Wednesday, January 22, 2014

No, the problem with jazz education is NOT jazz itself...

I just noticed the following 2012 article, which suggests that jazz education is incapable of increasing the degree to which students actually love jazz:

The author essentially suggests that jazz educators accept with gratitude that under even the best of circumstances, one in several hundred jazz students will take any real long-term interest in jazz, the remainder will hopefully have a remote and distant appreciation for the fact that musicians work really hard, and almost all jazz students will never actually enjoy listening to jazz.

Well, we are all entitled to our opinions, aren't we?

Here's my problem with the argument made in the article:  The author assumes as a starting premise that the music education programs in existance from the 1960s to the present provide an experience that would give a student, who comes to the table with a potential interest in jazz, a reasonable context for enjoying jazz if possible.

The premise is faulty.  It is faulty because for over fifty years, American jazz education has (except for the most thorough of jazz programs) had staggeringly little to do with listening to jazz.  Most band directors still, even in an age in which students can download a jazz recording of virtually any tune instantly, on their phone, for about a buck apiece, do not actually insist that their students listen to jazz.  Similarly, most band directors still do not focus significant class time on teaching improvisation on tunes and chord forms; instead, they dole out pre-scripted solos to lead players in each section and only enable improvisation when a student comes back from a band camp already interested in it.  Instead, students have each measure of each chart spoon-fed to them until, after endless weeks and months of a director bludgeoning the life out of an arrangement, it has less life remaining in its notes than a pile of room temperature pudding.

If band directors actually care about getting students to enjoy jazz (and, while I am not convinced that they all do, I am certainly convinced that many of them do), then they need to teach jazz in its full context--as a form of literacy not fundamentally different from learning a language (a skill always learned aurally before being learned in a written form).  Jazz is not a bunch of stale notes on a page.  It is not a bottle-fed, baton-conducted art form.  Jazz is a popular music that arose out of human experience and human emotion.  It cannot fully be understood without being listened to through recordings of its greatest exponents.  Jazz is experiential, and students must experience it as often as possible in order to build appreciation for it.

Sure, jazz is an acquired taste for many.  It was for me.  It was for many others I know.  But there is always a point of entry for each student that can start him down the road to jazz literacy.  If that is the vocalese of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross then so be it.  If that is late-era Ellingtonia, then good.  If that is Buddy Rich or Louie Bellson, or Bob Mintzer or Gordon Goodwin, then fine.  But students should be urged to explore with curiosity and intrigue the vast range of jazz styles.  Because eventually, Mintzer can lead to Ellington, who can lead to Ben Webster, who can lead to Coleman Hawkins, who can lead to Lester Young, who can lead to Count Basie, who can lead to Benny Carter, who can lead on and on and on to more vistas in the history of recorded jazz than most students could possibly imagine.

The only way that they will ever even begin down that path, however, is if they put in some time with a pair of headphones.  And until that happens, we will not really know whether the low numbers of students emerging from jazz programs with an actual love for listening to jazz is an accurate reflection of the capacity for a high-quality jazz program to inculcate such a passion.  I still believe it is.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Duke Ellington's I Didn't Know About You (aka Home, aka Sentimental Lady)

Here's the deal, vocalist: This tune isn't just a beautiful ballad. It started its life as an actual Hodges ballad, with no vocalist involved. Then, of course, the silly trend begun during the instrumental musician's union recording strike of 1942-1944 (to quote Wynton Marsalis discussing this subject at a concert last January, “Sometimes we do some really stupid things”) that turned vocalists into the main attraction in popular music (and that prevails still to this day) took hold, and Duke re-purposed the Hodges tune as a vocalist feature for Joya Sherrill. Your arrangement was the one Duke wrote for Ella Fitzgerald. So your job, in essence, is to sing this tune as though you were Johnny Hodges. After the hasty Hodges introduction, that is (as if to make the point even more bluntly!).

