Jazz in Albuquerque: Down But Not Out
News came while this was being written of the passing at age 80 of composer/arranger/bandleader Tom Talbert, accurately described by Scott Yanow in The All Music Guide to Jazz (3rd edition) as "one of the finest arrangers of the past half century but . . . quite underrated due to the relatively few recordings he has made as a leader. Those he did make, however, are minor classics, beginning with The Tom Talbert Jazz Orchestra 1946-49 and including Bix Duke Fats, Louisiana Suite, Things as They Are, The Warm Café and This Is Living! The sidemen in Talbert's earliest orchestras included pianists Claude Williamson and Dodo Marmarosa and saxophonists Art Pepper, Jack Montrose and Lucky Thompson. I had the pleasure of meeting and later corresponding with Talbert, and his music reflected his personality unpretentious and genteel. That's not to imply that Talbert's charts didn't swing they did, and frequently, else he wouldn't have been employed as an arranger for the likes of Claude Thornhill, Johnny Smith, Oscar Pettiford, Don Elliott and others. Among the friends and colleagues who recorded with Talbert over the years are trumpeters Joe Wilder and Bob Summers, trombonist Eddie Bert, saxophonists Lee Callet and Danny Bank, clarinetist Aaron Sachs and guitarist Howard Alden. They'll miss him, as will I.
Harold Arlen: One of the Greats
I learned while reading a Jazz magazine that 2005 is the centenary of the birth of songwriter Harold Arlen, born Hyman Arluck in Buffalo, NY, on February 15, 1905. As a writer, Arlen had nothing and everything to do with Jazz. He wrote popular songs, with a number of lyricists, and while they weren't Jazz to begin with, many have been played by Jazz musicians of all stripes ever since. Little wonder, as the melodies are sublime while the rhythmic and harmonic patterns are as congenial as hand to glove. A partial listing of Arlen's compositions should give you an idea of what I mean by that. Here it is:
Get Happy; Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; I Got a Right to Sing the Blues; Paper Moon; Stormy Weather; I've Got the World on a String; As Long as I Live; Ill Wind; A Sleeping Bee; Over the Rainbow; Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead; If I Only Had a Brain; Blues in the Night; This Time the Dream's on Me; That Old Black Magic; Hit the Road to Dreamland; My Shining Hour; One for My Baby; Come Rain or Come Shine; When the Sun Comes Out; The Man That Got Away; Last Night When We Were Young; Let's Fall in Love; Hittin' the Bottle; Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe.
As noted, a partial list but one that is nonetheless impressive. Although he's not as well-known as Porter, Berlin, Gershwin, Rodgers and other authors of the Great American Songbook even some of those who play his music may not know who wrote it Harold Arlen's body of work has weathered the test of time and stands up well when measured against any of his peers. Music in general, and Jazz in particular, would be much poorer without it.
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild
When I first heard the name Manchester Craftsmen's Guild I thought surely it must be a British union of some sort. Not so. Actually, the MCG is based in Pittsburgh, PA, and one of its components is an arts and music program, one of whose goals is "to preserve, present and promote Jazz. It does this through performances, master classes, internships and recordings. Those who have recorded on the MCG label include Paquito D'Rivera and the United Nation Orchestra, Ivan Lins, the Count Basie Orchestra, Joe Negri, Nancy Wilson, the New York Voices, the Bob Mintzer Big Band with Kurt Elling, Nicole Yarling, Slide Hampton's World of Trombones and, most recently, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The MCG Jazz archives contain more than three hundred CDs of Jazz history by those who represent the past, present and future of the music, while the performance series, one of the country's oldest, is an anchor of Pittsburgh's cultural and community life. All proceeds from MCG Jazz recordings go to help fund the MCG Jazz programs, which carry forward the vision of founder Bill Strickland: "Our lives will be enriched, even transformed, through direct involvement in the making of art and personal exposure to the masters who teach and perform it. For information about MCG Jazz, phone 412-322-1773 or visit the web site.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!
New and Noteworthy