BE AN EAR WITNESS
Drummer - composer - bandleader Louis Bellson's latest compact disc, which combines the sounds of a big band, symphony, and choir, is being called "a masterpiece" and "a spiritual celebration." Titled "The Sacred Music of Louis Bellson and The Jazz Ballet," it was produced by Bellson's wife and manager, Francine, and is being released on their own label, Percussion Power.
It was 1965 when Bellson had re-joined Duke Ellington's band, as percussionist for a series of special performances of the maestro's Concert of Sacred Music, which included a 15-minute opening section, In the Beginning, God (inspired by the first four words in the Bible). Encouraged by Ellington, Bellson composed his own sacred music.
His pieces, as listed on the CD, are Lightning & Thunder; No One But God; He's the
Lord; Jesus; Love; Love (instrumental); Thank You Lord; He's the One; New Lou; The Wailing Dove; Look At Me; Celebration; Celebration (drums & strings); and No One But God (reprise).
The other recorded work, The Jazz Ballet, with the movements Marriage Vows, Dream Sequence, Conflict, and 'Til Death Do Us Part, was based on the vows of holy matrimony and originally premiered in 1962 during one of Bellson's Las Vegas performances.
A 20-page booklet, including liner notes by renowned journalist Patricia Willard, along with photos of Bellson playing in 2000 and 2002, accompanies the CD, which may be purchased through the Musician's Warehouse (musicianswarehouse.com).
JOURNALISTS PICK GERALD WILSON
Votes cast by more than 400 members of the Jazz Journalists Association worldwide have recognized 87-year-old Gerald Wilson with an award for "top large ensemble" during the past year. Wilson leads his own big band now, but remains well-known for having joined Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra in 1939 -- playing trumpet and arranging and composing -- until settling in Los Angeles in 1942.
Award ceremonies were held June 19th in New York City, before an audience of musicians, journalists, and industry executives.
Bill Flannigan, 86, trombonist (Lombardo '50-'65), June 10, 2006, "complications of
Artie Malvin, 83, vocalist (Miller AAF '43-'45; Beneke '46; McKinley '47), June 16, 2006,
"after a long illness"
Ross Tompkins, 68, pianist (Hackett '65-'70; Goodman '68; Severinsen / "Tonight
Show" '71-'92; Bellson '74-'82; Venuti '77; Norvo '79), June 29, 2006, lung cancer
THE GOODMAN "QUARTET" OF CDs
Aficionados of Benny Goodman should be pleased to learn about this month's reissue by the Universal Music Group in Japan, of four late-career albums by the "King of Swing."
Included is "London Date" (catalog no. UCCU-9189), recorded for the Philips label in the UK in November 1969. It opens with a smoking rendition of a vintage Fletcher Henderson arrangement, Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away), and also includes On a Clear Day, from the 1965 Broadway musical "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)," and Octopus's Garden, written by drummer Ringo Starr, then a member of The Beatles.
Also new to CD is "On Stage with Benny Goodman and His Sextet" (UCCU-9192/3), a March 13, 1972 concert at the Tivoli Theatre in Copenhagen, first sold as a 2-LP set on the London label. Selections include well-known favorites such as A Smo-o-o-oth One, Memories of You, and After You've Gone.
Remaining in the batch of Goodman CDs are "Benny Goodman Today" (UCCU-9190/1), recorded on-location February 20, 1970 in Stockholm, and "Live At Carnegie Hall: 40th Anniversary Concert" (UCCU-9194/5), taped at the famous New York City venue on January 17, 1978.
A fifth Universal Music Group title, "Ode Ann Benny Goodman" (UCCU-9196), is a salute to Benny, not by him.
