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These Are a Few of My Favorite....Charts


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Whenever the topic of desert islands arises among jazz fans, the focus is invariably on which albums (discs) one would choose to cram into a suitcase if one were ever stranded on an otherwise barren island. While the consideration of particular arrangements seldom governs the debate, I really think it should. After all, few albums, however admirable, can be entirely engaging—highs and lows are inevitable, and some selections inescapably bestow more pleasure than others. A classic arrangement, on the other hand, is worth its weight in gold, as one can listen to it over and over again and marvel each time at its ingenuity, tastefulness and charm. With that in mind, I've given some thought to some of the big-band charts—not albums—I'd want by my side in the event that some catastrophic event should leave me marooned on a desert island. The list is by no means comprehensive; I'm sure there are many others that would give me enduring satisfaction as well.

With almost 2,400 big-band CDs in the garage / library, I can do no more than barely scratch the surface. These are merely a handful (an even hundred, actually) of arrangements that I've cherished over the years and can listen to time and again without becoming restless or bored. I'll begin by naming my personal Top Ten (a relatively easy task, as it turns out), with the remaining 90 listed in alphabetical order. Names of the arrangers are given in parentheses; an asterisk (*) denotes that the arranger is also the composer. Without further ado, here are a few of my favorite charts, starting with the ten gold medal winners.

1. Stompin' at the Savoy (Bill Holman has taken this well-worn jazz evergreen and remade it in his own incomparable style). 2. Love for Sale (little-known Pete Meyers is the man behind one of the most hard-driving big-band charts ever written). 3. When You're Smiling (Tom Kubis opens this seductive arrangement with a whisper and builds it to a breathtaking climax). 4. Big Swing Face (*Bill Potts' awesome chart makes even the superlative Buddy Rich ensemble sound better). 5. Young and Foolish (a lovely song, and an even lovelier chart by Frank Mantooth). 6. The Touch of Your Lips (one can almost feel the yearning and fulfillment in Canadian Rick Wilkins' tasteful arrangement). 7. Opus de Funk (Nat Pierce lets Horace Silver's memorable theme speak for itself, giving Woody Herman's Third Herd some of its finest moments). 8. Here's That Rainy Day (who can resist Dee Barton's lustrous score for unison trombones?). 9. Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Mike Barone has found a charming home on the range and made it swing like a lariat). 10. What's New (Bill Holman again, this time weaving his special magic around a garden-variety standard).

And here are the others:

A Little Minor Booze (*Willie Maiden). A Warm Breeze (*Sammy Nestico). After You've Gone (Bill Holman). Allisamba (*Allan Ganley). Always and Forever (Bob Curnow). Angel Eyes (Ray Brown). Autobahn Blues (*Ralph Burns). Autumn in New York (Rob McConnell). Baile Indio (*Raul Romero). Basie! (*Ernie Wilkins). Beyond the Sea (Frank Mantooth). Body and Soul (Bob Florence). Bossa Nova de Funk (*Willie Maiden). Bright Eyes (*Bill Holman). Bright Moon (*Jimmy Giuffre). Bweebida Bobbida (*Gerry Mulligan). Captain Perfect (*Alf Clausen). Carmelo's by the Freeway (*Bob Florence). Ceora (John Fedchock). Dancing Men (*John La Barbera). Day In, Day Out (Bill Holman). Del Sasser (Ray Brown). Dizzy's Business (*Ernie Wilkins). Dreamer of Dreams (*Jim Martinez). 88 Basie Street (*Sammy Nestico). Firm Roots (Dave Eshelman). 555 Feet High (*Bill Potts). Four Brothers (*Jimmy Giuffre). Frame for the Blues (*Slide Hampton). Frank Speaking (*Bill Russo).

The Heat's On (*Sammy Nestico). I Remember Clifford (*Benny Golson). It Might as Well Be Spring (Don Schamber). I Remember You (Bill Holman). (It's Just) Talk (Bob Curnow). Junk Mail Special (*Bob Florence). Just Friends (Rob McConnell). Just One of Those Things (Rob McConnell). Keeper of the Flame (*Shorty Rogers). Kingfish (*Bill Holman). La Fiesta (Kenichi Tsunoda). Laura (Jim Martin). Leo the Lion (*Tiny Kahn). Limehouse Blues (Phil Kelly). Little Pony (*Neal Hefti). Lookin' for the Back Door (*Alf Clausen). Main Street News (*Jim Martin). Mean to Me (Frank Mantooth). The Meaning of the Blues {Bill Mathieu). The Midnight Sun Will Never Set (*Quincy Jones). More Moon (*Shorty Rogers). My Shining Hour (Mark Anderson). Not Really the Blues (*Johnny Mandel). Not While I'm Around (Ed Vezinho). The Opener (*Bill Holman). Playground (*Bill Potts). Purple Porpoise Parkway (*Tom Kubis). Quintessence (Rob McConnell). The Red Door (*Gerry Mulligan / *Zoot Sims). Reuben's Blues (*Gene Roland).

Robbins Nest (Sammy Nestico). Sail Away (Jim Martin). Samba Dees Godda Do It (*Tom Kubis). Shhhhhhh! (*Bill Potts). Secret Love (Jim Martin). Short Stop (*Shorty Rogers). Sleep (Ralph Burns / Nat Pierce). Smile (Ed Vezinho). Soon (Don Schamber). Spain (Kenichi Tsunoda). Stella by Starlight (Slide Hampton). Strike Up the Band (Sammy Nestico). Summertime (Bill Potts). Swing House (*Gerry Mulligan). Symphony in Riffs (*Benny Carter). That Old Black Magic (Frank Mantooth). Them There Eyes (Rob McConnell). Time After Time (Don Schamber). Time for a Change (*Hank Levy). Titter Pipes (*Tommy Newsom). Tristesse (*Raul Romero). Tuxedo Junction (Gene Roland). Walkin' Shoes (*Gerry Mulligan). When Lights Are Low (*Benny Carter). Whirly Bird (*Neal Hefti). Willowcrest (*Bob Florence). Without a Song (Rick Stitzel). Ya Gotta Try (*Sammy Nestico). Young Blood (*Gerry Mulligan). Zoot! (*Bill Holman).

