Big Bands: Another Bumper Crop
With the end of the year peeking demurely over the horizon, it's a good time to glance over one's shoulder and concede that 2007 has yielded yet another bumper crop of big-band recordings. Yes, I am as puzzled as you are as to why this should be. After all, big bands, as we are told repeatedly, are dead and gone, never to return. Lively corpses, I'd say, and in some cases literally so, as among the "new releases are CDs by the Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Bobby Burgess, Maynard Ferguson, Gene Krupa and Illinois Jacquet bands.
Among those who are still with us, it's always a kick to hear new albums by the likes of Mike Barone, Wayne Bergeron, Blue Wisp, John Fedchock, Bob Florence, Bill Holman, Don Menza, Rob Parton, Jim Widner and Gerald Wilson, all of whom came through with flying colors in '07.
Listed below (in alphabetical order, so as not to ruffle anyone's feathers) are many of the outstanding big-band recordings of the year, most of which have been reviewed somewhere or other by this writer, with an apology to any that may have been inadvertently overlooked.
Anzic Orchestra/Anat Cohen, Noir.
Robert Bachner Big Band, Moments of Noise. Mike Barone Big Band, By Request. Wayne Bergeron, Plays Well with Others. Big Band Express, Born on the Road. Big Time Jazz Orchestra, Fanfare From Some Flounder? Birdland Big Band, The Lew Anderson Tribute Concert. Blue Wisp Big Band, Tribute. Boulevard Big Band, Live at Harlings Upstairs. BuJazzO, Calling South Africa. Bobby Burgess Big Band Explosion, Live at Rosenau Stuttgart. Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, Carol of the Bells. Igor Butman Big Band, The Eternal Triangle.
Columbus Jazz Orchestra, The Colors of Jazz. C.U.G. Jazz Orchestra, Going on the Road.
Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra, Messin' with Texas. James L. Dean Big Band, Swingin' at the Whisky Café. DePaul University Jazz Ensemble/Phil Woods, Swingchronicity.
European Youth Jazz Orchestra, Swingin' Europe 2006. Eveneven Big Band, Tiny Elephant.
Fat Tuesday Big Band/Ernie Krivda, Body & Soul. Tony Faulkner Jazz Orchestra, Thad Jones and the Ellington Effect. John Fedchock Big Band, Up and Running. Maynard Ferguson, The One and Only. Maynard Ferguson, MF Horn VI: Live at Ronnie Scott's. Maynard Ferguson, The Lost Tapes. Bob Florence Limited Edition, Eternal Licks and Grooves. Frank Foster's Loud Minority Big Band, Well Water. Rodger Fox Big Band, No Exit.
Global Jazz Orchestra, Global Standard Vol. II.
Johnny Holloway Big Band, Just Friends. Bill Holman Big Band, Hommage. Howard University Jazz Ensemble, Here's to Life! Steve Huffsteter Big Band, Live at Café 322.
Illinois Jacquet, Swingin' Live. Jentsch Group Large, Brooklyn Suite. Dick Johnson Big Band, Star Dust and Beyond. Jump City Jazz Orchestra, Live at Chris' Café.
Stan Kenton, Cool, Hot and Swingin'. Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Blues Man From Memphis. Dietrich Koch Big Band, Berlin Cookbook. Gene Krupa Orchestra / Michael Berkowitz, Thinking of Gene. Kutztown University Jazz Ensemble, Dance You Monster.
Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra, Maria Juanez. Jason Lindner Big Band, Live at the Jazz Gallery.
Jim Manley, Splendor in the Brass II. Ian McDougall Big Band, No Passport Required. Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra, First Flight. Dean McNeill Large Jazz Ensemble, Prairie Fire. Mesa Community College, Then and Now. Eric Miyashiro, Times Square. Mt Hood Community College, I'm Still Here.
NDR Big Band / Christina Fuchs, Soundscapes. New Big Band/John Blount, Better Days Ahead. New England Jazz Ensemble, Live at the Pittsfield City Jazz Festival. No Name Horses, Stinger. Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big Band, Words Cannot Express. Northeastern State University, The Point.
Rob Parton's JazzTech Big Band, Just One of Those Things.
Buddy Rich, Rich in London. Buddy Rich, Time Out.
Maria Schneider Orchestra, Sky Blue. Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra, Meeting of the Waters. Sentimental Journey Orchestra, On the Bandstand. Brad Steinwehe Jazz Orchestra, Nutville. Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, Forward Motion. Joe Sullivan Big Band, Stop and Listen. Swiss Jazz Orchestra/Jim McNeely, Paul Klee. SWR Big Band / Don Menza, Voyage.
