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

Jack Bowers By

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Following lunch, a Kenton Alumni panel discussion, moderated by Larry Hathaway, needed more chairs, as the number of alumni taking part was almost as large as the audience (an exaggeration, but not by a wide margin). Hathaway asked each of the alums to talk about how he became acquainted with Kenton and got on the band, which was more than enough fodder to consume an hour. The panelists were Bob Curnow, Bill Mathieu, Joel Kaye, Bill Trujillo, Peter Erskine, Carl Saunders, Mike Suter, Al Yankee and one non-alumnus who was nevertheless close to Kenton as an educator, Jack Wheaton.

Speaking of Jack Wheaton, he was one of several panelists who had to leave early, as he was leading the Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra of Southern California in the afternoon's opening concert, less than half an hour after the panel discussion. The CNO began its performance with a fanfare from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (nicely played) and followed with a Mike Barone arrangement of "Besame Mucho," Carlos Santana's "Europa," "Intermission Riff," "Street of Dreams," "Artistry in Bolero," "Perdido" and Johnny Richards' arrangement of the ballad "Somewhere," from West Side Story. The large orchestra included one French horn player, Emalina Thompson (spelling courtesy of Jeff Thompson, no relation), and she was quite good. Also, Wheaton revealed along the way that one of his trumpeters is named Miles Davis! (no, he didn't solo). These are, as Wheaton noted, among the cream of the crop when it comes to college jazz musicians in Southern California (most were from Cal State-Fullerton or Cal State-Long Beach), and they were alert and ready for action. The preparedness showed, as every number was played with enthusiasm and assurance.

Between the afternoon and evening concerts, and shortly before suppertime, the aforementioned Meet the Alumni reception was held on a patio adjoining the Marquis Ballroom. As several of the alumni were rehearsing for the evening performance, they attended the gathering as best they could. The weather was brisk, as it had been all week, while the food, such as it was, consisted mainly of cheese and crackers (with some fruit added). Betty and I departed early and went to supper.

When we returned, it was almost time for the grand finale, a performance by an all-star big band comprised partly of Kenton alumni and directed in order by Bill Mathieu and Bob Curnow. By my count, there were about a dozen or so alumni in the orchestra including its sparkplug, drummer Peter Erskine. Mathieu, one of Kenton's (undeservedly) lesser-known arrangers, led a program that consisted wholly of his superlative charts and partly of songs from the classic album Standards in Silhouette, which Mathieu arranged. Those songs were "Willow Weep for Me" (which led off both the concert and the album) and "The Thrill Is Gone." One of Mathieu's more recent charts, "The Whole Man" (a snappy tribute to Bill Holman featuring trumpeter Carl Saunders) was among the highlights. To complete the program, Mathieu chose "Skylark," "I Loves You Porgy" and three more of his tasteful originals, "Keeps," "Magic Lantern" and the intrepid closer, "Blues New." Besides Saunders, the ardent soloists included alto Selden, tenors Trujillo and Yankee, trombonist Eric Jorgensen and bassist John Belzaguy. Several of Mathieu's unrecorded charts, by the way, can be heard on the new album Double Feature, Vol. 2 (Tantara Productions 1127), expertly performed by the NOVA Jazz Orchestra from Minneapolis.

After a brief intermission, Bob Curnow took the baton to crown the Kenton tribute with a series of his own dynamic charts, starting with a crowd-pleasing choice, "The Star Spangled Banner" (from the Kenton album National Anthems of the World, which Curnow arranged). Next up was the theme from the James Bond film Live and Let Die, followed by Erskine's drum showcase, "Artistry in Percussion," and a feature for pianist Rich Eames, the lovely "Interlude." Erskine, Jorgensen, Eames, trombonist Les Benedict and baritone Joel Kaye shared blowing space on Curnow's "Chicago III Suite," while trumpeter Bobby Shew was featured on the ballad "My Foolish Heart." Curnow ended the concert and the remembrance on a high note, presenting his heartwarming and picturesque "Kenton Kollage," written for and first performed by Germany's world-class SWR Big Band on the album Towednack (CK Records, 2002). Needless to say, the audience rose en masse to confer a standing ovation as the Kollage's endmost theme, "Artistry in Rhythm," neared its breathtaking conclusion. What a glorious way to end an arduous yet thoroughly gratifying five days of scintillating West Coast Jazz!


With "Modern Sounds" ended and fading rapidly into the rear-view mirror, the question before the bar is: do Ken Poston and his hard-working sidekick, Eric Frankhauser, ever sleep? Already the theme and (partial) lineup for next May's semi-annual event have been announced. "Music for Moderns," featuring big-band themes from the post-war period that witnessed the birth of bebop and progressive jazz, is set for May 24-27, again at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Here's a foretaste of what's in store: music by the Dizzy Gillespie, Boyd Raeburn, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, Gene Krupa and Chubby Jackson big bands (the last performing Tiny Kahn's incendiary charts); Duke Ellington's Liberian Suite; Woody Herman's concert works (Ebony Concerto, Summer Sequence and more); Tadd's Delight: the Music of Tadd Dameron; Charlie Ventura's Bop for the People; Krazy Kat: Artie Shaw's 1949 big band and Gramercy 5; New Directions: Woody Herman's Woodchoppers; The Real Birth of the Cool: Music of Claude Thornhill featuring arrangements by Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan; Fuller Bop Man: Music of Gil Fuller; the Buddy Rich Alumni Band; and Norman Granz' "The Jazz Scene" featuring the arrangements of Mulligan and Eddie Finckel. See anything you like? For information, phone 562-200-5477 or check out the website, www.lajazzinstitute.org

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin' . . . !

New & Noteworthy

1. John MacLeod Rex Hotel Orchestra, Our First Set (no label)

2. Sammy Nestico / SWR Big Band, Fun Time and More Live (Haenssler)

3. Rodger Fox's Wellington Jazz Orchestra, Journey Home (Tbone)

4. Dave Stahl Band, From A to Z (Abee Cake)

5. Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Legacy (Mack Avenue)

6. Tempest Little Big Band, 'Round Midnight (Tempest Jazz)

7. Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Fleet Street (Max Frank Music)

8. Peter Tenner Jazz Orchester, 10117 Berlin (Mons)

9. Dave Grusin, An Evening with Dave Grusin (Heads Up)

10. Tim Davies Big Band, Dialmentia (Origin)

11. Mt. Hood Jazz Band & Combos, Gan Bei (Sea Breeze Vista)

12. Magnetic Big Band, Repetition (Black & Blue)

13. Marine Corps All-Star Jazz Band, Play with Honor (USMC Jazz)

14. Tromso Big Band, In Traffic (Turnleft)

15. U.S Naval Academy Band, Next Wave (USNA)

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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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