I had originally written the following in response to Robert Baird's article on Gerald Wilson in the September issue and was going to post it in the forum section on that issue. But I had log in problems and had to work with Jon Iverson to get on line. By the time I got back to posting, the October issue was out & I figure very few jazz fans will be looking at the September forum from now on. So I'l putting up here.
The domestic Big Band scene isn’t as dormant as many believe. Following is a list of some outfits whose recordings from the not-to-distant past I’ve enjoyed:
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is the descendent of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra that started out in the ‘60’s. Still very much in the Thad Jones-Bob Brookmeyer vein. They have been recording for the Planet Arts label the last few years.
Formerly a Woody Herman band member, trombonist John Fedchock has recorded several big band sessions using his own arrangements on the Reservoir label. More hard bop than Herman-esque.
Phil Kelly is an arranger located in Washington state. He uses top-notch jazz musicians from the northern Pacific region on recordings on the Origin label. Sort of New Testament Basie sounding.
Maria Schneider is a Gil Evans protégé and critic’s darling. Her last few recordings are available from Artist’s Share.
This spring former Bobby Watson pianist Orrin Evans released a live big band recording on the Posi-Tone label using lots musicians from Philadelphia, where he grew up. Captain Black Big Band is the title.
Bassist Dave Holland has put out two big band recordings on ECM. What Goes Around and Overtime are the titles. As with many of his recent smaller group recordings, the vibraphone takes the place of the piano on these, giving the group a different but very interesting sound.
I think one of Fred Kaplan’s Stereophile blogs turned me onto Jason Lindner’s Live At The Jazz Gallery on the Anzic Records label. It’s a double CD package. Some of it may be too 21st century for long-time Big Band fans, but I enjoyed it. This led me to Lindner’s older Big Band recording, Premonition, on Stretch Records, which is a little more mainstream sounding.
The Mingus Big Band does great things with Mingus’ compositions on the Dreyfus and Sue Mingus labels.
Toshiko Akiyoshi disbanded her orchestra in 2003 after about 30 years and many great recordings. They’re not the easiest or cheapest discs to find. But there’s a lot of great music on them.
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra sems to have become the house Big Band for Los Angeles and has recordings on several labels.
Bill Holman’s used some of Los Angeles’ best to record tributes to Woody Herman and Thelonious Monk and several other great discs on JVC and Jazzed Media.
Based in Westchester County north of New York City, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra is lead by Mike Holober and features well-known jazz musicians Marvin Stamm, Scott Wendholdt, Ralph Llama, Ted Rosenthal and Harvey S. Their recordings are available from CD Baby.
I've heard Holman's, Mingus', Clayton-Hamilton's and Akiyoshi's groups live as well. All were very enjoyable. Akiyoshi's especially. There was a sort of space in her arrangements that seemed to make the orchestra breath unlike any other. Too bad they don't work anymore.