MORE NEW BIG BAND CDs - SELECT LIST
Buck Clayton: "The Chronological 1953 Vol.2," Classics (France) 1427
Benny Goodman: "The Chronological 1948-1949," Classics (France) 1425
Lionel Hampton: "The Chronological 1951-1953," Classics (France) 1429
Horace Heidt: "Horace Heidt and His Brigadiers: Introducing the King Sisters
1937-1938," Collectables COL-CD-7642
Woody Herman: "Blue Flame," Sounds of Yesteryear (UK) DSOY707 [ live 1946 ]
Hal Kemp: "Alice Faye with Hal Kemp and His Orchestra: Music From Hollywood,
Volume Three," AFA 3
Stan Kenton: "The Chronological 1951-1952," Classics (France) 1428
Glenn Miller: "Johnny Desmond with The Glenn Miller Service Orchestra: With My Head
in the Clouds," Sounds of Yesteryear (UK) DSOY706; "The Glenn Miller Service
Orchestra: In the USA and Europe: Get Happy," Sounds of Yesteryear (UK) DSOY708
Gerald Wilson: "Big Band Modern," Jazz Factory 22880 [ 1950-54 ]
THE SON SHINES
On his new Reprise CD, "That Face!," Frank Sinatra, Jr. interprets songs originally arranged for his late father, but never commercially released. The project was made with a 38-piece orchestra, at the Capitol Studios in Hollywood on October 17, 2005.
Arrangements recorded were done by Billy May, Nelson Riddle, Sam Donahue, and others, and the orchestra included such veteran musicians as Bill Watrous (trombone), Gene Cipriano (tenor sax), and Bob Chmel (drums). Besides the title song, selections are Cry Me a River, arranged by May; Remember; The Trouble with Hello Is Goodbye; You'll Never Know; People That You Never Get to Love; Feelin' Good, arranged by Donahue; Close Enough for Love; Walkin' Happy; I Was a Fool; Masquerade; and Girl Talk. Also cut was a new performance of Sinatra, Jr.'s original, Spice, which Riddle had arranged for him in the 1960s.
Sinatra, Jr.'s mother, Nancy, and sister, also named Nancy, attended the session.
It was noted that the charts did not need to be transposed, because Sinatra, Jr. sings
in the same key as his father did. In fact, Sinatra, Jr. at one time followed his dad's
footsteps, by being the featured male vocalist with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra from 1962-65, when it was led by Sam Donahue.
Trigger Alpert, well-known to big band fans for his bass work with Glenn Miller's civilian and service orchestras, has written to me about how he subsequently came to play for Frank Sinatra.
"This was after Glenn, when I was freelancing in New York City," he reminisced. "I was recording with a group (I dont remember the name of the outfit) and I didn't know it, but Frank was recording in the next studio. At break time, Frank's manager came up to me and told me Frank had been listening to me and wanted to know if I was interested in joining him. After getting my breath in disbelief, I said, 'Hell, yes, I would love it!'"
Alpert's first recording session with Sinatra, for Columbia Records, was evidently December 15, 1946, when Axel Stordahl arranged and conducted Always and I Want to Thank Your Folks.
"So I went with Frank in all his NYC work and what a joy that was," Alpert commented.
He recorded with Sinatra as late as October 9, 1950, and other top studio men -- namely trumpeter Billy Butterfield, trombonists George Arus and Billy Rausch, saxophonist Hymie Schertzer, and drummer Johnny Blowers -- were also in the band.
"You know he [ Sinatra ] loved musicians, so I did most of his radio shows and recordings at that time, until he left New York to go permanently to the West Coast."
Alpert still thinks of that era fondly.
"It was one of the best periods of my musical life," he reported. "I later found out that George T. Simon had recommended me."
I appreciate that you shared those memories, Trigger!
PEPLOWSKI RIDES AGAIN
Clarinetist Ken Peplowski, who earlier this year completed a U.S. tour playing tribute concerts to the legendary Benny Goodman, gave some interesting comments recently to writer Alison Kerr, in anticipation appearing at an Edinburgh, Scotland jazz club on June 7th.
Peplowski was a member of Loren Schoenberg's big band, when in 1985 it was hired
en masse to perform with Benny Goodman.
