You are here

Log in or register to post comments
AndyT
AndyT's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Jan 29 2006 - 12:52pm
21st Century Big Band Jazz

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.

Andy 

mrpink44
mrpink44's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: Aug 24 2011 - 4:34am
Nice write up AndyT - thanks

Nice write up AndyT - thanks for sharing!!! Man, you just added way to many new artists to my list for checking out. Thanks - always nice to have some new options for exploring new big band work.

I know Christian McBride just came out with a big band CD as well. I haven't picked had a chance to pick it up yet, but I've enjoyed most of his work so I plan on checking it out.

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 days ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
I did post a comment

Agree with Mr. Pink - a very fine write up indeed.

Now if you check the posts in September 2011 Issue section you will see the following post:

jazzfan wrote:

A very big thank you to Robert Baird for the feature on Gerald Wilson. This piece such go a long way in helping to give some much needed and well deserved exposure to Mr. Wilson and his music.

I have just a few very minor nits to pick. As stated in the piece big band jazz has been sadly overlooked in the US but that luckily that is not the case elsewhere. There are several very good jazz orchestras in Europe, all with long recording and performance histories. To name a few of the more well known ones:

Vienna Art Orchestra - Started in 1977 by Mathias Rüegg the VAO has a long history of recording and playing. The VAO is perhaps the best example of a modern jazz orchestra in the 21st century.

The Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra - another long running ensemble. While their output is nowhere near as extensive as that of the VAO, this orchestra, lead by the great German pianist and band leader Alexander von Schlippenbach, plays jazz in slightly more adventurous vein than that of the VAO.

Italian Instabile Orchestra - another one of the more adventurous European ensembles, this group is favorite of many creative musicians looking for a group of talented musicians willing to give voice to their orchestral compositions.

The Instant Composers Pool (or ICP) - this Amsterdam based ensemble was the brain child of Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg back in 1967 and seen many of the finest creative musicians in Europe and the USA pass through it ranks in its 40 plus year history. Their recordings are all too few and often hard to find but their live performances are the stuff of legends.

My other minor issue is with Mr. Baird's assertion that WBGO-FM is "one of the nation's first all-jazz FM stations". While somewhat true this statement overlooks WRVR-FM, the now defunct all-jazz, commercial New York City radio station, which was on the air throughout the 1960s and 1970s playing jazz. Sadly in 1980 the station changed to a short lived country music format and now is part of that vast wasteland known as "lite music".

So while andy seems to have covered many of the stateside big bands I managed to cover several of the many the European based outfits. I guess that between the two of us we've shown that big band jazz is far from dead. If you read between the lines of the above quoted post you can pretty much surmise that I'm not too thrilled with Mr. Baird's piece. Sure it sheds some much needed light on an otherwise sadly overlooked artist but I do wish that Baird would leave the jazz writing to those writers more familiar with the music and its history, such as Fred Kaplan. The WRVR mistake is inexcusable for a magazine with editorial offices in NYC.

AndyT
AndyT's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Jan 29 2006 - 12:52pm
September Posts

Jazzfan,

I did see you post right before I wrote mine. Very good. If I hadn't had log-in problems at the time, it would have shown up in the same place shortly afterward.

I'm slightly familiar with a couple of the groups you listed and Misha Nengelberg. I have a small group Herbie Nichols tribute he recorded on Soul Note with Steve Lacy and George Lewis. I haven't listened to it in a long time. I'll change that soon. I also have a recording by the New Art Orchestra led by Bob Brokmeyer featuring his compositions and arrangements. Are you familiar with them. If so, what do you think?

My motivation to write was 3-fold. One was that these really are artists and recordings I enjoy & think others would too. Second, I'm hoping Baird or somebody will take the initiative to review the recordings or interview these artists. Third was to point out to fellow Americans that there is Big Band jazz relatively cloe to home. I hope if any of the groups I listed get close to readers, they'll make an effort to see them live. There's someting about big ensembles that's really special.

 

Andy

jazzfan
jazzfan's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 2 days ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Big Band Jazz
AndyT wrote:

Jazzfan,

I did see you post right before I wrote mine. Very good. If I hadn't had log-in problems at the time, it would have shown up in the same place shortly afterward.

Thanks!

AndyT wrote:

I'm slightly familiar with a couple of the groups you listed and Misha Nengelberg. I have a small group Herbie Nichols tribute he recorded on Soul Note with Steve Lacy and George Lewis. I haven't listened to it in a long time. I'll change that soon. I also have a recording by the New Art Orchestra led by Bob Brokmeyer featuring his compositions and arrangements. Are you familiar with them. If so, what do you think?

The ICP Orchestra is quite a bit wilder than the Herbie Nichols tribute CD so if you don't care for free jazz I suggest you approach the ICP with some caution. There is also a another CD with a similar group to the one on the Nichols tribute CD. It's called "Dutch Masters" and is also on the Soul Note label - very similar to the Herbie Nichols recording.

Bob Brookmeyer has been around since the 1950s (he's well into his 80's) and first became known for his work with Gerry Mulligan, both as a trombone player and as an arranger. His arrangements are always first rate and manage to be both modern, as in cutting edge, and mainstream at the same time. Quite a feat.

AndyT wrote:

My motivation to write was 3-fold. One was that these really are artists and recordings I enjoy & think others would too. Second, I'm hoping Baird or somebody will take the initiative to review the recordings or interview these artists. Third was to point out to fellow Americans that there is Big Band jazz relatively cloe to home. I hope if any of the groups I listed get close to readers, they'll make an effort to see them live. There's someting about big ensembles that's really special.

On your first and third points I completely agree but as far as getting Baird and Stereophile to cover more of these artists, well the best I can say is that I was very surprised and very glad to see the story on Gerald Wilson. And like I stated earlier I only wish that it had been written by someone other than Mr. Baird.

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading