by Christopher Popa

   Lately, people have been sending me various compact discs, hoping for a positive review or endorsement.  If it's something that I'd personally enjoy, I likely have already purchased a copy for myself.  Sometimes, they're "late to the party" and send me something after I've already mentioned it.  More often than not, for one (or more) reasons, I don't think much of the item, but resist the temptation to criticize it, and, instead, politely ignore it.
    On the other hand, Michael Berkowitz, leader of The Gene Krupa Orchestra, recently gave me an advance copy of their forthcoming CD, and it is so pleasurable that I feel compelled and anxious to tell others about it.

"Thinking of Gene"
The Gene Krupa Orchestra with Mike Berkowitz
featuring Steve Hawk, Mike Tomaro, and Annette Sanders
Sea Breeze Jazz

    Made as a live performance from the XM Performance Center in downtown Washington, D.C. on September 9, 2006, it must have been thrilling for listeners to tune in and hear these '30s and '40s classics come to life with fine musicianship and today's technology.  Happily, the program was also planned for sale to the public as a CD, though its release has been
delayed until after the New Year.  (It then should be available from Berkowitz's website, berkmusic.com; cdbaby.com; amazon.com; and at the band's concerts.)
    The band is well-rehearsed and very, very good - as good as any of today's road bands, and Berkowitz can be justly proud.  Featured throughout, besides Berkowitz on drums, are Annette Sanders, vocals, who sang the Anita O'Day role (but does not sound like her) and Steve Hawk on trumpet, playing the demanding Roy Eldridge parts.  The rest of the ensemble was Liesl Whitaker, Graham Breedlove, Craig Fraedrich ( trumpets ); Matt Niess, Jim McFalls, Jay Gibble, Jeff Cortazzo (trombones ); Antonio Orta, Jim Carroll, Mike Tomaro, John DeSalme, Dave Brown ( saxophones ); Tony Nalker ( piano ); and Paul Henry ( bass ).
    Some of the selections, including Leave Us Leap, Wire Brush Stomp, That's What You Think, Rockin' Chair, Opus One, and Boogie Blues, are the 1956 charts, as updated by Quincy Jones and Billy Byers, for Krupa's "Drummer Man" album on Verve.  Others were transcriptions from his original Columbia and Okeh recordings, namely Tuxedo Junction, Massachusetts, That Drummer's Band, and Lover.  The lone new tune, Thinking of Gene, presents the band in a relaxed groove.
    Longtime Krupa aficionados will especially appreciate Berkowitz's choice of pieces, his drumming and tempos, the band's vocal on Gene's Boogie, and any number of other various ensemble passages that accurately capture the feel (and, sometimes, the exact sonority) of the famous past versions.  Starting with the opening selection, which is the band's theme,
Starburst, I haven't been able to stop listening to the whole thing since. 
    Congratulations to Berkowitz for achieving what, evidently, has stymied some of the other "ghost" bands of today: releasing a CD.  But much more than that, it is a thoroughly enjoyable one that should help The Gene Krupa Orchestra deservedly find new fans.  (And it should be out to coincide with the band's early 2007 concerts with The Four Freshmen!)
    Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT
Gene Krupa, ca. 1940s
"'s Wonderful: Rare Recordings of the 1950s"
Tex Beneke and His Orchestra
incl. vocals by Beneke, Ray Eberle, Bill Raymond, and Betsy Gay
Sepia ( UK ) 1081

