The Mancini Institute: A Beacon of Light
"In the past decade, big bands have definitely not made a comeback. Still, musicians who love to play this music, and fans such as you, who love to listen to it still exist. Though we may be few in number, we are, nevertheless, determined to keep this great tradition alive; to keep the Emperor clothed in purple and gold, not rags. It's just that we're surrounded by charlatans these days, poseurs, fakes totally naked 'Emperors and Empresses of Jazz' who are touted by one and all as 'the next Ella,' 'the next Frank,' 'the next Dizzy,' 'the next Miles,' when they should in fact be run out of town on the next available rail for impersonating Jazz musicians. They are anything but. Strangely enough, though, it's not these Jazz quacks themselves who are tooting their own out-of-tune horns. It's the big music business guys, the managers, the producers who are really to blame. You know who they are. Their names appear on every new, young, hot thing's new, dull CD. Yawwwwwwn.
"Not to go off on too lengthy a rant here, but the people running this business of ours have, for the most part, seemingly taken leave of their senses, and foremost among the five, hearing. They are really in the business of 'discovering' the next great, young, sexy, young, awesome, young . . . And, most importantly, young new talent. Like (not-so) wise men on camels, this self-ordained group of producers, record executives, marketing directors and, yes, even some disc jockeys and music critics, have been doing their best to obscure any real talent out here, those few brave souls singing and jamming in the wilderness who are trying their damnedest to keep alive the great legacy of our music. If there's a star in the East, these guys will miss it. The names Ellington, Basie, Miles, Ella, Sarah, Carmen and Billie are bandied about today by the tone-deaf wise guys to describe their mostly teen-aged discoveries. For the life of me, I don't have a clue as to what these folks' qualifications or musical expertise might be discoverers and discoveries alike but, in comparing Ellas to oranges, and apples to Ellingtons, they have all but obliterated the meaning of the legacy left us by honest-to-God legendary artists. For much of the listening public and, certainly, for the majority of record executives (who are either scared of losing their jobs or too young ever to have actually heard Billie Holiday or Count Basie), what constitutes good Jazz and good Jazz singing corresponds to whichever juvenile artist sold the most records in the last quarter.
"I have seen the new crop of Jazz Emperors and Empresses, and they have no clothes.
"Okay, I admit that taste in music is somewhat relative. What swings for one puts another to sleep. But what, in my opinion, is not relative, and never will be, is bad time, bad phrasing, bad tone and bad pitch. No amount of background strings and artful lighting is going to morph Tiny Tim into Miles Davis. Funny, most of us used to be able to hear the difference between the two, and weren't afraid to admit it. Well, enough for now. Meanwhile, my sincerest thanks go out to those few, brave, time-perfect and in-tune souls who, ignoring mainstream, heavily subsidized trends, continue to create the music we all used to love real music produced by the fully clothed Emperors and Empresses of Jazz. But hey, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong." Dean Pratt
Thanks, Dean, for the breath of fresh air. And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!
New and Noteworthy
1. Ralph Pyl's Sydney All-Star Big Band, Pyldriver (New Market Music)
2. Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra, Herb's Book (FJO)
3. Joe Elefante Big Band, Vanity Fair (JEBB)
4. SWR Big Band / Rob McConnell, So Very Rob (Hanssler)
5. Dave Holland Big Band, Overtime (Dare2 Records)
6. North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band, Lab 2004 (UNT Jazz)
7. Lincoln Center Jazz Orchesta, A Love Supreme (Palmetto)
8. University of Northern Iowa, The Unlikely Event (Sea Breeze Vista)
9. Spokane Jazz Orchestra, It's About Time (SJO)
10. Cal State Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble, The Unlikely Event (CSLA)
11. Sherisse Rogers's Project Uprising, Sleight of Hand (no label)
12. Galen Jeter and Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra, Big 30 (JazzMark)
13. Rodger Fox Big Band, A Rare Connection (T-Bone)
14. Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, WJO (WJO)
15. Temple (TX) Jazz Orchestra, Live with Bill Watrous (TJO)