Something of an uphill climb.
Click on the link here for Audio Player – All-Star Parade of Bands – Stan Kenton, live At Sardi’s, Hollywood – June 4, 1956 – NBC Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
The Golden Age of Big Bands was rapidly becoming a thing of the past, but there were still stalwarts criss-crossing the country in 1956. One of those bands was Stan Kenton‘s, who persevered at a time when venues supporting such a large aggregate were getting fewer and farther between. Kenton sought to introduce, and hopefully revive, the flagging popularity of Big Bands by promoting his New Directions In Music. But the problem was, there were a handful of places capable to sustaining such a large group, and paying for a full touring band was becoming impossible. It was said that most of the Kenton tours during this time were huge money losers, and even support from his label (Capitol) and a weekly radio program via NBC couldn’t stem the staggering cash outlay.
But the idea of a Big Band was still appealing. And as a form, in this new incarnation, was still very popular among musicians. As Jazz evolved, so did the uses of a large organization. But it was primarily in the studio that many of these big ensembles flourished. On the road, as many noted bandleaders at the time did, they hired pickup musicians in each town as to defray the expense of keeping a large group together. And in that respect the concept of the Big Band was still alive. It was just not the same as it was in the 1940s. Kenton was an influential figure in the progression of Jazz during the 1950’s, and it even had some unexpected supporters. Namely Phil Spector, who once said it was Kenton’s overpowering sound that gave him the idea to create a “Wall of Sound” for his own projects.
So here is the Stan Kenton Band, playing a gig at the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant in Hollywood on June 4, 1956 for the NBC Radio series All-Star Parade of Bands. Announced by future Ray Charles manager Joe Adams, with the entire band crammed on to the small stage, Kenton delivered his signature New Directions In Music to an appreciative crowd, intent on listening and not on dancing – which was a new turn in the fortunes of Jazz.
Things, they are always changing.
The Suites were milestones.
Click on the link here for Audio Player – Duke Ellington in concert at the Ravinia Festival – July 1, 1957 – CBS Radio Network – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
The legendary Duke Ellington this weekend. The Radio premier of his Such Sweet Thunder, Suite on characters from Shakespeare as performed during the Ravinia Festival on July 1, 1957.
The Suites of Duke Ellington were milestones – they took Jazz to a whole new level, further expanding on the idiom, taking it to that place where Jazz and Classical rubbed elbows and became best friends. Considering how revolutionary Jazz had become during this period, it was the next logical step and it took someone with the imagination and foresight to bring all those elements together. Duke Ellington was the one.
Unfortunately, this premier isn’t complete. Most likely, a complete recording of this was made at the time, but this was network radio. CBS Radio had time constraints, and there was only 30 minutes available to make the case. So the frustration, knowing there was a ways more to go, and the CBS announcer breaking in and closing the broadcast, is palpable.
But this is history. And as I always say – sometimes history isn’t available under the best possible conditions. But this is a historic performance, and if you haven’t heard it before, or are only now becoming aware of Duke Ellington, here is good place to check it out.
And the weekend rolls on.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: [audio https://pastdaily.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/gary-burton-the-frankfurt-radio-big-band-in-concert-may-24-2013.mp3]
As much as I like to run concerts from the past on Downbeat, I am always reminded that Jazz (or Modern American Music) is as vital today as ever.
Certainly with respect to Gary Burton, whose pioneering virtuosity has been part of my musical upbringing since 1967, when my first hearing of the milestone Duster lp got into my musical psyche and stayed there. Aside from the obviously pivotal albums of that year, my well-worn copies of Duster, Frank Zappa’s Lumpy Gravy and Soft Machine 1 formed the backbone of my musical journey for a good long time.
So hearing that Burton is embarking on a 70th birthday (?) tour, not only made me feel really long-of-tooth, but also made me realize that his point of view and his approach is just as fresh as it was that day in 1967 when I first heard him, gave me further relief that we’re still in good places and the musical journey is far from over, if it actually ever is over.
So this weekend it’s a recent concert (from May 24th) given at Darmstadt Germany with the Frankfurt Radio Bigband, led by Jim McNeely. Almost 2 hours that go by very quickly and beg for repeat hearings. It’s another reason to believe the world is filled with discoveries and a chance to pay a live visit, since Gary Burton is touring and should be doing some U.S. dates in September.
If you’re new to this and new to Gary Burton, here’s a good place to start – but you really have to pick up a copy of Duster and Lofty Fake Anagram – and keep it going from there. There are approximately 60 other albums to choose from.
Stan Kenton – resuscitated the flagging Big Band genre in the early 1950s.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: Stan Kenton Concert – Sept. 16, 1952
Over to the World of Big Bands this weekend with a concert by The Stan Kenton Orchestra, recorded outside of Dayton Ohio on September 16, 1952.
Kenton was riding high on the crest of a very popular wave – one that virtually turned around, at least for a while, the rapidly vanishing Big Band from the Jazz Scene. There were a lot of reasons for the drop in popularity of the Big Band. Biggest was the economic factor – it was just getting too expensive to maintain a band of 20 musicians and keep it booked for any extended period of time. Venues were closing, being turned into supermarkets or being bulldozed to make way for other things. TV was making people stay at home. Small groups were easier to book, cheaper to keep working and didn’t need a huge ballroom or theater to perform in. Small was just looking better.
So Kenton came along at a good time – with his “new concepts in Jazz”, and became a hit on college campuses.
To capitalize on the popularity, NBC Radio began a series of weekly broadcasts featuring the Kenton Orchestra, at various locations around the country. Billed as A Stan Kenton Mini-Concert, it became a popular calling card for a band criss-crossing the U.S. and it added to the popularity of the Kenton mystique, and it lasted for a few years.
