BASIE ORCHESTRA VOTED #1 IN 2007
In the 72nd annual Down Beat Readers Poll, The Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes was chosen today's top "Big Band."
"It's important to keep some representation of what the big band era was," Hughes told journalist Aaron Cohen. "We're trying to keep Basie's ideal going."
Hughes later explained to writer Julie Riggott, "Music has changed tremendously over the years. There was a big band era, when big band was the same as rap groups now. It was just the music of the day."
Yet decades later, it remains enjoyable.
"The big band sound is still viable," Hughes said to Riggott. "It's not so involved that anybody with any kind of an ear doesn't pick up on that tap-your-foot routine. That's what Basie used to say, anyhow: 'As long as I look out there and see people tapping their feet, I know I'm doing my job' . . . So I kind of go by that, too."
Besides discussing his passion for Basie's music, Hughes also respectfully spoke of him as a person.
"Basie was a humble man and never pulled the celebrity type thing on you," he said to Cohen. "He was a fantastic human being."
Congratulations to Mr. Hughes and each member of The Count Basie Orchestra for doing a great job!
See and hear them live from December 1-16 on tour in Japan; on December 20th at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA; from December 21-23 at the Anthology Jazz & Dinner Club in San Diego, CA; and December 26-31 at Yoshi's in San Francisco, CA.
MORE TOP BANDS IN-PERSON
Les Brown's Band of Renown directed by Les Brown Jr.: Dec. 1-6 / 8-9, Mickey Gilley
Theatre, Branson, MO.
Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks: Dec. 16, St. Louis, MO; Dec. 31,
Apollo Theatre, Harlem, New York, NY.
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole: Dec. 31, Suncoast Hotel and Casino, Las
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow: Dec. 31, Carlyle Club, Alexandria, VA.
Gene Krupa Orchestra directed by Michael Berkowitz: Dec. 3, Charley O's, Van Nuys, CA.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke: Dec. 28-31, The Cloister Hotel, Sea Island,
Sammy Kaye Orchestra directed by Roger Thorpe: Dec. 1, Mohonk Mountain House, New
Paltz, NY; Dec. 15, private, Mahwah, NJ.
Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians directed by Al Pierson: Dec. 8, Benton Civic Center,
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien: Dec. 1-16, Japan tour (cont'd); Dec. 19,
University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, PA; Dec. 20, State Theatre, State College, PA; Dec. 21,
private, Arlington, VA; Dec. 22, Carlyle Club, Alexandria, VA.
This month, author - lyricist Gene Lees concluded a seven-part series, "The Glenn Miller Years," in his Jazzletter. He dedicated the project to the late Artie Malvin, who sang with Miller's AAF band. Malvin had urged Lees to write something about Miller, commenting that "what has been written mostly isn't right."
First comparing Miller to the classical composer Johann Strauss (known particularly for his waltzes), Lees traces Miller's career as leader of a beloved dance (rather than jazz) band, remarking that "no artist should ever be evaluated other than by his intention."
Various quotations by or about Miller throughout Lees' writing -- some from Lees' own interviews, others from alternate sources -- help to present a rounded, objective portrait of him in and out of music. Here are some examples:
- Smith Ballew: "He was hard to know. He never bared his soul to anyone."
- Dave Dexter, Jr.: "Glenn was a nice man. A good middle-western man. He'd size you up . . . "
- Gil Rodin: " . . . He had a helluva good sense of humor - I can still see that puckish grin - and he was a real gentleman. But when it came to his music he never took his eye off the ball . . . "
- Jimmy McPartland: "You know, Glenn contributed a lot to the Pollack band. He was basically an idea man, and he certainly was a dedicated musician . . . "
- Glenn Miller: "I remember following a man, with a trombone under his arm, until he went into a night club, and thinking my ambitions would be realized if I were good enough to work in that club."
- Mike Nidorf: "The greatest thing that ever happened to Glenn Miller was Helen Miller."