    Most of these 27 songs have not been available since their original release (other than those poor-sounding cassettes from Joyce and Ajax), so this CD is, in that regard alone, an especially important purchase for Tex Beneke fans.  With so many tracks, it has very generous playing time, as well as good sound and attractive artwork.    
    The issue was suggested by longtime Beneke aficionado and Glenn Miller Society member Michael Highton, who also wrote a brief appreciation of Beneke as part of the liner notes.  
    Danny's Hideaway, You Blew Out the Flame, The Day Isn't Long Enough, and Lisbon Antigua are easily among the most appealing performances.  Beneke still had good bands during this period, but, frankly, he was assigned some mediocre things to record.  In my opinion, Cimarron was not only an inappropriate a.&r. choice, it's awful.
    Nineteen of the selections were done for MGM in 1951 (Beneke's "complete" issued output on that label), and it might have been better to release those alone as one disc.  Then the rest of the music heard here, recorded between 1950 and 1956, could have made up part of a companion or follow-up collection, with enough room to include additional, missing Coral and RCA Camden pieces by Beneke.
    Perhaps in a couple of years, once the January 1958 Coral "Reunion in Hi-Fi" album goes out of copyright in Europe, Mr. Highton can get Sepia to do another Beneke CD, adding the "Hi-Fi" album to remaining, superior RCA Camden performances, namely Petticoats of Portugal; Singing the Blues; Hey, Jealous Lover; and No, Not Much.  (Those were truly some of Beneke's best!)
    Big Band Library rating: VERY GOOD
Louis Armstrong: "Legends of American Music: The
  Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong," Time-Life Music 
   [ incl. 2 CDs of recordings from 1931-67, a DVD of performances from 1933-63, and
   a 40-pg. booklet ]
Les Brown: "The Sound Exchange," Jasmine ( UK ) JASCD
  438  [ 2-CD set with misleading packaging, giving the impression that all of the
   recordings are by Les Brown or Brown accompanying various singers, but booklet notes
   reveal that some are by those singers with others ]
Sam Donahue: "Bandstand Bash," Montpellier ( UK ) 21
   [ = Big Band Landmarks LP Vol.VIII; recorded 1955 ]
Duke Ellington: "The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion
  and OKeh Small Group Sessions," Mosaic MD7-235
   [ 173 tracks in a 7-CD boxed set ]
Neal Hefti: "Mr & Mrs Music," Sepia ( UK ) 1083
Stan Kenton: "The Stan Kenton Show," Redmond Nostalgia
  CD-2226   [ ca.1950 ]
Billy May: "The Billy May Show," Redmond Nostalgia CD-2227
   [ Jul. 1954? ]
Tony Pastor: "Plays and Sings Shaw," Collectables COL 0861
Jack Teagarden: "Big Band Jazz," Collectables COL 0871; "Original Dixieland,"
  Collectables COL 0872

    Trombonist Buddy Morrow, now 87 years old and still directing The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, seems to like being on the road. 
    "At my age, every day I get up is a victory," Morrow joked this month to Angie Kinsey of the Paducah [ KY ] Sun.  "I enjoy actually being on stage and having contact with the audience and letting my experience show itself.  I love being able to play our music.  Every now and then you get an audience that knows what you're doing and likes what you're doing."

    Jazz educator Dr. David Baker, who helped found The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, which includes original arrangements of various big bands in its repertoire, says jazz is doing well in late 2006.
    "In my view, this is the best time for jazz since the swing era," he told Ron Wynn for the
[ Nashville, TN City Paper this month.  "What fools some people is that the traditional venues like clubs, bars and the like are almost non-existent outside the major cities.  But if you go to
the schools and universities, you'd be hard pressed not to find some sort of jazz band or pep band relying on jazz techniques and influences.  So many young people are coming up now who know and love the music and are being trained at the highest levels.  So there's a lot to be happy about today in terms of jazz in America."