As noted, these charts comprise no more than a handful of the many wonderful big-band arrangements ensconced in the ever-growing library. If you have any personal favorites you'd like to share, I'd be more than happy to hear from you, as chances are they'd include some I've overlooked. Sorting through the library is a daunting task, and many of these were retrieved from memory. They are, however, charts that have given me great pleasure, and I can heartily commend them to anyone who appreciates the singular artistry and power of big-band jazz.

Jazzed Media Plans Woody Herman Documentary

Graham Carter, owner of Jazzed Media, one of the US' foremost big-band record labels, has announced plans to produce a documentary film, Blue Flame, examining the life of the legendary bandleader Woody Herman. Carter has already released documentaries on saxophonists Phil Woods (A Life in E Flat) and Bud Shank (Against the Tide) and is preparing a third, Artistry in Rhythm, on the life of Stan Kenton for release early in 2011.

Herman was responsible for bringing to the forefront a number of luminaries who cut their jazz teeth in his Thundering Herds including the brothers Pete and Conte Candoli, Flip Phillips, Neal Hefti, Terry Gibbs, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Sal Nistico, Bill Chase, Frank Tiberi, Alan Broadbent, Joe Lovano, John Fedchock and Jeff Hamilton. Herman's topnotch arrangers included Hefti, Ralph Burns, Nat Pierce, Shorty Rogers, Gene Roland, Gerry Mulligan and Bill Holman.

Artists currently appearing on the Jazzed Media label include Holman, Gibbs, Phil Woods, Bill Charlap, Brian Lynch, Hubert Laws, Marvin Stamm,Bill Mays, Carl Saunders, Don Menza, Christian Jacob, Scott Whitfield, Andy Martin, Lanny Morgan, Bobby Shew, Irene Kral, Bob Lark, Jeff and John Clayton, Lorraine Feather, Jim McNeely, Mel Martin, Frank Tiberi and Matt Wilson.

I'm Doing Fine; the Computer, Not So Good

Before departing, a word about August's physical problems, and that word is "gone," hopefully for a long time to come. On the other hand, the computer died early in September and was replaced by another, the bugs in which haven't yet been squashed. The old computer, whose monitor insisted on "going to sleep" every twenty minutes, was placed in the hands of Best Buy's widely ballyhooed Geek Squad who said they'd quickly found the problem and would have the computer in apple-pie order in a day or two at most. That was on September 14. On Saturday, September 18, the Geeks admitted the diagnosis was wrong, said they couldn't solve the problem and suggested that I buy a new computer, which I did that very day, authorizing them to transfer data from the old computer's hard drive to the newer one, a procedure, I was told, that would take two to three days at most. When I phoned five days later (September 22) to see how things were going, I was told that the data transfer hadn't been completed but that I should have the computer back that evening (Wednesday) or early Thursday morning. I visited Best Buy on Wednesday evening (Betty had some business there) and was told that Thursday afternoon seemed a more likely target. When I phoned Thursday evening (having heard nothing from the Geeks), I was assured that the data transfer would positively be completed by Friday morning. I called again at 10:30 a.m. Friday, and after the usual interminable wait, was told that the data transfer was "almost" complete. "Give us another hour or so and she'll be ready to go." I gave them more than that, arriving at Best Buy around two o'clock Friday afternoon. "Well, we just need ten or fifteen more minutes to wrap things up," quoth the Geeks. I left the store around 3:30 that afternoon, old and new computers in hand, eleven days after entrusting them to the Geek Squad. The moral, I suppose, is that one can take any estimated time quoted to repair a computer (or complete a simple data transfer) and multiply it by about three, especially when dealing with the over-praised Geek Squad.

Postscript: The computer worked fine all day Saturday, long enough for me to write this column. Sunday morning (today), I couldn't get it to start; no more than a black screen. So back it went to Best Buy, where one of the Geeks, Kyle, somehow got it up and running and changed the settings so the computer and monitor won't shut off automatically after twenty or so minutes (should have done that in the first place). Needless to say, I hope that's my last visit to the Geeks for a while. So far, so good . . .

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

New and Noteworthy

1. Les Hooper Band, Live at Typhoon (Hooperman Records)

2. Stan Kenton, This Is an Orchestra! (Tantara)

3. Allen Carter Big Band, Gifts (no label)

4. Des Moines Big Band, Landmark (No Label)

5. Timucua Jazz Orchestra, Live at Timucua (Timucua Arts Foundation)

6. Howard University Jazz Ensemble, Bright Moments (HUJE Jazz)

7. Michael Treni, Turnaround (Bell Production)

8. Riverside Community College, A Minor Case of the Blues (Sea Breeze Vista)

9. Makoto Ozone / No Name Horses, Jungle (Verve Japan)

10. Fred Hess Big Band, Hold On (Dazzle Records)

11. David Berger Jazz Orchestra, Sing Me a Love Song (Such Sweet Thunder)

12. Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, The Ikaros Suite (Sittel)

13. Fredonia Jazz Ensemble, Still Kickin' (FJE)

14. Waco Jazz Orchestra, Untitled (WJO)

15. John Dankworth Orchestra, At the Newport Jazz Festival, 1959 (Harkit)

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