"He [ Goodman ] was very late for the audition so we started playing," Peplowski
recalled. "I was in the middle of a solo, playing with my eyes closed, and all of a sudden
I felt the band tense up as a unit - the sound of 14 pairs of butt cheeks clenching at the same time. I knew that Benny Goodman was in the room."
Not long afterwards, Peplowski and Goodman became friends.
"He'd call every day to talk about the band," Peplowski revealed. "It's funny, I
remember starting to get annoyed every time I heard his voice on the machine - 'Jeez, it's Benny Goodman again. He's going to fire someone else."
Goodman passed away twenty years ago this month.
"Now I wish I heard that voice," Peplowski added.
WE BID YOU ADIEU
For 16 seasons, author - historian Steven D. Harris has produced and emceed celebrations of Stan Kenton's music, but this year's tribute, taking place on June 4th at the Holiday Inn Ballroom in Monrovia, CA, will be his last.
It's called "Cuban Fire Revisited!," and presents a Kenton alumni orchestra performing live the monumental Cuban Fire suite, as arranged by Johnny Richards and recorded by Kenton's band in 1956. One of the musicians on that LP, baritone saxophonist Billy Root, will be present.
Among the scheduled personnel are trumpeters Steve Huffstetter, Mike Vax, Carl Saunders, and Bob Rolfe; bass trombonist Kenny Shroyer; saxophonists Kim Richmond, Bill Trujillo, and Robert Crosby; bassist David Stone; and drummer Frankie Capp.
The program will also include various other Kenton music, ranging from the '40s to the '70s.
Thank you for your many years of dedication, Steven!
COME HEAR THE BAND - SELECT LIST
Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes: June 1-3, Blues Alley, Washington,
DC; June 4, Clifford Brown Festival, Winterthur, DE; June 24, Stoneham Theatre,
Stoneham, MA; June 25, "Kingston Jazz Festival," Kingston, NY
Les Brown's Band of Renown directed by Les Brown, Jr.: June 1 / 3 / 5-8 / 10 / 12-15,
Mickey Gilley Theatre, Branson, MO
Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks: June 10, Associated Black
Charities' "2006 Annual Fundraising Gala," Hyatt Regency Hotel, Baltimore, MD;
June 24, Newport, RI
Xavier Cugat Orchestra directed by Ada Cavallo: June 28, Empire State Plaza
Convention Center, Albany, NY
Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band directed by Slide Hampton: June 20-25, Blue Note,
New York City
Woody Herman's Thundering Herd directed by Frank Tiberi: June 30, Krannert
Performing Arts Center, Urbana, IL
Gene Krupa Orchestra directed by Michael Berkowitz: June 27, "Midsummer Night
Swing," Josie Robertson Plaza, Lincoln Center, New York, NY
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan: June 9, "Big Band Weekend,"
Sheraton Richmond West Hotel, Richmond, VA; June 10, Wilmer Park, Chestertown,
SOLID AS A STONEWALL, JACKSON
Congratulations to Glenn Miller Productions, Inc., operator of the "official" Glenn Miller Orchestra, which this month marks its half-century in continuous operation in the USA!
Prompted by the box office success of Universal-International's "The Glenn Miller
Story," a 1953 film biography which starred Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, and the acclaim for several deluxe RCA Victor Glenn Miller reissues, band booker Willard Alexander suggested to Miller's widow, Helen, that the band be re-formed. She gave her blessing for one of Miller's friends, drummer - vocalist Ray McKinley, to be the new leader, and the group, referred to as "The New Glenn Miller Orchestra," made its debut on June 6, 1956 at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA.
"Fortunately the band became very successful," McKinley later told writer Chip Deffaa. "We played Miller music and more contemporary material. I spent ten years traveling. You name it, we were there-Japan twice, all over Europe, North Africa, and boom, boom, boom. Some of the traveling was enjoyable and interesting; the hard part was the one-nighters on the bus here in the States. It finally got to a point where I didn't want to be on the road anymore. I couldn't sleep in a bed. When I couldn't take it anymore, I quit."