- Benny Goodman: "I gave him the money to get married. I'd forgotten about it until many years later when Glenn became famous and he said, 'Here's the money I owe you.' I didn't know what money he was talking about . . . "
- Woody Herman: "Glenn had made a pact with his wife that he was through drinking. He couldn't drink, and he knew it. He would turn crazy . . . "
- Billy May: "The rest of the time Glenn was kind of mad at the world. He was bitter about everything. Kind of a down kind of guy. Putting things down all the time . . . "
- Tex Beneke: "I loved the man. He taught me so much about playing my own sax. And I knew he liked me. I could tell by the way he'd stare at me while I was playing a solo. He'd look at me and I'd look right back at him. It didn't bother me the way it bothered some of the others . . . "
- Willie Schwartz: "He was a father figure to me. He had already been where I wanted to be . . . "
- Marion Hutton: " . . . If he had told me to walk up Broadway naked, I would have. Of course, I was a people pleaser to begin with. But I was terribly afraid of incurring his wrath."
- Bill Finegan: "I used to complain about his continual editing of my arrangements. It was OK at first, when he had to cut it down to fit the tune onto one side of a record. But for a while Glenn would start editing just about everything, and soon it became a battle of wits between us. I would try to anticipate what he was going to do by black-penciling my own arrangements before he could. Finally he told me, 'You keep writing. I'll handle the black pencil.'"
- George T. Simon: "As I look back, I realize there may have even been an element of worship in my admiration. Later, I also learned to resent him."
- Ray McKinley: " . . . He had begun to act more like a tough business executive and less like a musician. He was getting more headstrong than ever, and less easy to get along with."
- Paul Tanner: " . . . As the band became more and more famous, his work load kept him occupied to the point that misunderstandings sometimes crept into his personal relationships."
- Jo Stafford: "The falling out between Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller had to do more with Tom Rockwell, who was head of the GAC talent agency. Tommy and Glenn were both his clients. And Tom Rockwell had led Dorsey to believe that he was going to get the fifteen-minute radio show for Chesterfield cigarettes. Tommy thought he had it. In the end-I don't remember the details of what happened-Glenn Miller got the show. So Tommy . . . decided that he hated both Tom Rockwell and Glenn Miller . . . "
- Howie Richmond: " . . . Glenn Miller was very interested in the trade publications, the newspapers, the magazines. He read Down Beat. He read Metronome, and he thought whatever popularity they had was important for a band, even though it was restricted to a very small part of the public . . . "
- Johnny Best: "Toward the end, when the band was losing popularity, I was walking across the street with him. We were playing the Stanley Theater. We were coming from the hotel. He had a hangover from the night before. Harry James was getting hot in record sales. He said, 'Now I know how Benny must have felt when Artie started coming up.'"
- Johnny Desmond: " . . . I found out that Miller was organizing this Air Force orchestra, so I wrote him a letter - which you're not supposed to do. You're supposed to go through channels, but I figured the channels would never get out of the base. I waited for an answer. Everybody laughed at me. Two weeks later I got a letter from Captain Glenn Miller . . . "
- Al Klink: "I guess the best one-word description I've heard was that Glenn was G.I. - and that was before he was in the service."
- Guy Lombardo: "If Glenn had survived, I think he would still be in the music business, and it would be a better business for it."
Mr. Lees' Jazzletter is available by subscription; he may be contacted at P.O. Box 240, Ojai, CA 93024-0240.
BIG BAND BIRTHDAYS
Dick Johnson, clarinetist (leader of the Artie Shaw Orchestra '83-'06 ) and alto saxophonist
(Spivak '52-'53; Morrow '56-57), b.December 1, 1925
Don Sebesky, trombonist (Covington '56; Ferguson '58-'59; Kenton '59) - arranger (Miller-
DeFranco '67 [ In the Mod, Shangri-La, Gone with the Wind, A Stranger in Town, Release
Me, 'Round Midnight ]), b.December 10, 1937
Clark Terry, trumpeter (Hampton '45; Barnet '47-'48 / '58 Everest "Cherokee" LP / '66-'67;
Basie '48-'51 / '76 Pablo "Basie Jam" LP; Ellington '51-'59), b.December 14, 1920
Pete Rugolo, pianist - composer (Grier '41; Kenton '45-'49), b.December 25, 1915
Abbe Lane, singer (Cugat '50s) - actress, b.December 16, 1932
Tony Martin, vocalist (Noble '38; Miller AAF '43), b.December 25, 1913
Mannie Thaler, saxophonist (Miller AAF '44-'45; Beneke-GMO '46-'47 / '49; Shaw 7/2/53
Decca session), b.Dec. 31, 1917.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Bassist Whitey Mitchell, who spent 1951 and most of '52 playing with Shep Fields' band, then was with Charlie Ventura from December 1954 to May 1955, talked this month to Bruce Fessier of The Palm Desert [ CA ] Sun about two other famous bandleaders with whom he
was once employed.
