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

Jack Bowers By

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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).

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