    Someone wrote in to the Fort Worth [ TX ] Star-Telegram this month, asking for information about the Lake Worth Casino Ballroom.  It stood on the shore of the lake, just off Jacksboro Highway, and allowed couples to dance under the stars.  Although the Ballroom had several new "leases on life" and a few face-lifts, in 1972 the Fort Worth City Council declared the structure was a "fire trap" (it didn't have a sprinkler system) and a "dangerous hazard," so not long afterwards it was demolished.
Bauer, Marilyn.  "Sun Valley serenade: Granddaddy of ski resorts is today's remote
  Hollywood," Asbury Park [ NJ ] Press, Nov. 5, 2006.   [ titled after the 1941 Glenn Miller movie, recounts
   the history of the Sun Valley, ID ski resort ]
Behrens, Jack.  Big Bands & Great Ballrooms: America Is Dancing . . . Again
  (Indianapolis, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006).
Bernstein, Adam.  "Anita O'Day, 87; Jazz Singer With a Sultry, Inventive Style,"
  Washington [ DC ] Post / washingtonpost.com, Nov. 24, 2006, p.B7.
Chinen, Nate.  "Anita O'Day, 87, Hard-Living Star of the Big-Band Era and Beyond, Dies,"
  New York Times / nytimes.com, Nov. 24, 2006.
Determeyer, Eddy.  Rhythm Is Our Business: Jimmie Lunceford and the Harlem Express
  (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006).   [ first-ever full-length biography of Lunceford,
   by Dutch freelance journalist ]
Friedwald, Will.  "Peplowski Blows Back to His Roots," New York [ City ] Sun / nysun.com,
  Nov. 20, 2006.  [ much about Benny Goodman ]
Heckman, Don.  "An Appreciation: Substance, not style, set her apart," Los Angeles
  Times / latimes.com, Nov. 25, 2006.   [ re: Anita O'Day ]
Hentoff, Nat.  "Keeping Jazz Musicians Alive: Many world-renowned jazz musicians have no
  pensions, no medical plans, no hope," [ New York City ] Village Voice / villagevoice.com,
  Nov. 19, 2006.   [ discusses the outreach efforts of The Jazz Foundation of America, located in New York City ]
Hoffman, Allison.  "'Jezebel of Jazz' hit peak in '40s, '50s," [ Chicago ] Sun-Times /
  suntimes.com, Nov. 24, 2006.   [ Anita O'Day obituary ]
Mathieson, Kenny.  "Count Basie Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh," [ Edinburgh, Scotland ]
  Scotsman / scotsman.com, Nov. 8, 2006.  [ brief concert review ]
McDonough, John.  "Flying High: Maynard Ferguson Played the Impossible during His
  Illustrious Career," Down Beat, Nov. 2006, pp.46-49.
McLellan, Dennis.  "Anita O'Day, 87; renowned singer billed as the 'Jezebel of Jazz,'"
  Los Angeles Times / latimes.com, Nov. 24, 2006.
Powell, Les.  "Vocalist has seniors crooning for more," [ Harrisburg, PA ] Patriot-News,
  Nov. 6, 2006.   [ re: 75-year-old singer Ed Bolton (W. King '79-'83) ]
Reich, Howard.  "Treasures of music lovers now just so much debris: Even as the city
  rebuilds, it is clear 'a whole universe' of jazz history is lost," Chicago [ IL ] Tribune,
  Nov. 27, 2006.  [ New Orleans continues to struggle to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina; among the items lost was more
   than 80% of the memorabilia from the late guitarist Danny Barker (Calloway '37-'46; Millinder '47) ]
Shuler, Deandra.  "People of Note: Gerald Wilson - - Six Decades of Outstanding Music,"
  eurweb.com, Nov. 22, 2006.
Smith, Dave.  "Genesis of the TD-JD band," Moonlight Serenader, Number 309 / 4th
  Edition 2006, pp.8-9.   [  traces the roles Smith Ballew, Glenn Miller, and others played leading up to the formation of
   The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1934 ]
Stewart, Zan.  "Easy does it for big bands," [ Newark NJ ] Star-Ledger / nj.com,
  Nov. 27, 2006.  [ review of Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band performance ]
Sweeney, Don.  Backstage At the Tonight Show: from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno
  (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2006).  [ 248-pg. book; in part, he tells about working as a music
   assistant, copyist, and librarian for the Tonight Show Band's nearly 3,000 arrangements ]
Taylor, Roland.  "Early 1950s Discs of Beneke Band Now On CD in UK," Moonlight
  Serenader, Number 309 / 4th Edition 2006, p.1+.
---.  "Miller's Mighty Service Band: The ensemble in focus," Moonlight Serenader,
  Number 309 / 4th Edition 2006, pp.2-5.
Ward, Charles.  "Puppeteer has big plans for Hansel and Gretel," Houston [ TX ] Chronicle /
  chron.com, Nov. 27, 2006.  [ about Basil Twist, grandson of bandleader Griff Williams ]
Winckel, Henry.  "Count Basie Orchestra to Swing Into Tulare," Fresno [ CA ] Bee /
  fresnobee.com, Nov. 24, 2006.
Wolfe, Clarence B.  I Kept My Word: The Personal Promise Between a World War II
  Army Private and His Captain About What Really Happened to Glenn Miller
  (Indianapolis, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006).   [ Publicity states, "Many people have stepped into the spotlight,
   claiming they knew where and how Glenn Miller died, but none of those people were in Clarence Wolfe’s shoes.  He was there,
   manning the computer that tracked enemy aircraft off the coast of England.  So was his captain, who ordered that the secret of
   Miller’s demise remain between them." ]