From the liner notes to Black, Brown & Beige (the 1944-1946 RCA/Victor recordings): “Often played by Ellington at the Hurricane Club in 1943, this song was first recorded as I Didn't Know About You on April 5th of that year by Woody Herman, featuring [Ray] Nance, [Juan] Tizol and [Johnny] Hodges, with Frances Wayne singing the newly added lyrics [by Bob Russell, the same lyricist who penned the words that turned Never No Lament into Don't Get Around Much Anymore]. However, this piece of music was born with the name Home during Duke's engagement at the Hotel Sherman in July, 1942. Written to feature Hodges' alto, the title was soon changed to Sentimental Lady, and it was recorded on July 28th and included in the companion Bluebird collection The Blanton-Webster Band. Both arrangements, which share only a few details, were probably by Strayhorn. As a vocal featuring Joya Sherrill, this one is more delicate, Strayhorn replacing Rex Stewart's bursting solo on the bridge with a tame reprise by Lawrence Brown.”

The Essentially Ellington arrangement, however, is the one for Ella Fitzgerald some fifteen years later. The short comment on this tune in the liner notes to that set reads: “'I Didn't Know About You' . . . evolved from instrumental origin to vocal popularity. Duke recorded it as a feature framework for Johnny Hodges's saxophone in July 1942, when it was known as 'Sentimental Lady'. It earned a slightly changed melody and a new title in its new guise after Duke held a conclave with Bob Russell, a sensitive lyricist whose hits include 'Brazil', 'Ballerina', 'Frenesi', 'Maria Elena', and 'Taboo'.”

Here are the liners notes for the original recording of Sentimental Lady from The Blanton-Webster Band (the 1940-1942 RCA/Victor recordings): “Earlier called Home, this attractive vehicle for Johnny Hodges later became popular as the song I Didn't Know About You (lyrics by Bob Russell). The melody seems inspired by Hodges' seductive phrasing and silky tone. Note how easily the saxophonist makes the first big leap (an octave) in the bridge, sliding to the upper note as though it were the next step in the scale. But later in the same place, Rex Stewart has problems with the interval. The second time he tries to over-compensate and hits the note too hard, too soon. In a way this contrast resembles that between Hodges and Ivie Anderson in I Got it Bad: the former sings like an angel, the latter like a mere mortal.”