After McKinley left in 1966, a succession of people fronted the Orchestra through the years, including trombonist Larry O'Brien, its present musical director. Today, the band is controlled by the son of Miller's attorney and advisor, David Mackay. Charles DeStefano, who joined the band on trumpet in 1980, handles business in the Orchestra's office.
And the right to use Miller's name and original music library continue to be valuable properties, and there are no fewer than three bands licensed to perform as "The Glenn Miller Orchestra," including O'Brien's group, which criss-crosses America and visits Japan every year, and units in the United Kingdom and Europe. (There even was a separate "Miller Orchestra" backing pop singer Bobby Vinton, at his Blue Velvet Theatre in Branson, MO, for a while a few years ago.)
O'Brien and the Miller Orchestra will be at the University of Arkansas, in Batesville,
on June 6th. Their schedule also lists June 1, Warner Theatre, Torrington, CT; June 2, Harpursville High School, Harpursville, NY; June 3, [ private ] Allegheny Center, Meadville,
PA; June 4, James F. Dicke Auditorium, New Bremen, OH; June 8-10, Glenn Miller Birthplace Society Festival, Clarinda, Iowa; June 13, Lincoln Center, Fort Collins, CO; June 16-17, Cannery Casino & Hotel, Las Vegas, NV; June 21, Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge, CO; June 23, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS; June 24, [ private ] Airport Hanger, Belle Plaine, IA; June 25, Life Investors Parking Lot, Cedar Rapids, IA; June 28, Buttermilk Creek Park, Fond du Lac, WI; June 29, Door Community Auditorium, Fish Creek, WI.
How has the Glenn Miller Productions office put together and kept them on such a busy schedule? As O'Brien once observed to me, "They've got organization."
Here's to those 50 years!
WHO'S GETTING RICH?
The daughter of drummer - bandleader Buddy Rich has expressed her feelings about some bootlegs of her father's performances being offered on the Internet.
"It has recently come to my attention that a very good friend of mine, Bruce Klauber, has not only been bootlegging, but selling DVD's and CD's of Buddy without permission on his web site," Cathy Rich stated on her official website, buddyrich.com. "This is disturbing to me on many levels. The foremost being that as a friend and a person of some integrity who has actually worked with me on projects relating to Buddy, could stoop this low. Not only taking advantage of a friendship, but using illegal footage that has been taken from Carson Productions, Johnny's estate, Merv Griffin, Jackie Gleason's estate, and several other families who don't have a mouthpiece to fight this kind of piracy. This outrageous behavior will never be tolerated by me or my family, we have spent the past almost twenty years fighting off vultures trying to make an illegal living off of Buddy, and we will continue to do so. That said, if you truly are a fan, please do not buy ANYTHING illegal of ANY artist, not just my father. Boycott those who seek to make money illegally off the sweat and lifelong work of others."
Klauber went on record and apologized, also stating on the homepage of his website, jazzlegends.com, "BUDDY RICH TITLES--BOTH DVD AND CD--ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE FROM US IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM, NOR WILL THEY BE IN
THIS LIFE TIME. PERIOD. THE END."
Reaction from fans in the "Message Board" section of the Rich website was, at times, heated. Some were sympathetic to Cathy Rich, while a surprising number didn't hesitate to argue against her (on her own site!), urging that more unissued or unseen items be made available in some manner.
MAY I HAVE THIS DANCE?
More than $3 million has been spent to refurbish and enlarge the old Palais Royale dance hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
"From what I've heard, it was always a hot place. It will be again," spokesperson Nancy Malek promised recently, in comments to the Toronto Star.
For example, in 1933, when Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra appeared there, a crowd of 3,000 showed up.
Other name bands which performed at the Palais Royale during the 1930s included the Dorsey Brothers and Count Basie.