Ohad Talmor Big Band/Lee Konitz, Portology. Texas Christian University, Leap Frog. Texas Instruments Big Band, AlgoRhythms. Texas Tech University, Glimmer of Night & Day. Gary Tole and the Legends of Swing, One Kettle for Count. Charles Tolliver Big Band, With Love.
University of Northern Colorado, Here in the Now. University Of Northern Iowa, Renovation. University Of Toronto 10 O'Clock Band, Awakening. University Of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Christmas Day, My Favorite Day.
Wayne Wallace, Dedication. Walsall Jazz Orchestra, Little Steps. Tracy Wells Big Swing Band, Swing Is Here. Westchester Jazz Orchestra, All In. Jim Widner Big Band, Out of This World. Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Monterey Moods. Thilo Wolf Big Band, Big Band Shout. Wurzburg Jazz Orchestra, Artistry in Rhythm: The Music of Stan Kenton.
That should be enough to keep most big-band enthusiasts engaged and happy for more than a few days. . . .
A Reminder . . .
"The Stage Door Swings, the next big-band extravaganza sponsored by Ken Poston and the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, is set for next May 22-25. As the name implies, it will be devoted to big-band arrangements of music from Broadway, much of it written by such legendary songwriters as Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers (with Lorenz Hart or Oscar Hammerstein), Frank Loesser, Lerner and Loewe, Sammy Cahn, Harold Arlen and others. Poston says at least sixteen big bands will perform with a number of smaller groups and vocalists also on hand. The "bonus event on May 21 features the Dave Pell Octet playing music by Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and Harry Warren. Poston is online at lajazzinstitute.org
Jazz Great Cecil Payne Dies at 84
Cecil Payne, one of the bop era's greatest baritone saxophonists, died November 27, 2007, two weeks before his eighty-fifth birthday. Although not a regular performer with big bands, he was a member of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra in the late 1940s before launching a long and distinguished career as a soloist with smaller groups, many of which he led.
In recent years, even though slowed by failing eyesight, Payne had played and recorded with a number of young lions, most notably tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth, with whom he appeared on four albums for Delmark Records. He also performed at the annual "Great Night in Harlem benefit concert for the Jazz Foundation, where he was reunited with many old friends including Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ron Carter, Frank Foster, Ray Barretto, Freddie Hubbard, Frank Wess and others. Besides his mastery of the baritone, Payne was known for his always-optimistic attitude. "The sun is up and so am I, he would say. "It's a good day. And now it's a sad one for many in the jazz community who must say farewell to their good friend and colleague.
Also, Elaine Lorrilard, who with her husband, Louis, founded the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, died November 26 at age ninety-three. A chance remark by a friend, John Maxon, who suggested at a classical concert in Newport that something similar should be done for jazz, led the Lorillards to contact George Wein, then the owner of a nightclub in Boston, and ask that he produce the first Newport Festival. Wein's lineup for the inaugural event included the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Oscar Peterson Trio, the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, the George Shearing Quintet, the Erroll Garner Trio, the Gene Krupa Trio, and singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. No wonder he went on to produce many more of the Newport events! The Lorrilards led the nonprofit Newport Jazz Festival Foundation for six years.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!
New and Noteworthy
1. Mike Barone Big Band, By Request (Rhubarb Records)
2. Phil Woods/DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, Swingchronicity (Jazzed Media)
3. Stan Kenton, Cool, Hot & Swingin' (Tantara)
4. Don Menza/SWR Big Band, Voyage (Hanssler)
5. Buddy Rich, Time Out (Capitol)
6. Tony Faulkner Jazz Orchestra, Thad Jones and the Ellington Effect (GLP/Capri)
7. Dallas Original Jazz Orchestra, Messin' with Texas (JazzMark)
8. Jump City Jazz Orchestra, Live at Chris' Jazz Café (JCJO)
9. Wayne Wallace, Dedication (Patois Records)
10. Howard University Jazz Ensemble, Here's to Life! (HUJE)
11. New Big Band featuring John Blount, Better Days Ahead (Sea Breeze)
12. Dean McNeill Large Jazz Ensemble, Prairie Fire (Cellar Live)
13. Brad Steinwehe Jazz Orchestra, Nutville (Sea Breeze Jazz)
14. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Christmas Day, My Favorite Day (Sea Breeze Vista)
15. Eveneven Big Band, Tiny Elephant (Schmell)