Ironically, according to A Duke Ellington Panorama (a 95+% complete Ellington discography that I often use as my master index, available at ), Ellington recorded this tune far more times as Sentimental Lady than as I Didn't Know About You—though one can fairly assume that the same is not true of the numerous vocalists who included the later version in their repertoire of the Great American Songbook (to which Ellington is easily one of the most prodigious contributors). Personally, I find it interesting that this tune was already a popular success in its strictly instrumental arrangement; Barry Ulanov's contemporaneous press review of Duke's December 11, 1943 Carnegie Hall Concert enthusiastically stated of Sentimental Lady “Johnny Hodges and Rex Stewart took the solo bows, and deserved them; as on the record, affecting music amply justifying its bright title.” (Barry Ulanov, “Ellington's Carnegie Hall Concert a Glorified Stage Show,” Metronome (January 1944), 8, 48, in Mark Tucker, ed., The Duke Ellington Reader 209-12).1 But even a giant like Duke occasionally bowed to the trends of the time.
Here are the rehearsal notes from the Essentially Ellington edition of the score, written by David Berger, the Jazz At Lincoln Center house transcriptionist and a perennial judge at Essentially Ellington festivals:
  • Billy Strayhorn wrote this arrangement of one of Ellington's prettiest ballads for a record date with Ella Fitzgerald in 1957. The original score started at letter B where the vocal comes in. I imagine that Strayhorn had in mind that Ellington would play a piano introduction of his own creation. This would be normal procedure. In addition to a two-bar piano intro, Ellington adds eight measures of alto melody for Johnny Hodges—all of this in the key of Gb. Why Gb? I Didn't Know About You was originally an instrumental number called Sentimental Lady written in 1942 to feature Hodges. The original key was Gb. The tritone relationship between Gb and C (the vocal key) makes for a very refreshing start to the vocal.
  • The form of this arrangement is an intro and a section in Gb, which modulates to C major within the form, followed by an AABA BA tag. This is a standard chorus-and-a-half vocal chart2 with the addition of the alto A section in the key of the tritone.
  • As usual, the unisons are played with no vibrato, or as Duke would say, “dead tone.” However, the harmonized passages beg for a little vibrato, warmth, and personality.3 The clarinet is written on Jimmy Hamilton's part, which means a more classical, sophisticated, or Benny Goodman-style4 approach (as opposed to the New Orleans style).
  • The rhythm section parts are all improvised and should be looked at as one of many possible solutions on how to accompany this piece. Improvisational interplay among the band, vocalist, and rhythm section is essential for a true jazz performance.
  • I have transcribed both the alto and vocal solos. They both stay fairly close to the melody, but they do dress it up just a bit.
  • This is not an easy song to sing. Like nearly all of Ellington's songs, it involves a wide interval leap: in this case, the downward octave jump in the fifth measure of each A section. Although this is a focal point in the construction of the melody, it is the G# at the beginning of that measure that is the prettiest moment. The G# is the augmented eleventh of the D7 chord (the secondary dominant V of V). This is exactly the same note, chord, and key (C) as that great moment in Strayhorn's 1941 masterpiece, Take the “A” Train.
Here are the Comments From Wynton Marsalis:
  • In general, ballads are difficult for students. Remember that the ballad is a dance. The rhythms need intensity; otherwise, everything will drag, leaving us all very sad. It's important to feel the spaces between the beats. Notice how many of the ensemble parts accentuate the “and” of the beat (see the piano part at D and the trombones at B).
  • There are several instances of call-and-response within this piece. Answering parts (like the saxes at two before C) must listen and follow the lyrics closely.
  • It's important for our singer to be very accurate with intervallic relationships (e.g., the 6th that begins the bridge). He or she should also learn the piece on the piano so as to identify the sound of each note in relation to the chord (e.g., the 9th of the G minor chord at D).
  • Pay attention to ensemble texture and take note when it builds up or breaks down. For example, notice how the ensemble expands and contracts at letter D. These changes in orchestration give breadth and depth to a slow arrangement.

Lyrics by Bob Russell, as sung by Ella Fitzgerald:

[Full 32-bar statement of the tune]

I ran around
With my own little crowd
The usual laughs
Not often, but loud
And in the world that I knew
I didn't know about you

Chasing after the rain
On the merry-go-round
Just taking my fun
Where it could be found
And yet what else could I do?
I didn't know about you

Darling, now I know
I had the loneliest yesterday
Every day
In your arms, I know for once in my life
I'm living

Had a good time
Every time I went out
Romance was a thing I kidded about
How could I know about love?
I didn't know about you

[One more B section and A section end the arrangement]

Darling, now I know
I had the loneliest yesterday
Every day
In your arms, I know for once in my life
I'm living

Had a good time
Every time I went out
Romance was a thing I kidded about
How could I know about love?
I didn't know about you

I didn't know about you

1Do not mistake Ulanov's critical title for criticism of Ellington's presentation of jazz. To the contrary, Ulanov—who before the decade was out would become Ellington's first biographer—was exasperated not that Duke had returned to play a second Carnegie Hall concert, but that Duke, harkening to the ignorant and asinine insults leveled against him by stooges and imbeciles masquerading as music critics following his January 1943 Carnegie Hall concert, at which he premiered Black, Brown & Beige, his first (and, consequently, only) full jazz symphony in three sprawling movements, had returned only to play excerpts and a succession of the “three-minute symphonies” that had made him a popular radio and recording success. Ulanov very badly wanted (as do we all, in retrospect) Duke to have told off his critics and come back with a new 45-minute masterwork even more ambitious than Black, Brown & Beige. Instead, Duke would never perform the full symphony again, and would never write another full symphony again. Instead, he changed his extended work form to the “suite” format, began a practice of premiering the full suites at Carnegie Hall but only regularly performing one or two select movements from the suites, and was thereby able to market both the long-form composition and the shorter excerpts to their respective markets. It was a compromise that Ulanov and virtually all latter-day Ellington fans have forever been disappointed by.

