Ken Poston's Big Band Showcase: You Had to Be There
Even though Vax's band was roaring, things were about to become a whole lot louder, as trumpeter Eric Miyashiro led an all-star tribute to Maynard Ferguson, and especially to MF's more rock-centered ensembles of the '70s. Frankly, I never thought I'd hear another trumpeter who could nail seemingly unreachable high notes as cleanly and consistently as Maynard, but Miyashiro not only does so, he makes it seem ridiculously easy, as Maynard did. Those listeners who hadn't brought ear plugsespecially those seated near the front of the auditoriumwere in for a rough go. Following the opening theme, Joe Zawinul's "Birdland, guest baritone Bruce Johnstone cut loose on the ubiquitous "Stay Loose with Bruce (known by many other names according to who was soloing). Another guest (and Ferguson alum), trumpeter Stan Mark, was engaging on "The Way We Were, Billy Kerr's flute nimbly expressive on the "Theme from Star Trek, while Johnstone and trombonist Nick Lane traded thunderbolts on "SuperBone Meets the Bad Man. "Primal Scream was precisely as advertised, with Jerry Pinter soloing on tenor and Biff Hannon on electric piano (which he played throughout, complementing drummer Hobbs and electric bassist Kenny Wild). Noday's high-register trumpet slowed the pace on "Maria while paving the way for the frenetic closer, "Left Bank Express (Kerr, soprano sax; Summers, trumpet; Johnstone, baritone sax). Ears still ringing, we made our way upstairs to bed, on the one hand elated, on the other realizing we still had another day to go.
Sunday 7 October...
Sunday morning's film, which included a rare clip of the UK's Tubby Hayes Big Band along with others by Ray Charles, the Clarke-Boland band, Oliver Nelson, Jimmy Owens, Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis and Buddy Rich (introduced by Bobby Darin) playing the "West Side Story Suite, was followed by the Fullerton College poolside concert and a fifth panel, this one introducing John and Jeff Clayton and Jeff Hamilton (co-leaders of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) and Chris Walden, moderated by Larry Hathaway.
Following the panel discussion, Walden hurried over to the main ballroom to lead the Chris Walden Big Band in a program comprised of his stylish arrangements. Walden, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, and cut his musical teeth in the country's premier youth band, BuJazzO, has been in the U.S for a dozen years and has carved a successful career writing for film, television and other outlets. He opened with the up-tempo "Winter Games, David Foster's theme for the XX Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Brisk solo by tenor Brandon Fields, powerful drumming courtesy of Dick Weller. Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star, featuring alto Kim Richmond, and the standard "Polka Dots and Moonbeams, lovingly caressed by trumpeter Bobby Shew, were sandwiched around the lively original "In the Doghouse, with appropriate barks by Shew, alto Rob Lockart and pianist Alan Steinberger. Also on the menu were Clifford Brown's delicious "Joy Spring (a dynamic trumpet "duel between Shew and former student Kye Palmer) and two well-received numbers by guest vocalist Tierney Sutton, "People Will Say We're in Love and a haunting ballad whose name I didn't catch.
As the finish line neared, it was time for the inimitable Jack Sheldon and his ensemble to serve up a pre-supper appetizer. Jack was in great form, vocally, on trumpet and in the trademark one-liners he has honed to perfection. "I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, he observed. "The doctor took one look at me and sewed my mother's knees together. And again: "I was married for twenty yearsthen my wife started doing what I'd been doing. Risqué, yes, but the guy is funnyalways has been. And he leads a talented group of musicians, even though there's seldom any doubt that it's "The Jack Sheldon Big Band. Jack sang on six of the eleven numbers and was featured on trumpet on "Stardust. And between tunes he commanded the stage, casually seated on a stool to the left of the band (from the audience's view). The vocals were on "Just in Time, "The Way You Look Tonight, "Tangerine, It Had to Be You, a lovely balled called "Where Do You Start, and "Our Love Is Here to Stay. Trumpeter Charlie Davis was showcased on the theme from Beauty and the Beast, trombonist Andy Martin on "Caravan" and an opening blues whose name scurried past me. The closer was a no-holds-barred version of Ray Noble's "Cherokee that accommodated brief solos by everyone in the band, section by section.