Los Angeles Jazz Scene - Jazz Around Town
                         March 2016
THREE CONCERTS IN THREE VENUES
      
The Blue Whale features adventurous jazz seven nights a week, often by little-known but talented up-and-coming artists. All Southern
California jazz fans owe it to themselves to drop by the Blue Whale two or three times a week to hear what is new and exciting on today’s jazz
scene. On a recent night, the Blue Whale hosted an all-star group led by drummer Willie Jones III. that featured tenor-saxophonist Ralph
Moore, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, pianist Eric Reed and bassist David Robaire. While their music was mostly straight ahead, it was never
predictable and was always explorative. Whether it was Cedar Walton’s rarely-performed “Hindsight,” a Moore feature on Horace Silver’s
“Peace,” a medium-tempo original over the chords of “Summertime” or a beboppish blues, Jones’ group was outstanding. Castellanos’ solos
often hinted at earlier trumpet greats, Reed was particularly creative on the modal pieces, Moore was in excellent form, and Jones’ solos,
which built up ideas like an architect, recalled Max Roach. It was a night of outstanding music.
      
Dave Weckl will probably always be best known for being the drummer with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band during 1985-91. However, as he
showed before a packed house at Catalina’s and on many other occasions during the past 20 years, he is a versatile drummer who can play in
a variety of styles while still sounding individual.
      
The Dave Weckl Acoustic Quartet (Weckl, Gary Meek on tenor and soprano, pianist-organist Makoto Ozone and bassist Tom Kennedy)
originally came together when the musicians were working with guitarist Mike Stern. While he took a couple of solos along the way at
Catalina’s, Weckl was mostly content to offer his sidemen stimulating support. The music was primarily modern post bop jazz. Meek played
some fine high-powered solos, hinting in spots at Ernie Watts and using high notes as a logical part of his style. While Ozone was fine on organ,
he showed much more individuality and creativity on piano, really excelling during a trio feature. Bassist Kennedy consistently displayed his
knowledge of jazz history and a generous amount of wit, playing an inventive duo with Weckl on “It’s Only A Paper Moon.” Whether it was a
minor blues, a complex structure or a funkier piece, Weckl’s Acoustic Quartet was in top form throughout the night.
      
The Power Quintet celebrated their release of their self-titled debut High Note album at the Moss Theater in a concert sponsored by Ruth Price
and the Jazz Bakery. The impressive group, comprised of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist
Peter Washington and drummer Bill Stewart, lived up to its great potential. Good as their CD is, the quintet has grown since that time, taking
more adventurous solos and having a more interactive role for Stewart, whose drumming continually pushed and challenged the soloists. A
powerhouse of creativity, Stewart was always heard but he never overpowered the other players. Grissett, who had spent a long period in Pelt’
s group, may have been the least known member of the group but his solos often took honors. It was a joy getting to see and hear Nelson (one of
the major vibraphonists of the past 30 years) while Pelt, who made the announcements, took many heated solos. Other than a touching
version of “Some Other Time,” the repertoire was comprised of originals from the band (mostly by Pelt and Grissett), music that was swinging
but often complex, exploring many different moods. It was modern jazz of the highest quality.

STAN KENTON’S CONCERTS IN MINIATURE
      
Stan Kenton’s “Concerts In Miniature” was a series of weekly half-hour radio broadcasts that he and his orchestra performed for 18 months,
beginning on May 30, 1952. During the same period they were featured on the similar “Concerts In Miniature Encore” series. Happily all of
the 60 broadcasts from these two programs are being fully reissued by the Sounds Of Yester Year label (made available from www.
cityhallrecords.com), most likely on 20 CDs. Vols 1-5 were reviewed earlier, so here are comments about the next five.
      
The Stan Kenton Orchestra grew in power and depth as 1952 progressed. In fact, Vol. 6 has the debut of altoist Lee Konitz and tenor-
saxophonist Richie Kamuca with the band. Other major soloists include trumpeters Conte Candoli and Maynard Ferguson, trombonist Frank
Rosolino, guitarist Sal Salvador and the leader on piano plus such valuable musicians as altoist Vinnie Dean, trombonists Bob Burgess and Bill
Russo, trumpeter Buddy Childers and bassist Don Bagley. Among Kenton’s most significant arrangers of the time were Bill Russo, Bill Holman,
Johnny Richards and Gerry Mulligan. In contrast to the Innovations Orchestra of 1950-51 which included a large string section and
consistently forbidding arrangements, the 1952 orchestra often swung with the best, driven by drummer Stan Levey.
One of the joys of these broadcasts, in addition to the superior soloists, the enthusiastic sound of the ensembles and the colorful repertoire, are
Kenton’s announcements. While often witty, they are always informative and filled with obvious respect for his players.
Pointing out just a few highlights is difficult but here are some. Vol 6 includes Gerry Mulligan’s “Limelight,” excellent Konitz on “Blue Moon,”
swinging versions of “Round Robin” (featuring Candoli) and “Young Blood,” interplay by Maynard Ferguson and Sal Salvador on “Invention
For Guitar And Trumpet,” and spirited versions of “The Peanut Vendor” and “Intermission Riff.” Vol. 7’s “Bill’s Blues” shows that the 1952
Kenton orchestra often swung hard. This version features Candoli, Rosolino and Konitz. Vol. 7 also has some beautiful playing by Burgess on
“Solitaire” and Konitz on his showcase “My Lady.” Vol. 8 includes Mulligan’s “Young Blood” and “Swing House,” “Concerto To End All
Concertos” and an early version of “23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West.” Maynard Ferguson’s wild playing on “What’s New,” baritonist Boots
Mussulli’s feature on “These Foolish Things and “Minor Riff” are included on Vol. 9. Vol. 10, which brings the series to Dec. 2, 1952, includes
Pete Rugolo’s “Impressionism,” “Francesca, “ Kamuca on “It’s The Talk Of The Town,” Rosolino on “Happy Talk,” and repeats of some of the
earlier selections with very different solos in most cases.
      
