[Dixielandjazz] Best of the Big Bands

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 19 06:59:40 PST 2007

Lincoln Center Jazz Band 3 day "Big Band" performances, SRO at the Rose
Theater venue. Note the reviewer's premise for the sell out; "more likely it
was because most people want jazz at beginner levels, or at least famous
levels, and the concert¹s premise looked sufficient." Familiar tunes anyone?

Steve Barbone

NY TIMES Music Review - 'Best of the Big Bands' - November 19, 2007

A Fresh Flip Through the Pages of Swing  By BEN RATLIFF

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has been around long enough to have its
regulars, in the form of audience members and paper on music stands. Both
showed up for ³Best of the Big Bands,² the orchestra¹s speed tour through
American dance-palace ingenuity at Rose Theater on Friday night.

A lot of the set had been played in various Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts
over the last 19 years, programs that have centered on single figures: Duke
Ellington, with ³Satin Doll² and ³Solitude²; Count Basie, with ³Li¹l Darlin¹
²; Woody Herman, with ³Early Autumn²; Dizzy Gillespie, with ³Things to
Come²; and so on. Pulled loose from their contexts, reshuffled as a set of
greatest hits, each one carried a distilled power.

The house was full on Friday, the second of a three-day run, and maybe that
was holiday related; more likely it was because most people want jazz at
beginner levels, or at least famous levels, and the concert¹s premise looked
sufficient. But the band didn¹t go lightly on the music. It sounded as good
as it ever has, igniting and expanding old and familiar songs with fresh
improvising, a strong rhythm section and some shrewd, veteran singers.

Ernestine Anderson was one of them. When she sang ³I Got It Bad (and That
Ain¹t Good),² she phrased in bold bursts, giving almost every note a few
extra curves. By contrast Freddie Cole, in ³Solitude,² worked his singing
into the groove by delivering clipped phrases, squinting at the crowd as if
trying to glimpse a truer meaning of the words, bouncing slightly at the
knees between lines, as if shaking each ending note silently.

The soloists sometimes followed the disposition of this music from the ¹30s,
¹40s and a bit of the ¹50s: Joe Temperley¹s baritone saxophone solos had the
light, sure, melodic feeling of players from that time. But they were also
inventing and personalizing, writing their own signatures. The saxophonist
Ted Nash had a good night, making his improvisations strange and
provocative: long-held single notes, repetitions of a phrase, clean and
urgent high-register playing.

And Wynton Marsalis played two memorable solos at extreme tempos. One was in
the extra-slow ³Li¹l Darlin¹,² a talking-trumpet solo with a mute that was
full of melodic information and didn¹t turn into pure wah-wah gesture.
Another was in ³Things to Come,² superfast, expressed in strong, tumbling
ideas: two bars with dozens of notes, followed by two more of simpler,
stretched-out phrases.

This was a piece in which the band narrowed into quartets and trios for
solos. Mr. Nash and the pianist Dan Nimmer each had room to expand with the
bassist Carlos Henriquez and the drummer Ali Jackson, doing what all the
best jazz performances secretly promise: rendering the composer and style of
the material, famous as they might be, pretty much beside the point.

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