Here is one of those concerts, as it was recorded outside Dayton Ohio on September 16, 1952.
And the next week they would be somewhere else.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: BenWebsterBennyBailey1967-10-08EsslingenJFKennedySchule
Over to Germany this week for a concert by Ben Webster, with Benny Bailey, given in Esslingen on October 8, 1967 and recorded by German Radio.
One of the great and influential names in the world of Jazz, Ben Webster had a long and productive career spanning several decades. His collaborations read like a Who’s Who in Jazz and his live gigs were always memorable ones.
Here’s who plays with him on this day and here’s what they play:
Ben Webster, tenor sax
Joe Galiardi, trumpet
Andrè Faist, trombone
Henri Chaix, piano
Isla Eckinger, bass
Romano Cavicola, drums
Benny Bailey, trumpet
1. Swinging The Blues
2. Now’s The Time
3. Debbie’s Blues
4. In A Mellow Tone
5. The Jeep Is Jumpin’
And a swingin’ time was had by all.
Enjoy and stick around for next week’s installment.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: DonaldByrd1964-02-26Recklinghausen
Sad news, this past week, of the passing of Jazz Giant Donald Byrd. A pioneer and innovator, Byrd was a major influence in the careers of many Musicians and in the direction Jazz took in general in the 1970’s.
His involvement with his milestone group The Blackbyrds, and his forward-thinking explorations into the Avant-Garde and Free Jazz, laid the groundwork for many to follow in his footsteps.
This weekend though, I ran across an example one of his previous incarnations – leading a big band in a concert recorded by the German Radio network WDR on February 26, 1964.
Here’s what’s on the player:
Donald Byrd Big-Band. Feb 26, 1964
Recklinghausen, Vestlandhalle Germany
Donald Byrd (tp),
Benny Bailey (tp),
Jon Eardley (tp, contra alt-tp),
Idrees Sulieman (tp, as),
Johnny Renard (tp, mellophone),
Albert Mangelsdorff (tb),
Eje Thelin (tb),
Ake Persson (tb),
Nat Peck (tb, v-tb),
Hans Koller (ts),
Johnny Scott (as, fl, a-fl, cl),
Klaus Doldinger (ts, as, ss),
Johnny Griffin (ts),
Sahib Shihab (bs, fl),
Rolf Kühn (cl, ts),
Ingfried Hoffmann (p, org),
Pierre Cavalli (g),
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (b),
Egil Johansen (dr),
1 Hey day (Peck) (4:32)
2 Night song (Doldinger) (5:12)
3 Conversations (Shihab) (7:42)
4. Concerto for Benjamin and Jonathan (Eardley) (10:36)
There is no doubt Donald Byrd left a long and enduring legacy for future generations of Jazz Musicians (and all musicians, for that matter), to follow.
His was a unique and gifted voice – and it will be missed. But it will always be remembered.
RIP – Donald Byrd.
And Sassy joins in to knock back a few with the Count.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: Count Basie – Live At Sardis – 1956
Over to the fabled Sardi’s Restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard from May 1956 for a set by the fabled Count Basie and his Orchestra with guest vocals by Joe Williams and Sarah Vaughan.
Captured during the April In Paris period – the set starts off with that milestone number and takes off from there.
A great set, sadly only a half-hour long (because that’s how long the show was and network radio at the time was a stickler for staying on schedule), but a memorable 30 minutes by a group of legends, vocally and instrumentally, all on the same stage at the same time.
Here is Count Basie And His Orchestra, live at Sardi’s, recorded by NBC Radio on May 28, 1956.
One more once . . .
Peggy Lee – lending a sultry tone to the festivities.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: 15 Happy Holiday
A word from Peggy Lee tonight. From her 1965 Happy Holiday album for Capitol Records, a track featuring the band of Sid Feller and a swinging rendition of, what else? Happy Holiday.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Jumping into Christmas in swingin’ fashion.
Boyd Raeburn – one of that crop of 1940’s upstarts who laid the foundations for Modern Jazz.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: Boyd Raeburn – Two Spoos In An Igloo – 1944
Listening to this now, it certainly doesn’t sound like a piece of radical music-making, but in 1944 the music of Boyd Raeburn (and several others including Stan Kenton) were the writing on the creative wall that something was afoot.
Largely relegated to recording for small independent labels, the music of Boyd Raeburn was pretty much ignored by mainstream media. And it wasn’t until after World War 2 that the audience and the economics changed and became accepting of “this new music”.
Raeburn recorded a lot for the radio transcription companies because they were available and the companies weren’t all that choosy; they just needed material and a lot of it.
Of the several sessions Boyd Raeburn cut for Lang-Worth, tonight’s track comes from a 1944 session. Two Spoos In An Igloo has all the makings of early Bop, and it wouldn’t be for another year or two that the audience would start to take notice.
Sometimes it’s a drag being the first kid on your block.
Fran Warren – Transitioning from the Big Band Era to become a Pop music staple in the 1950’s.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: As Long As I’m Dreaming – Claude Thornhill Orch with Fran Warren 1947
Jumping back into Big Band territory, after an extended hiatus (for no good reason). Tonight it’s the legendary Fran Warren with the equally legendary Claude Thornhill in a 1947 track cut for the Lang-Worth Transcription company, As Long As I’m Dreaming.
Fran Warren made several sides for the Thornhill aggregation before heading into solo territory in 1948. Her most famous song during this period was the 1947 hit, A Sunday Kind Of Love.After leaving the Thornhill band she wound up on several labels, including RCA Victor and MGM and had a string of hits during the early 1950’s.
These sessions cut for Lang-Worth are interesting as they didn’t get that much circulation at the time (being for radio programming and all, and not for commercial release) and often feature music that wasn’t recorded in any other form.
Always something new to discover or look at what you might have missed or overlooked.