2Standard though the chorus-and-a-half arrangement may be, I still suspect that it arose out of necessity due to the three-minutes-and-change limitation of the 78 RPM record side.

3Well, yeah. The original tenor player on the original recording of the original 1942 arrangement was Ben Webster, who personified the warm saxophone tone.

4Benny Goodman made enough radio aircheck recordings to choke a horse, and if your students are enterprising enough, they should check out the comprehensive series of Goodman LPs issued by Sunbeam, which cover the first several decades of his career from early Chicago sessions in the 1920s (under other leaders) to at least the late 1940s (and possibly the early 1950s).  Clarinet players wondering what the “Benny Goodman-style” of clarinet playing means should check them out if at all able.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Duke Ellington's Black And Tan Fantasy: Gunther Schuller On Bubber Miley

Schuller also provides additional background on Miley, a trumpet player who left the Ellington band so early on that he is sometimes neglected by students who become apostles to the Gospel According To Sts. Williams, Nance, Anderson, & Terry: “The interesting question is how were Ellington and his men, all of whom were very much part of [the] Eastern tradition, able to transcend it in the late 1920s and early 1930s and create a unique kind of big band jazz. Bubber Miley was largely responsible for the initial steps through his introduction of a rougher sound into the band. Ellington himself is quite clear about Bubber's influence: 'Bubber used to growl all night long, playing gutbucket on his horn. That was when we decided to forget all about the sweet music.' Miley heard King Oliver in Chicago and Johnny Dunn in New York and began to use the growl and the plunger. He in turn helped teach the same techniques to the band's trombonists—Charlie Irvis and his replacement in late 1926, Joe 'Tricky Sam' Nanton—who were also influenced by a now forgotten St. Louis trombonist, Jonas Walker, reputed to be the first to apply New Orleans 'freak' sounds to his instrument. It was Miley and Nanton who developed the band's famous 'jungle' effects through their use of the growl and plunger.

“Actually Miley's influence extended far beyond these effects. He was not only the band's most significant soloist but actually wrote, alone or with Ellington, many of the compositions in the band's book between 1927 and 1929. Although the extent of Miley's contribution has not yet been accurately assessed, there seems little doubt that those compositions that bear Bubber's name along with Ellington's were primarily created by Miley. These include the three most important works of the period—recorded in late 1926 and early 1927—East St. Louis Toodle-Oo, Black and Tan Fantasy, and Creole Love Call.

“In the one-year period November 1926 to December 1927, only four of the seventeen pieces recorded were written by song writers outside the band, while five of the remaining numbers, including those named above, were by Miley. Ellington, in turn, created six pieces, and Otto Hardwick, two. Actually some of Ellington's numbers might well belong more properly to other members of the band, as it was common practice—and, indeed, still is today [the late 1960's, as Schuller wrote]—for the leader of a band to take full credit for works created by the band and written by members of it.

“Miley also had a marvelous melodic gift, one inextricably linked to his growl and plunger technique. As with any great performer or composer, pitch and color derive simultaneously from the initial inspiration. In separating these elements here, it is only to point out that Miley's enormous contribution to pure classic melody in jazz has been unfortunately neglected up to this point. To my knowledge, only Roger Pryor Dodge has tried to show that Miley's importance goes beyond the fashioning of extravagant, bizarre muted effects.”

(Schuller, Early Jazz 326-27).

