Louie Bellson: Tasteful Drummer, Sweeter Guy
Perhaps more important than any of these honors is the fact that no one ever had an unkind word to say about Louie Bellson. Throughout his life and career he remained the quintessential gentleman, always willing to share his time and knowledge with others. In the end, that is what matters most, and Louie Bellson will be remembered as much for his abiding decency as for his marvelous talents.
Home Is Where the Cookin' Is
On March 26, Betty and I were at The Outpost Performing Space to see and hear the rapidly improving Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra directed by trumpeter Bobby Shew. The small venue was packed and the band was smokin' from the downbeat, scampering briskly through Belgian trumpeter Bert Joris' picturesque opener, "Magic Box." Other highlights in the first set included the engaging interplay between Shew and bassist Colin Dougall on Frank Mantooth's stellar arrangement of "Mean to Me," trombonist Ed Ulman (playing his last gig with the orchestra) taking command on Tom Garling's "Outside In," terrific charts by Tom Kubis ("When You're Smiling") and Pete Myers ("Love for Sale"), another Joris composition, the turbulent "Nuees D'Orage" (Storm Clouds), Ulman's charming "Emily's Gray Bossa," and splendid turns by the other soloiststrumpeters Brad Dubbs and Henry Estrada, alto Glenn Kostur, tenor Lee Taylor, baritone Aaron Lovato and pianist Chris Ishee.
The second set opened with Pat Metheny's "Song for Bilbao," followed by one of the evening's unequivocal high spots, Kostur's mind-blowing solo on Bill Holman's arrangement of "Stella by Starlight" and Taylor's evocative feature, the Chris Walden arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day." As we'd agreed to leave at 9:30, Betty and I stayed only for another Joris composition, "Blue Alert" (solos by Kostur and Shew), departing as Bobby introduced the next number, the Brazilian ballad "Pra Dizer Adeus" (To Say Goodbye). And with that we said our goodbyes, but not before agreeing with Shew that "the band sounds better than ever."
A Day at the Opera
There are times when a chance remark can lead one down pathways that are as inspiring as they are informative. Case in point: While attending a Metropolitan Opera simulcast of Lucia di Lammermoor in February, I happened to overhear a woman in the row ahead of us mention that she leads a jazz group, so I gave her my card and asked that she send an e-mail and let me know more about it. Her name is Susan Corley, and two years ago she formed Entourage, an ensemble that includes voices, piano, flute, trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass guitar and percussion. Here, mostly in her own words, is how it came about.
Corley, who was trained as a classical singer and has a master's degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston, had been studying for a number of years with Donna McRae in Albuquerque. Two years ago, she writes, "I was coming home from a voice lesson when two men [tried] to rob me at knife point. I realized then that what they say about one's life passing before one's eyes is indeed true." Corley spent the next few weeks in bed recovering from the ordeal, thinking all the while about what to do with the rest of her life. "One of the answers to my question," she writes, "was that I wanted to sing and revisit the music of the Carpenters [pop stars Karen and Richard Carpenter]. I not only wanted to sing it, but I wanted to create a group that could reproduce a similar sound instrumentally. I rounded up some of my classical friends...and from there went looking for some pop / rock musicians who would be interested...I also talked several of my singer friends into being back-up singers to try and [emulate] Karen and Richard's overdubbing....
"The original thought was that we would share a concert [performance] with one of our torch singer friends and that would be it. The actual result turned out to be a wonderful benefit concert for a young boy who had a rare genetic disorder. A few weeks before the concert, [a local television station] called to ask the name of the group. I drove around for a while and thought of the name Entourage, because I was hoping that perhaps someone would like us and we would eventually have people follow to hear us. The concert was well received and we had an absolute blast. Afterward, several people asked if we were playing anywhere around town. I turned to my fellow musicians and they said, 'Yeah, we're in! Let's keep it going!'