[Dixielandjazz] Big Band

TCASHWIGG at aol.com TCASHWIGG at aol.com
Fri Dec 3 12:27:21 PST 2004

In a message dated 12/3/04 10:43:49 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
pj.ladd at btinternet.com writes:

> I'm no longer sure of that, having, on a Monday night in October, heard the 
> Joe Elefante Big Band at Cecil's, a small club in West Orange, N.J. The 
> spirited 26-year-old leader, pianist and chief arranger heads a 17-piece, joyous 
> band composed mostly of players around his own age. Also among them are 
> musicians who used to be in such big-band-era bands as Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, 
> Maynard Ferguson and Count Basie. It's been together almost three years.
Yes, a noble idea and no doubt dedication to the music by these guys, but 
relegated to playing in a small club on a Monday night (The Worst night of the 
week to try and get anybody out except out of work or off night musicians).

The reality folks is that if the employment market keeps asking for authentic 
Dixieland Trios rather than hiring a full authentic ensemble, there is little 
chance of anyone in the foreseeable future being able to support and pay a 
Big 17 piece band, unless of course they want to work for about $20.00 a night 
and a beer.  Touring such a band is almost an impossibility to make it break 
even much less be profitable these days.

The ghost bands playing the grand old charts are not making any money either, 
the market has shifted and technology has replaced the need for so many 
players, not to mention the public is no longer and has not for many years 
supported these big bands.

The culprit I believe is simply the OLD Television and now the computer, we 
are becoming prisoners in our own homes and in many major cities folks are just 
afraid to go out at night at all, and what created that fear, Media 
Television news, the similar fate is facing newspapers all over the country, since most 
folks these days get their news from the television and the computer.

Heck I turned mine off the other night and went out in search of some live 
music, twern't none to be found closer than thirty-five miles on a Wed. night 
and I am not just talking about OKOM either, no Country and Western, no Blues, 
no jazz, and only about three joints with a DJ.   

Around here we see the Big Community Band that rehearses all year for free 
and then plays in the park on the 4th of July for their annual gig for free in 
the name of community spirit.

One of my own trumpet players tries to operate a BIG BAND when he is not 
touring with us and fills it with players from his college music class who will 
play for free just to improve or keep their chops up, one of my local Trombone 
players tries to do the same.

They have settled into the routine of the IAJE scene and would rather sit 
around a school and give lessons and talk music theory than to put in the work it 
takes to run a real working band.  They play the old Duke Ellington and Basie 
charts and dream that they actually played with those bands in a previous 
life. :))

They are delighted if they get a call once a year for a paid gig at any fee, 
and it is usually about the same as a five or six piece band makes on a Friday 
or Saturday.  Sometimes they even have to pay an Agent a commission out of it 
who found somebody to buy them.

You want to see a Big Band these days in the States you better go to Lincoln 
Center where they are subsidized or listen to the Military Bands.

Sadly I think Nat Hentoff is waxing nostalgic again.  Oh well he could be 
doing worse things like criticizing some six piece band trying to compete and 
make a living.

The days of the Stand alone in the markeplace Big Bands is pretty much 
history that more than likely will never repeat itself,  Oh Say it isn't So Mamma.  

Tom Wiggins

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