Stan Kenton collectors should consider his extensive Concerts In Miniature Series to be essential.

NEW WEATHER REPORT
      
Weather Report was the longest lasting of the major fusion groups, surviving for 16 years (1970-86). Co-led by keyboardist Joe Zawinul and
Wayne Shorter (soprano and tenor), it started out as an almost avant-garde electric group. Weather Report found its way when Alphonso
Johnson was its bassist; he added grooves to the band’s sound. Weather Report was at its height during 1976-81 when Jaco Pastorius was its
electric bassist. By 1978, Peter Erskine had become its permanent drummer and the band had a major hit in “Birdland.”
      
The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-81 is a four-CD set of previously unreleased concert performances. Percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. is with
the group on two of the CDs but otherwise it is the classic quartet. To say that this is a major release would be an understatement. These live
versions of Weather Report’s repertoire of the era often top the studio renditions by having higher energy, longer solos, and exciting
ensembles. Each of the musicians get solo features (Pastorius’ are typically stunning) and there are new and stirring versions of such songs as
“Sightseeing,” “Three Views Of A Secret,” “Birdland,” “A Remark You Made,” “Night Passage,” Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ In Rhythm,” “Black
Market,” “Teen Town” and a 21-minute “Gibraltar.” The music is well-recorded, the band was clearly inspired by playing before large
audiences, and the attractive booklet has extensive liner notes by Peter Erskine.
      
This box, available from www.legacyrecordings.com, is a must for anyone interested in Weather Report and classic fusion.

THREE FROM ACROBAT
      
The British Acrobat label (available from mvdb2b.com) has a strong catalog of vintage jazz by American and British artists. Bob Crosby (the
younger brother of Bing) led a big band during 1935-42 that usually had a New Orleans flavor. A combo taken out of his orchestra, Bob
Crosby’s Bobcats, during its prime years dispensed with most vocals and simply featured freewheeling jazz. The CD Bob Crosby’s Bobcats has
25 of the group’s best recordings, nearly all of the hottest sides from 1937-40 (only “Palesteena” is missing) plus a version of “Tin Roof Blues”
from 1942. Featured are such greats as Yank Lawson or Billy Butterfield on trumpet, Matty Matlock or Irving Fazola on clarinet, tenor-
saxophonist Eddie Miller, the underrated trombonist Warren Smith, and Bob Zurke, Joe Sullivan or Jess Stacy on piano plus rhythm guitarist
Nappy Lamare, bassist Bob Haggart and drummer Ray Bauduc. Among the great Dixieland performances are heated versions of “Stumblin’,”
“Who’s Sorry Now,” “Fidgety Feet,” “March Of The Bobcats,” “Hindustan” and “Jazz Me Blues.” The classic Haggart-Bauduc duet “The Big
Noise From Winnetka” and a pair of Eddie Miller features (“Call Me A Taxi” and “I Hear You Talkin’”) are also included. These recordings
preceded and were an influence on the Dixieland revival of the 1940s and they are consistently exciting.
      
Jimmy Dorsey emerged in the 1920s as a brilliant jazz musician who was equally skilled on alto and clarinet. Often overshadowed by his
younger brother Tommy Dorsey during the swing era, Jimmy’s big band was usually excellent but many of their recordings were
commercial. Dorsey had his greatest success with a string of hit recordings that featured the singing of both Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberle in
the early 1940s. However Dorsey never lost his ability to play high-quality jazz as he shows on his I Got Rhythm CD. The 20 performances,
dating from 1936-41 contain most of his finest jazz recordings of the period. Five songs have Dorsey and his band joined by Louis Armstrong
(including “The Skeleton In The Closet,” “Dippermouth Blues” and “Swing That Music”) and other highlights include “Parade Of the Milk
Bottle Caps,” “John Silver,” “Turn Left,” “Turn Right” and Dorsey’s theme “Contrasts.” This is a fine collection for swing fans who already
have Jimmy Dorsey’s hits and want to hear him play some jazz.        

The Downbeat Big Band was a legendary all-star British orchestra that existed on a part-time basis during 1956-61. Headed by the great
tenor-saxophonist Tubby Hayes (arguably England’s top jazz musician before 1970), the big band was lost to history, until now. It was
believed that they made no recordings but Blues At The Manor 1959-60 has seven songs cut in the studio as a demo along with seven other
songs from the band’s only radio appearance. The previously unissued music is well-recorded, swings in a modern Count Basie vein, and
features such notables as Hayes, trumpeters Jimmy Deuchar, Eddie Blair and Hank Shaw, trombonist Keith Christie, altoist Alan
Branscombe, pianist Terry Shannon and either Phil Seamen or Victor Feldman on drums. Hayes takes solo honors on this historically
significant and enjoyably swinging release. A very informative 32-page booklet by Hayes biographer Sion Spillett is a major plus.