The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
Over 300 people came to the Big Band Academy of America's annual "Big Band Reunion" on June 1, 2008 at The Sportsmen's Lodge, 12833 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA, and I was happy to be one of them.
The Sportsmen's Lodge is a very scenic property, with lush gardens, towering redwoods, and winding paths.
Only a few miles away is Universal Studios Hollywood which, that morning, suffered a huge fire on its back lot. Ironically, according to the June
FEEDBACK AND FOLLOW-UP
Christopher Popa follows up on June 4, 2008: A spokesman for the Universal Music Group has denied any permanent loss of master recordings.
"Thankfully, there was little lost from UMG's vault. A
majority of what was formerly stored there was moved
earlier this year to our other facilities. Of the small
amount that was still there and waiting to be moved, it
had already been digitized so the music will still be
around for many years to come. And in addition to being
digitized, physical back up copies of what was still left
at that location were made and stored elsewhere. So
thankfully, smart care, administration and preparation
of these gems prevailed."
send feedback about "Big Band Reunion 2008" via e-mail
4th Los Angeles Times, the fire destroyed about 5% of the Universal Music Group's sound recordings, primarily big band
and jazz music on the Decca
label, which were stored in space rented from the studio. (At one time, the Universal Music Group was a part of the NBC conglomerate.)
Even as that fire destroyed a part of the big bands' past and a thick, black plume of smoke hung for hours in the nearby sky, inside the Empire Ballroom of the Sportsmen's Lodge the music lived on.
There were many other notables present at the Big Band Reunion.
For instance, this man [ l. ] really to me needs no name tag, for he is bandleader - arranger - composer Van Alexander, age 93.
Arranger - composer Sammy Nestico, 84, is the subject of a new film documentary, "Shadow Man," by director - producer Diane Estelle Vicari and her Docdance Productions.
One of this year's "Golden Bandstand" inductees was former boy singer - actor - TV host Peter Marshall, 82.
Though most famous as m.c. for "The Hollywood Squares" game show, it was obvious that he also loves to sing, and has listened to and appreciated such classic big band vocalists as Dick Haymes, Bob Eberly, and Johnny Desmond.
I told him that I wished he could get the "Big Bands At Disneyland" TV series released on DVD, but he said
that he doesn't own the rights.
He opened his set with a brief, swinging version of Time Was, with special lyrics. Among his other selections were The More I See You and You'll Never Know (done as a remembrance of Haymes), and a medley in honor of other big band singers including Helen Forrest, Jack Leonard, and Martha Tilton.
Marshall's conductor was pianist John Rodby, who worked for many years with Dinah Shore and, most recently, did three concerts with Marshall.
Also given a "Golden Bandstand" award by The Big Band Academy of America was The Modernaires vocal group.
Pictured here are half of today's Mods, singers Paula Kelly Jr. [ l. ] and her sister, Juliann [ r. ]. (Actually, the man with his back to the camera is another member, Joe Croyle.)
The Modernaires packed in a lot of Glenn Miller music during their segment, starting with Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree. Then Paula referred to For You as a song which the original group did with Ted FioRito's band - of
course, not in such a hip arrangement, which wasn't written for them until 1964 by Alan Copeland (... "Gonna lay a real choice carpet of clover..." "Where?" "Right there at your feet!" "Yo' mama!"...).
Next was a medley of Dream, On the Sunny Side of the
Street, and Boogie Woogie; an unusual adaptation of Make Love to Me, also by Copeland; then back to Miller with Perfidia,
Moonlight Serenade, and Chattanooga Choo Choo, the latter on which they were joined by Peter Marshall.
BIG BAND REUNION 2008
attended by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
Comedy legend Stan Freberg [ r., holding a script during a rehearsal prior to the program ] was also given a "Golden Bandstand" award.
Freberg collaborated with the late bandleader - arranger Billy May on many Capitol recordings during the 1950s and '60s.
In fact, Freberg pointed out that he never has employed a synthesizer on any of his recording sessions, preferring the sound of live musicians.
Curious, he once asked May if he could write for a synthesizer and May responded, "Stanley, hell no! And I don't want to!"
All performers were backed by Pat Longo [ r., holding alto saxophone ] and His Hollywood Big Band, which that day included such sidemen as tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb, who worked with Jerry Gray and later "The Tonight Show" band, and bassist Richard Maloof, a former member of Lawrence Welk's orchestra.
It was pleasure hearing Longo's band play afterwards for dancing, in particular a very Glenn Miller-ish arrangement of Tenderly, for which I stood directly in front of the bandstand.
I also said hello to the lovely Bea Wain [ l. ], who sat at a table with Larry Clinton's son. It's hard to believe that she is 91 years old.
Elsewhere around the room the list of guests showed Art Depew, Al Lerner, Mundell Lowe, Monica Mancini (Henry's daughter), Johnny Mandel, Gene Merlino, Vi Monte, Polly Podewell, Uan Rasey, Betty Rose (David's wife), Butch Stone, Gary Tole (Bill's brother), and Sheila Tracy. There was also a surprise visitor, Dick Van Dyke.
And now, may I introduce you to some delightful and and talented people - it was my privilege to be in their company, at table #12.
Above is Bud ("Kelly") Combine and his wife, Dottie O'Brien.
To the left is Florence Corb, wife of the late bassist Morty Corb.
On the right is Bill Soule, a Glenn Miller expert who is presently seeking a publisher for his manuscript about The Modernaires.
And below is Le Bluestone, wife of the late violinist - concertmaster Harry Bluestone, who was heard on recordings with (to name a few) Bunny Berigan, the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw.
My other table-mates were Esther
Ames, Howard Crawford (Jesse's son), Don Cunningham, Jamie and Kathy Gibson, and Maxine Hanger. I enjoyed sharing dinner and friendly conversation with them as well.
Congratulations to David Bernhart for putting together a wonderful afternoon for all of us!