Duke Ellington's Black And Tan Fantasy: Gunther Schuller's Insights

Gunther Schuller discusses this tune in some depth (bear in mind that his comments concern the 1927 recordings, but Duke did not make substantial changes to this chart over the years, so most of what Schuller has to say applies even to Ellington's most late-era recordings of Black and Tan Fantasy): Black and Tan Fantasy . . . gives further evidence of the difference in artistic levels at that time [1927] between [Bubber] Miley and Ellington. The piece consists of Miley's twelve-bar theme based on the classic blues progression (Roger Pryor Dodge explains that the melody of Black and Tan Fantasy is a transmutation of part of a sacred song by Stephen Adams that Bubber's sister used to sing), three choruses on the same (two by Miley, one by Nanton), an arranged ensemble passage, a twelve-bar Ellington piano solo, and finally a recapitulation with the famous tagged-on Chopin Funeral March ending. Of these segments only two can be attributed to Ellington, and they are not only the weakest by far but are quite out of character with the rest of the record. Whereas Miley's theme, his solos—and to a lesser degree Nanton's—again reflect an unadorned pure classicism, Ellington's two contributions derive from the world of slick trying-to-be-modern show music.

. . .

“A comparison of the three 1927 recordings of Black and Tan Fantasy again shows that over a seven-month span the 'improvised' solos changed very little. Even when Jabbo Smith substitutes for Miley on the Okeh version, the over-all shape and tenor of the trumpet part do not change drastically, though in terms of particulars Jabbo's rich sound and loose way of playing make this performance even more of a fantasy. (In a still later (1930) recording of Black and Tan Fantasy, Cootie Williams also adheres to the original Miley choruses.) Miley's solo on the Victor version is one of his most striking recorded performances. It makes brilliant use of the plunger mute and the growl; but it is, to our ears, forty years later, especially startling in its abundant use of the blue notes, notably the flat fifth in the first bar of the second chorus. It is also a highly dramatic solo, equal to anything achieved up to that time by the New Orleans trumpet men. And perhaps none of them ever achieved the extraordinary contrast produced by the intense stillness of the four-bar-long high b flat, suddenly erupting, as if unable to contain itself any longer, into a magnificently structured melodic creation.

“[Regarding] Johnny Dunn's influence upon Miley. The latter's solo on Black and Tan Fantasy is an excellent case in point. Both the triplet run in measure nine and the use of a plunger mute were basic elements of Dunn's style, as can be heard on his 1923 recordings of Dunn's Cornet Blues and You've Never Heard the Blues.”

(Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz 329-31).

Duke Ellington's Black And Tan Fantasy: Overview

The term “Black and Tan” has negative connotations dating back to the Irish War of Independence, when the “Black & Tans” were British members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but when the term was also used to refer to the paramilitary Auxiliary Division troops who carried out many atrocities against the civilian population in retaliation for attacks by the Irish Republican Army. That said, however, this tune has nothing to do with Ireland. Instead, its title refers to a club that served both white and black patrons. This is one of Duke Ellington's oldest compositions, dating to 1927. Your arrangement is from the mid-1940's. Get out the plungers and start growling, trumpets, but this one also puts the baritone sax to the fore. The simple, repetitious sax backings behind the solos are some of the most recognizable blues licks ever written.

The liner notes to Black, Brown & Beige (The 1944-1946 RCA/Victor Recordings) say this about this particular version of the tune: “Recalling the jungle sounds Duke played in the 1920's during his tenure at the Cotton Club, this arrangement also offers a third view of an old piece. Third because on January 13, 1938, Duke recorded an extended version of this piece on two sides of a disc. Part I was the Prologue to Black And Tan Fantasy, part II, The New Black And Tan Fantasy. In his last extended solo on disc with the Ellington orchestra, 'Tricky Sam,' Joe Nanton remembers his old section mate, trumpeter-composer Bubber Miley (1903-1932) who made an artist's tool out of a toilet plunger. Harry Carney plays the second theme, which was originally assigned to Otto Hardwick.”