Herb Geller, alto saxophonist (Thornhill '50), b. Nov. 2, 1928
Chris Connor, vocalist (Thornhill '52; Kenton '53), b. Nov. 8, 1927
Louise Tobin, vocalist (James '39; Goodman '39), b. Nov. 11, 1918
Jo Stafford, vocalist (T. Dorsey '40-'42), b. Nov. 12, 1920
Martha Tilton, vocalist (Goodman '37-'39; Shaw '40 Dreaming Out Loud, Now We Know),
  b. Nov. 14, 1915
Johnny Mandel, trombonist - arranger (Raeburn '45; Rich '46 / '48; Shaw '49; Basie '53) -
  composer (The Shadow of Your Smile), b. Nov. 23, 1925
Jack Sheldon, trumpeter (Kenton '58-'59; Goodman '59-'60 / '65 / '76 / '78), b. Nov. 30, 1931

"Sonny" Cohn, 81, trumpeter (Basie '58 / '59-'84; Basie Orch. '84-'90), Nov. 7
Ruth Brown, 78, vocalist (Millinder '46?), Nov. 17, "complications following a heart attack
  and stroke she suffered from surgery"
Anita O'Day, 87, vocalist (Krupa '41-'42 / '45-'46; Kenton '44-'45), Nov. 23, 2006,
  cardiac arrest / "was recovering from pneumonia and had been in declining health with
  Alzheimer's disease"
Bobby Byrne, 87, trombonist (Dorsey Bros. '35; J. Dorsey '35-'39) - bandleader ('39-ca.'51),
  Nov. 25, 2006, "died in his sleep after suffering a stroke Wednesday [ 11/22/06 ]" /
  "was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease"

Les Brown's Band of Renown directed by Les Brown, Jr.: Nov. 1-4 / 7-11 / 14-18 / 25 /
  28-30, Mickey Gilley Theatre, Branson, MO
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow: Nov. 3, Kapok Center,
  Clearwater, FL; Nov. 9, Niswonger Performing Arts Center, Greeneville, TN; Nov. 10,
  Civic Center, Roanoke, VA; Nov. 11, The Homestead, Hot Springs, VA; Nov. 12,
  Newberry Opera House, Newberry, SC; Nov. 14, Troup County Fine Arts Auditorium,
  LaGrange, GA; Nov. 16, McMahon Memorial Auditorium, Lawton, OK; Nov. 17, Palace
  Theatre, Grapevine, TX; Nov. 18, NE Texas Community College, Mt. Pleasant, TX;
  Nov. 19, The Carson Center, Paducah, KY
Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band directed by Slide Hampton: Nov. 15, McCarter Theater,
  Princeton, NJ; Nov. 17, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA; Nov. 25, New
  Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ
Sammy Kaye Orchestra directed by Roger Thorpe:  Nov. 11, Naval Station Officers Club,
  Newport, RI; Nov. 20, Pierre Hotel, New York, NY
Gene Krupa Orchestra directed by Michael Berkowitz: Nov. 10: Mt. Dora Community
  Building Theatre, Mt. Dora, FL  [ with vocalist Bob Hoose ]
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien: Nov. 1, Medina High School, Medina, NY;
  Nov. 3, Patchogue Theatre, Patchogue, NY; Nov. 4, Palace Theater, Waterbury, CT;
  Nov. 5, Fitchburg State College, Fitchburg, MA; Nov. 6, Chandler Music Hall, Randolph,
  VT; Nov. 10-30, portion of Japan tour
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan: Nov. 5-18, two back-to-back cruises
  on the Empress of the North riverboat, Portland, OR
    On Tuesday, October 3, 1944, Major Glenn Miller directed his American Band of the AEF in a drafty airplane hanger at King's Cliffe airfield, Station 367, near Peterborough, England.  It was the final concert by the group before Winter set in (and, of course, Miller's disappearance that December).  To commemorate the performance, a stone memorial was placed on the site. 
    But on Sunday, October 22, 2006, someone smashed the stone, leaving it in pieces.
    British musician and former airman Freddie Staff told reporters, "That memorial is not just a tribute to the great
[ Glenn ] Miller, but also to the thousands of brave American servicemen who died protecting this country . . . This attack is an insult to the memory of each of them."
    I say whoever damages someone's grave or memorial is the lowest of the low.

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World War II historian Bernard Howard surveys the pile of rubble that used to be a memorial to Glenn Miller.   [ image from the
Stamford Mercury newspaper ]