Mitchell gigged with Gene Krupa from May to November of 1955 and stated, "I loved him. One of the nicest guys and an articulate musician."
But regarding Benny Goodman, with whom he recorded as part of the B.G. Quartet on
October 7, 1958, Mitchell claimed, "My theory is Benny didn't really hear very well because he had some very suspect bass players from time to time, including his brother, who was a
terrible bass player."
Mitchell also worked with Tex Beneke at Disneyland in 1965.
Now age 75, Mitchell recently completed a 268-page autobiography, Hackensack to Hollywood: My Two Show Business Careers (Albany, GA: BearManor Media).
Freddie Fields, 84, Shep Fields' brother and a Hollywood agent, d.Dec. 11, 2007,
Tommy Ryan, 86, guitarist-vocalist (Kaye '37-'42?), d.Dec. 27, 2007, pancreatic and liver cancer.
LOMBARDO SLEPT HERE
In late 1969, Guy Lombardo had a home built for him and his wife on a 7,000-square-foot lot in Florida just south of Tampa, in the small community of Apollo Beach, at 601 Flamingo Drive.
Real estate speculator Lawrence Strominger, who bought the house in 2003 for $440,000, has now listed it for $1.49 million.
"The home has been updated with crown molding, soft paint, ceiling fans and tile the color of sand," staff writer Ben Montgomery reported in the St. Petersburg Times. "But the swank still exists. One hallway ends at a sauna. One wall in the master bedroom is made of stone, one of mirrors. A wet bar is partly submerged in the grand ballroom, not far from the maid's quarters and the media room."
JAZZ AT OBERLIN COLLEGE
A liberal arts major and 1958 graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, James "Jim" Neumann really enjoyed jazz.
As a teenager, he started buying jazz LPs (many of which are now expensive collectors' items), assembling everything possible by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.
Eventually, he acquired a total of more than 100,000 records, including all styles of jazz from New Orleans to avant-garde - with an emphasis in modern jazz of the '40s and '50s - along with books, magazines, programs, posters, autographs, and other materials.
It was, according to reports, "the largest privately-held jazz record collection in America."
But now, Neumann, of Chicago, has decided to donate it to Oberlin College.
Plans are to open a new building on the Oberlin campus in 2009, to house their Conservatory of Music’s jazz studies department and academic programs in music history and music theory.
Neumann's collection will be a cornerstone, and Molly Johnson has been named its new Curator.
IN-PRINT AND / OR ONLINE
A.D. Amorosi, "Stained glass - almost a religious experience," Philadelphia [ PA ]
Inquirer / philly.com, Dec. 23, 2007 [ about Emily Selvin, 37, stained glass artist and
granddaughter of bandleader Ben Selvin ].
Tony Eaton, "What's New?," Moonlight Serenader, Number 315 / 5th Edition 2007, p.11
[ including the cessation of the UK CD labels Pulse and Living Era ].
Will Friedwald, "Jazz: Lionel Hampton's All-Star Band," New York [ NY ] Sun / nysun.com,
Dec. 17, 2007 [ review of Mosaic MD5-238 ].
Horace Meunier Harris, "The 2007 [ IAJRC ] Chicago Convention, A Swinging Success,"
IAJRC Journal, Vol. 40 No.4 - Dec. 2007, pp.7-9.
Michael Highton, "Band Review: The Glenn Miller [ UK ] Orchestra directed by Ray McVay,"
Moonlight Serenader, Number 315 / 5th Edition 2007, pp.8-9.
Kathy Iandoli, "Alternatives: Quincy Jones: A Life Less Ordinary," allhiphop.com,
Dec. 4, 2007 (Part One) and Dec. 5, 2007 (Part Two) [ Jones (Hampton '51-'53;
Gillespie '56) ].
Dan Majors, "Recordings give life to infamy of Dec. 7, 1941," Pittsburgh [ PA ] Post-Gazette /
post-gazette.com, Dec. 7, 2007 [ record collector and Radio Yesteryear founder J. David
Goldin comments about off-air home recordings made by Robert Dixon, and now housed
at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Marr Sound Archives ].
