And now, as John Cleese used to announce on the BBC’s Monty Python comedy series, for something completely different. Well, perhaps not completely, but at least different enough to arouse one’s curiosity and engage his/her attention. Clare Fischer, best known for his Latin–leaning compositions and arrangements for groups of various sizes both foreign and domestic, ventures into a new and substantially uncharted realm with his Jazz Corps, a full–blown marching band complete with bugles, French horns and half a dozen clarinets cleverly disguised to resemble an orthodox Jazz ensemble. Thanks to Fischer’s superior arranging skills, the disguise is seldom less than convincing. The charts are for the most part deep and Holmanesque, and while they usually swing, they do so prudently and without the explosive impact of most conformably arrayed ensembles. “Cherokee” opens in customary marching–band style before proceeding to a Jazzier groove with bright solos by Shelton on clarinet, Huffsteter on mellophone bugle, Harrington on tenor sax and Saunders on trumpet. On this number and “Fuzz Blues,” Fischer overdubs the 20 brass and six clarinets to produce a band with 40 brass and a dozen woodwinds. On “Konitz’s Lover Man,” whose melody, played by four alto saxophones and one tenor, is based on a transcription made by Fischer in 1953 of Konitz’s solo, he overdubs again to form a section consisting of eight altos and two tenors. While ponderous, the weight of these variations is never enough to scuttle the enterprise. The somber “Corcovado Fúnebre” came to Fischer in a dream following the death in 1994 of Antonio Carlos Jobim; “The Herd Moves On,” whose bass–heavy opening passage represents the lumbering movement of elephants, was inspired by a televison documentary about their threatened extinction; “Hey James” is a high–stepping tribute to bandleader Jimmie Lunceford (on which Shelton sparkles again, this time on alto); and “Neophonic Piece,” composed some 30 years ago, was written for but never used by Stan Kenton's neophonic orchestra. Other soloists of note include Gary Foster (alto sax, alto clarinet), Andy Martin (marching trombone) and Fischer himself at the piano. This is a colorful, off-the-beaten-path performance that should enhance the image of marching bands while giving big-band Jazz enthusiasts abundant pleasure.
Clare Fischer, leader, composer, arranger, keyboards; Charlie Davis, lead trumpet; Carl Saunders, trumpet; Lee Thornberg, Scott Wright, soprano bugle; Mitch Mocilnikar, Dave Martin, alto bugle; Steve Huffsteter, Mike Sullivan, Larry Hall, mellophone bugle; Les Benedict, Eb flugelhorn, Eb cornet, helicon tuba; David Duke, Stephanie Furry, Suzette Moriarty, Paul Loredo, French horn; Andy Martin, Dick Hamilton, marching trombone; Alex Iles, Morris Repass, marching baritone; Wendell Kelly, baritone bugle; Rod Matthews, contrabass bugle; Dave Carpenter, electric bass; Steve Schaeffer, drums; Brent Fischer, percussion; Don Shelton, soprano, alto saxes, clarinet; Sam Karam, alto, tenor saxes, clarinet; Gary Foster, alto sax, alto clarinet, clarinet; Terry Harrington, tenor sax, clarinet; Lee Callet, alto, baritone saxes, bass clarinet; Bob Carr, soprano, bass saxes, contrabass clarinet.
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I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.