DANCE TO ARTIE SHAW
Three couples, known collectively as "Hop, Swing and Jump," danced to The Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra's recording of the Artie Shaw band arrangement of Traffic Jam, on the June 28th "So You Think You Can Dance." The program is a weekly dance competition, telecast on Fox, though the couples were not part of the contest. The show's host, Cat Deeley, called the segment "the happiest dancing in the world."
RIDDLE ME THIS
Some Nelson Riddle arrangements will be heard during "3 Men and a Big Band," the latest fundraiser for The Society of Singers, which takes place June 3rd at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. Among the featured singers will be Jerry Sharell, President and CEO of the Society. Proceeds benefit the Society's emergency relief and scholarship funds.
NEW BOOKS - SELECT LIST
Buchmann-Moller, Frank. Someone to Watch Over Me: The Life and Music of
Ben Webster (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006). [ 400-pg. biography ]
Prigozy, Ruth. The Life of Dick Haymes: No More Little White Lies (Jackson, MS:
University Press of Mississippi, 2006). [ 283-pg. biography incl. over 30 photographs ]
IN-PRINT AND / OR ONLINE - SELECT LIST
Di Nunzio, Miriam. "Sinatra Jr. releases new disc - his way," Chicago Sun-Times /
suntimes.com, June 3, 2006.
Duckett, Jerry. "Hampton lines up All-Stars for Dizzy," Express-Times / nj.com,
June 16, 2006. [ about Dizzy Gillespie and the all-star big band named for him ]
Eberle, Jan. "Full Circle: Big Band music lives on through scholarships,"
American Legion, June 2006. [ singer Ray Eberle's daughter describes various scholarships to be awarded
at the Glenn Miller Festival in Iowa, including a new one named in honor of her father ]
Gillespie, James. "The Movies of Benny Goodman: A Pictorial Retrospective:
Take 3," The Clarinet, June 2006, pp.44-47. [ third installment ]
Hirshey, Gerri. "Parade Picks: (DVDs): Road Trip From Heck," Parade,
June 18, 2006, p.15. [ review of boxed set "Lucy & Desi Collection," starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz ]
Kelley, Matt. "Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda attracts international bands,"
radioiowa.com, June 8, 2006.
La Porte, John. "Miller salute begins with film, dance, bio," Fort Morgan [ CO ] Times /
fortmorgantimes.com, June 26, 2006. [ about the "Glenn Miller Dancin' On the Plains" celebration,
during which Miller expert Alan Cass presented a biographical program ]
Lasker, Steven. "What Price Records?: The U.S. Record Industry and the Retail
Price of Popular Records, 1925-50," VJM's Jazz & Blues Mart, Issue No. 142 /
Summer 2006, pp.4-8.
"Little white lies about Tommy Dorsey," [ Sault Ste. Marie, Canada ]
SooToday.com, June 30, 2006.
Mead, Bill. "Savoring songs by women who sounded good," Tehachapi [ CA ] News /
tehachapinews.com, June 23, 2006. [ an appreciation of vocalist Bea Wain, who sang with Larry
Clinton's band ]
"Mr. Know-it-all: Jazz great had sax appeal in Milford," Metro West Daily News [ MA ] /
metrowestdailynews.com, June 18, 2006. [ traces achievements of saxophonist Boots Mussulli ]
"Remembering 'Satchmo': Marcus Belgrave Octet Present a Tribute to Louis
Armstrong Monday," [ NC ] Mountain Times / mountaintimes.com, June 29, 2006.
Reich, Howard. "No losers in battle of bands: 3 top-notch outfits close out Jazz in
June event at Ravinia," Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2006. [ review of performance by Jeff
Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra, David Baker's Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, and Jon Faddis' Chicago Jazz
Taylor, Sarah M. "Behind the Scenes: Basie Orchestra swings into Stoneham:
Band keeps alive the Count's music," Boston Globe / boston.com, June 22, 2006.
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