John McDonough, "Reviews: Gerald Wilson Orchestra Monterey Moods," DownBeat,
Dec. 2007, p.74.
John Miller [ Glenn's nephew ], "Live GM [ Glenn Miller ] Music by the JM [ John Miller ]
Band in China," Moonlight Serenader, Number 315 / 5th Edition 2007, pp.6-7.
Rich Mittelstadt, "Norman Leyden's 90th Birthday Concert [ review ], Moonlight Serenader,
Number 315 / 5th Edition 2007, p1+.
Howard Reich, "Preview: Duke's spirit brings holiness into holidays: Chicago Jazz Ensemble
tries its hand at material from The Sacred Concerts," Chicago Tribune /
chicagotribune.com, Dec. 14, 2007 [ Ellington music from 1965-1973 ].
Robert Stockdale, "The Jazzy Jimmy Dorsey," IAJRC Journal, Vol. 40 No.4 - Dec. 2007,
pp.52-59 [ Stockdale identifies recorded examples of Dorsey's jazzier solos on alto sax
and clarinet as a sideman between 1924-1927 ].
Ken Vail, "Bob Inman's Swing Adventures in New York City, June 1937," IAJRC Journal,
Vol. 40 No.4 - Dec. 2007, pp.31-36 [ based on the book Swing Era Scrapbook: The
Teenage Diaries & Radio Logs of Bob Inman, 1936-1938 (Latham, MD: Scarecrow
Press, 2005) which Vail compiled ].
Jerry Valburn, "The Spotlight Bands Story: Coca-Cola's Role in Swing Music Broadcasting,"
IAJRC Journal, Vol. 40 No.4 - Dec. 2007, pp.39-50 [ a sample of Valburn's over 300-pg.
manuscript which he plans to submit to a publisher in 2008 ].
Kristi Zimmeth, "Trash or treasure?: 1940s picture-disc records are valuable," Detroit [ MI ]
News / detnews.com, Dec. 8, 2007 [ re: Vogue picture records ].
NEW COMPACT DISCS
Billy Butterfield, "The Song Is You," Montpellier ( UK ) 37.
Ted Heath, "Old English / Smooth'n'Swinging," Fine and Mellow 605 [ 2 LPs on 1 CD;
= London ( UK ) LL 3058 + Decca ( UK ) TAB 33 ].
Lionel Hampton, "Lionel Plays Drums, Vibes, Piano," Lone Hill Jazz LHJ 10312; "Hamp's
Big Band," Lone Hill Jazz LHJ 10318 [ WARNING: Other than Beulah's Boogie (which was
on the 2000 CD "The World of Swing," Columbia 66080) and I Can't Get Started, these
CDs duplicate the 2002 CD "Lionel Hampton: Revisited," Fuel 2000 Records 302 061 253
and a portion of the 2001 CD "Lionel Hampton: Golden Vibes / Silver Vibes," Collectables
Earl Hines, "Changin' the Blues and Things," Swaggie ( Australia ) 411 [ = the 1967 "Blues
and Things" LP + six piano solos from 1969 and 1973 including the previously-unissued
take 1 of Someday, Sweetheart and take 2 of Perdido ].
Boyd Raeburn, "Get Out of Town," Montpellier ( UK ) 38 [ select 1956-57 recordings made
for Columbia ].
Various artists, "Christmas with the Big Bands: Live Broadcasts," Soundcraft SC-8007
[ incl. performances by Miller, J. Dorsey, Heidt, Garber, Welk, Spivak, Kyser, and Kaye
from 1941-56 ].
ASCAP HOLIDAY HITS
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has announced its top most-performed holiday songs for the past five years, based on radio airplay.
All of them in the top ten have been, at one time or another, performed by the legendary big bands.
1. Winter Wonderland
2. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire)
3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
4. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
5. White Christmas
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
7. Jingle Bell Rock
8. Sleigh Ride
9. The Little Drummer Boy
10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
'Tis the season! For starters, may I suggest Ralph Flanagan's Winter Wonderland, which was actually made on a summer (!) day in 1954. Listen to Vaughn Monroe sing Let It Snow! (you decide whether you prefer the 1945 or 1958 or 1962 recording). And take a Sleigh Ride with Tex Beneke from the 1965 "Christmas Serenade in the Glenn Miller Style" Columbia album.
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