Some Words of Explanation . . .
As this is the first Big Band Report filed since October 2008, a brief accounting of the reasons seems in order. The fact is that I've not been well since midsummer. The good news is that I seem to have turned a corner and hope to be my old self again in short order. The spring is back in the step, the smile has returned to the face, and once a few ancillary matters have been dealt with things should soon be returning to something akin to normal. My thanks to those who have expressed their concern, offered advice and let me know that my reviews and columns at AllAboutJazz have been missed.
Home Is Where the Band Is
As I was essentially confined to home base for a almost two months, it was good to start going out again in December, and what better place to start than with a visit to The Outpost Performance Space to see and hear the rapidly improving Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and its director, the world-renowned trumpeter Bobby Shew. Betty and I were able to stay for only the first of the evening's two sets but that was enough to persuade us that the band is sounding better than ever under Shew's astute guidance. He has introduced new charts to the book, several of which were performed for the first time at The Outpost, and the orchestra took to them like ducks to water, with crisp section work and inspired solos. As Shew puts it, his goal is for the AJO to perform "extremely challenging music by various writers from around the world, many of them unknown to the American Jazz scene...while maintaining a connection with the great music from the past history of big-band music."
Four subs were on duty that evening, sitting in for ensemble members who were in Chicago for the annual Midwest Band Clinic, and they proved far more than adequate in filling out the trumpet, trombone and reed sections, with a fourth dep, Michael Olivola, on bass. The AJO has new bandstands and will soon have leather-bound cases in which to carry their music, with band uniforms also in the works and perhaps a CD to follow. The orchestra's next gig is in February 2009 as a part of the annual Albuquerque Jazz Festival.
Somewhat Farther from Home...
The Los Angeles Jazz Institute hosted a tribute January 13 to bassist Howard Rumsey, now in his ninety-second year, at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, the legendary home from 1949 to the early 1960s of Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars. The list of renowned musicians who played or sat in with the All-Stars is mind-boggling, starting with trumpeters Shorty Rogers, Maynard Ferguson, Stu Williamson, Miles Davis, Conte Candoli, Chet Baker and Rolf Ericson and including saxophonists Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Jimmy Giuffre, Zoot Sims, Bill Perkins, Jack Nimitz and others, trombonists Frank Rosolino, Milt Bernhart and Bob Enevoldsen, pianists Hampton Hawes, Marty Paich, Claude Williamson, Pete Jolly, Russ Freeman and Sonny Clark, and drummers Shelly Manne, Max Roach and Stan Levey, to name only some.
Besides fronting the All-Stars, Rumsey was busy encouraging younger players by placing them in the spotlight every Easter week at the Lighthouse. The long list of apprentices includes Charlie Haden, Ben Tucker, Tommy Tedesco, Don Rader, Les McCann, Charles Lloyd, Gary Lefebvre, Mike Wofford, Gabe Baltazar, Bob Florence, Lanny Morgan, Steve Huffsteter, Pete Christlieb, Richard Torres, Pinky Winters, Bob Maize, Warren Luening, Don Friedman and many others. The dinner and concert in December featured performances by many of the artists who got their start at the Lighthouse during those Easter week concerts, thanks to Rumsey's warm-hearted generosity.
Our heartiest congratulations and best wishes to one of the largely unsung heroes of West Coast jazz, Howard Rumsey, who deserves the honor as much as anyone else we could name.
Speaking of the L.A. Jazz Institute...
Don't forget to mark your calendars for May 21-24 2009, the dates of the next Ken Poston / LAJI big-band festival at the Four Points Sheraton LAX Hotel with a wonderful "bonus" event for early-bird registrants on May 20. This next extravaganza is called "A Swingin' Affair," and for good reason (more than twenty of them, in fact). As usual, Poston and the LAJI have outdone themselves in recruiting many of the finest big bands in the Los Angeles area to perform. As of October (with more to come) they included Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, the Frank Capp Juggernaut, Med Flory's Jazz Wave featuring SuperSax, the Carl Saunders Be-Bop Big Band, Ron Jones' Influence Jazz Orchestra, Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band, Emil Richards' Hollywood All-Star Band, and large ensembles led by Tom Kubis, Bill Watrous, Les Hooper, Chris Walden, John Altman and Alf Clausen. And as always, top-rank college groups perform at poolside during the lunch break each day, preceded by interesting films and panel discussions.