang, Jack Sperling and Red Mitchell. This time around, the group included Pell, trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist Andy Martin, baritone Bob Efford, pianist John Campbell, guitarist Barry Zweig, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Frank Capp. The octet opened with "Jazz Junction" (which sounded to me like "Little Orphan Annie") and continued with (mostly) standards: "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "Have You Met Miss Jones," "Angel Eyes," "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Mountain Greenery" along with one original, "Crescendo Date." Most of the charts were by Paich. Soloists were first-class, with Martin featured on the ballad "If I Had You." I'd always thought Lorenz Hart was being facetious when he included the line "hates California, it's cold and it's damp" in "The Lady Is a Tramp," but seated at poolside for this concert I started to believe he was simply being honest.

The Rugolo concert was next up, in the Marriott's Marquis Ballroom. Altman had assembled a sharp and well-rehearsed band (with two capable subs: trumpeter Jeff Bunnell for Bijon Watson, drummer Chuck Flores for Ralph Razze) for a program that included a number of Rugolo's eloquent compositions and arrangements, opening with "Painted Rhythm" and closing with "Fawncy Meeting You." Sandwiched between were Sy Oliver's "Dreaming of You," the Kenton classic "Eager Beaver," "Nancy with the Laughing Face," "Minor Riff," "2/3 Oscar, 1/3 Pete's Blues," "Southern Scandal" and "Artistry in Rhythm." There were classy solos along the way by saxophonists Gene Cipriano and Roger Neumann, trumpeters Kye Palmer and Jeff Kaye, pianist Rich Eames and even tubaist Bryant Byers (whose father, Billy Byers, may have written "Fawncy Meeting You," perhaps for the Count Basie Orchestra; Bryant said he didn't know).

Tags

Big Band Report Jack Bowers United States Stan Kenton Pete Rugolo John Altman Russ Garcia Woody Herman Dave Brubeck June Christy Art Pepper Laurindo Almeida Maynard Ferguson Teddy Edwards Shorty Rogers Jimmy Giuffre Dave Pell Marty Paich Mel Lewis Don Fagerquist Pepper Adams Benny Carter, Jack Sperling Red Mitchell Carl Saunders Andy Martin Bob Efford John Campbell Barry Zweig Richard Simon Frank Capp Jeff Bunnell Bijon Watson Chuck Flores Sy Oliver Gene Cipriano Roger Neumann Kye Palmer Jeff Kaye Billy Byers Count Basie Gerry Mulligan Chet Baker Paul Desmond Gerald Wilson Joe Pass Bob Brookmeyer Jack Sheldon Chico Hamilton Clifford Brown Zoot Sims Bud Shank Jack Montrose Jim Hall Bill Perkins Shelly Manne Peter Erskine Bill Holman Billy Kerr Bob Enevoldsen John Williams Bob Sheppard Terry Gibbs Ron Stout Jeff Hamilton Adam Schroeder Serge Chaloff Joel Kaye Fred Selden John Daversa Art Farmer Harry Babasin Bob Cooper Russ Freeman John Beasley Ken Wild Paul Kreibich Johnny Mandel Johnny Richards Charles Owens Les Koenig Sonny Rollins Ornette Coleman benny golson Hampton Hawes Barney Kessel Woody Shaw Curtis Counce Leroy Vinnegar Bobby Shew Jacques Voyemant Matt Harris Jennifer Hall John Pisano Putter Smith Gene Krupa Adam Cohen Eric Hughes Pete Christlieb Doug Webb Francisco Torres Andre Previn Buddy Collette Red Norvo Harold Land Carmell Jones Victor Feldman Duane Tatro Bob Summers Joey Sellers Ray Brinker Rick Keller Trey Henry Lanny Morgan Andrew Lippman Jim Self Steve Schaeffer Tiny Kahn Ira Nepus George Bohannon John Chiodini Chuck Berghofer Alan Kaplan Mel Torme Pete Jolly Lou Levy Anita O'Day Richie Kamuca Frank Rosolino John Graas Bob Carr Jennifer Leitham Dick Weller Spud Murphy Benny Goodman Rick Shaw Mike Lang Stevie Wonder Louis Taylor kamasi washington Ron Barrows Anthony Wilson Howard Rumsey duke ellington Bob Curnow Bill Trujillo Mike Suter Al Yankee Mike Barone Carlos Santana John Belzaguy Dizzy Gillespie Boyd Raeburn Charlie Barnet Chubby Jackson Tadd Dameron Charlie Ventura Artie Shaw Claude Thornhil Gil Evans Gil Fuller Buddy Rich Norman Granz Eddie Finckel

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