The L.A. Jazz Institute has had its offices at Cal State Long Beach since its formation a decade ago. But in November the Institute,
under the direction of Ken Poston, was notified that it had to move, and in a hurry. Considering its huge archives, this was not going
to be a simple or inexpensive task. To raise money, in a two week period Poston organized a giant Holiday Jazz Party that featured 15
bands playing in 12 1/2 hours at the LAX Marriott, my idea of a worthwhile day! Musically and hopefully financially, it was a big
The entire festival took place in one room. By utilizing two stages, the music was continuous, with one band setting up while the other
one performed. Among its other benefits, this situation gave the musicians opportunities to hear each other play; they frequently
cheered each other on. In some cases, a few of the musicians from one band, upon completion of a set, immediately joined the next
group. Many of the fans stayed for the entire concert because, with bands changing every 50 minutes and often trying to outdo each
other, there was no letup in the excitement. And it soon became clear that every musician who appeared on stage, the great majority
of whom double as studio players, was masterful, including all of the sidemen.
It all began at 11:13 a.m. with the Gerry Gibbs Quartet. The group, which consisted of Eric Hargett on tenor and baritone, pianist
Mahesh Balasooriya, 18-year old bassist Mike Gurrola, and Gibbs on drums, played some of the most adventurous music of the long
day. They romped through “Gingerbread Boy,” sounded sensitive on “You Don't Know What Love Is,” and otherwise performed high-
energy blowing with Hargett really distinguishing himself.. .
The Carl Saunders Be Bop Big Band swung hard on “Hi Fly,” “Never Always,” and “Invitation,” with the leader taking an outstanding
feature on “In A Sentimental Mood.” His endless breaths, filled with rapid but perfectly-placed notes, are a wonder. Also in the band
was trombonist Scott Whitfield, who on “Hi Fly” played as fast as Saunders.
The next set had Kurt Reichenbach and Pinky Winters taking turns singing while joined by a group that included Bill Reichenbach on
bass trumpet, pianist Jim Cox and Carl Saunders filling in on drums. Pinky was in excellent form on “Goody, Goody,” “Body And
Soul” (which she sang with alternate lyrics), and “End Of A Beautiful Friendship” while Reichenbach was at his best on “I Only Have
Eyes for You.”
Fred Selden filled in very well for Art Pepper in a recreation of Marty Paich's arrangements for the famous Art Pepper + 11 album.
Gene Cipriano took Pepper's spot on his clarinet feature “Anthropology.”
The Cannonball-Coltrane Project, bassist Luther Hughes' group which usually features tenor-saxophonist Glenn Cashman, altoist
Bruce Babad, pianist Ed Czach and drummer Paul Kreibich, performed with Joe Bagg filling in for Czach. In addition to “Work Song”
and a burning “Limehouse Blues,” they played some originals including the soulful ballad “Julian.”
The Tall and Small Big Band is co-led by tenor-saxophonist Pete Christlieb and his wife trombonist Linda Small. In addition to the co-
leaders, the soloists included Joe Bagg, trumpeter Bob Summers and saxophonist Terry Harrington on such numbers as Al Cohn's
“High On You,” “Ugetsu,” “The Meaning Of The Blues” and a hard-swinging “Pent Up House.”
The Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra, which is 22 pieces including tuba and two French horns, played Richmond's adventurous
and often third-stream arrangements. The leader was featured on alto for “Invitation” and soprano during “America The Beautiful.”
No matter how many big bands one sees, Bill Holman's Orchestra always ends up taking honors. The leader's arrangements, the
tightness of the ensembles, and the well-conceived solos make this band impossible to beat. His set included an opening blues called
“And Thad Ain't Bad” for Thad Jones, Christian Jacob's arrangement of “Moment's Notice,” “Someday My Prince Will Come” and
“Fire Down Below.”
It was difficult not to sound anti-climatic following Holman, but drummer Chuck Flores' octet did their best, mostly sounding fairly
mellow and relaxed. Key soloists included tenor-saxophonist Steve Marsh, trombonist Dick Hamilton, and both Jeff Kaye and Bob
Summers on trumpets.
Dewey Erney, who was joined by guitarist Ron Eschete, bassist Luther Hughes and drummer Paul Kreibich, was in his usual cheerful
and very musical form. He loves to sing and does it quite well as he showed on some of his favorite standards including “All Or
Nothing At All,” “I Thought About You” and “I Concentrate On You.”
The Steve Huffsteter Big Band, featuring the leader's inventive arrangements, displayed its own personality during a swinging set
with Christian Jacob on piano.
Because the program was a half-hour behind at this point, Med Flory's Big Band did not play as long as scheduled but there were some
great moments from the leader's tenor, Ron Stout, trombonist Andy Martin, pianist Tom Ranier and, during a feature on “It's You Or
No One,” guest altoist Richie Cole. Although a bit of a pick-up band, this orchestra sounded like a well-rehearsed outfit and certainly
had plenty of spirit.
The Gary Urwin Big Band featured trombonist Bill Watrous on many of its selections. Highlights included Gerry Mulligan's “Song For
Strayhorn” (with baritonist Jennifer Hall in the lead), “Beautiful Love,” an instrumental “Girl Talk” and a beautiful version of “Guess
I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry.”
Med Flory returned in a quintet set with fellow tenorman Dave Pell, pianist John Hammond, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Frank
Capp. Although the playing was loose, it was great fun with the two saxophonists still sounding in their prime while Hammond often
took solo honors. “There's A Small Hotel” and “Ornithology” both were given colorful versions.
And to close the marathon concert was the Ron King Big Band. King has a swinging and solid big band and one that was clearly in the
mood to play, as they showed on an uptempo “My Buddy,” “Out Of Nowhere” (which featured the saxophone section playing Charlie
Parker's solo), “Soul Eyes” and “Up Jumped Spring.” I actually felt guilty leaving after 12 1/2 hours of music.
This was a concert not to be missed. Few other than Ken Poston could have pulled a festival of this quality together so quickly.
For more information on the Los Angeles Jazz Institute, visit www.lajazzinstitute.org.