The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra Meets Fred Sturm
The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra was onstage January 23, 2010 at the University of New Mexico's Woodward Hall for a concert featuring the compositions and arrangements of Fred Sturm, director of Jazz Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. The concert was a part of the New Mexico All-State Band Competition, which was being held at the university that weekend. Preceding the AJO's performance was a brief set by UNM's Jazz Band One directed by Glenn Kostur. Its three numbers included, in order, Neal Hefti's "Fawncy Meeting You," Maria Schneider's "Greenpeace" and Matt Harris' laid-back samba, "Turnaround."
After opening with Belgian trumpeter Bert Joris' turbulent "Nuees D'Orage" (Storm Clouds), the AJO showcased baritone saxophonist Paul Blakey on Hank Levy's "A Smith Named Greg" (written for Stan Kenton's baritone player of that name in the mid-1970s). As a special treat, director Bobby Shew then introduced Pancho Romero, who founded the AJO almost 30 years ago and now teaches at New Mexico State University, for a sparkling flugel solo on Clifford Brown's sunny "Joy Spring."
The rest of the program was devoted to the music of Sturm who was present to introduce each of the half-dozen numbers, beginning with an off-center arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser" scored originally for trumpeter Clark Terry. Shew was featured with pianist Chris Ishee and bassist Colin Deuble. "Do It Again," the first of two numbers by Steely Dan, included solos by tenor Lee Taylor and trombonist Ben Finberg, while the second, "The Bluefly Look," encompassed a buoyant statement by trombonist John Sanks. Sturm's "A Hymn for Her" (Kent Erickson, trumpet) was marvelously played, as was the unconventional "Didgeridoo" whose droning sounds simulated those of the exotic Australian instrument. The AJO closed the concert with Sturm's arrangement of Wayne Shorter's strenuous "Yes and No," spotlighting Shew on trumpet and Aaron Lovato on tenor sax.
The orchestra was given a well-deserved standing ovation for a concert performance that pleased both heart and head as it deftly unscrambled Sturm's often elaborate charts.
On the Horizon...
The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, directed by trumpeter Orbert Davis, is presenting "From Ella to Mandela: The Legacy of the African and American Spirit," at 7:30 p.m. March 11, 2010 in the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University in Chicago. The musical exploration of the contributions of American jazz female vocalists, juxtaposed to the South African experience in a reprise of the Nelson Mandela-inspired suite, "Hope in Action," features vocalists Dee Alexander, Terisa Griffin and Maggie Brown with Ernest Dawkins, Ari Brown, the Soul Children of Chicago and a special appearance by T'Keyah Crystal Keymah. For more information, phone 800-982-2787.
And it's not too late to register for the Los Angeles Jazz Institute's Spring 2010 Jazz Festival May 27-30 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel. As always, there'll be concerts by well-known groups both large and small, complemented by films, panel discussions and other presentations. Among the highlights: the Gerry Mulligan Concert Band and Sextet, the Teddy Charles Tentet, the Gil Evans Orchestra, Terry Gibbs playing the music of Tiny Kahn, a tribute to Stan Getz by Don Menza, the Elliot Lawrence Big Band, a celebration of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and tributes to Bob Brookmeyer, Quincy Jones, George Russell, Manny Albam, John Carisi and Alec Wilder. For more information, phone 562-985-7065 or go to www.lajazzinstitute.org
For someone who spends a sizable part of his time writing, I don't read much. Never have. For me, reading has always been a slow and tedious process, one that I usually find ways to set aside for "some other time." Which is a weak yet nonetheless honest reason why I won't be reviewing two books sent to me for that purpose from Hal Leonard Publications. They appear to be fine books, and may even be of great interest, but the best I can do is let the reader know they are available.