I would make a personal request on this tune—though certainly not a demand: If you happen to have a vocalist who is really and truly up to the task, this would be one heck of a tune to add a chorus or two of Bessie Smith-style coarse blues singing to. I realize that is a tall order for any high school vocalist; after all, Smith was singing from a very hard life that it is frankly almost impossible for most suburbanite high school musicians to relate to (the same can be said of the stylistically different Billie Holiday). If a vocalist does a poor job with this style, then it invariably comes across as condescending and slapdash at best, or racist and offensive at worst. But if one of this year's vocalists is willing to seriously study the Bessie Smith material in the Listening Lab (I recommend an outstanding 2-LP set of 1920s material by her, Bessie Smith: The Empress), a really solid chorus or two of dirty blues (the vocalist equivalent of plunger mute brass playing) would fit perfectly in this chart.
 Here are the Rehearsal Notes by David Berger from the Essentially Ellington score:
  • The pep section (trumpets 1 and 3 and trombone 2) should move in front of the band for letter A. The trombone should stay there for the entire piece since he solos from D to the end. Being in the front will enable them to play with completely closed plungers and still be heard. This is important – they have the melody.
  • The rhythm section needs to play with energy and forward motion throughout. Although the guitar, bass and drums mostly play quarter notes, it is essential for them to feel the underlying eighth note triplet even though they rarely play it. The piano, bass and drum parts should be learned. Then when the players understand the form sufficiently, they should play what they hear as good accompaniment to the ensemble (always keeping in mind the needs of the composition). Improvisational interplay in the rhythm section is an essential part of any jazz performance.
  • Although the recording features a baritone saxophone solo at B and C, I have notated the solo for the lead alto (which is how this arrangement was originally conceived). If you choose, you may give the solo to your baritone player. In any case, this should not be swung, but rather played with even eighth notes. This is the secondary melody of this piece and needs to be played as written or slightly paraphrased.
  • The trombone solo at D was a set piece for Tricky Sam, but the chord symbols have been included so that the player can improvise his own blues solo. Even if the trombonist elects to play his own solo, he/she should learn this classic blues chorus. Letter E should be played as is or paraphrased only slightly. This was Bubber Miley's solo and is part of the melody of this piece. Incidentally, Tricky Sam only plays three beats in the first and third measures of E. This sounds a bit strange, so I have restored these measures to their original 4/4 structure. These breaks at E must be played in time so that the punctuations on 4 of bars 2 and 4 feel absolutely natural. These ensemble responses should make the sound “WHOP.”
  • Dynamics are important. This is an understated, but swinging, piece.
Wynton Marsalis adds the following: “Duke Ellington's take on New Orleans' funereal music. It must be played with feelings of nostalgia and pathos. Feeling, soul, and intensity come together under the supervisory eye of a steady, march-like pulse. This arrangement can be opened up for solos, and is an excellent vehicle for the development of muted vocal techniques in the brass. Duke and the fellas sound like they had a little trouble with that call-and-response break at the end. But that's okay. That's life.”1

1A reed player of some note once pointed out to me that the Ellington recording of Anitra's Dance from The Peer Gynt Suite, which features a ludicrously acrobatic clarinet solo, was actually spliced so that Jimmy Hamilton's final flourish would come out right. The natural “hiss” heard behind the entire recording cuts out in the instant silence between the recording and its final one or two seconds, and the final second or two has a totally different “hiss” behind it. As Wynton says, that's life. Not even Duke Ellington and his men were perfect.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gerald Wilson's Teri

This tune was originally released on Moment Of Truth, the same album as Nancy Jo, but is a ballad rather than a burner. The guitar is featured here, right from the first note. Brass and saxes need to be very very understated except for the occasional moments when the trombone and trumpet responses to the melody become more strident. Bari should speak up to the extent appropriate in context (relative to the whole ensemble) when you have key parts of the bass line—the strong sax voice is really the bari here. Piano should bring out the color responses to the same extent heard on the recording.

The liner notes to the original LP have this to say: Teri (named for one of the three daughters of Wilson) is the highlight of the album for this writer. A setting in moody ballad form for Joe Pass, it features him non-amplified. Pass gets a splendid harp-like quality, with the band providing a sighing subtle background. . . . Gerald's ballads are really jazz tunes, however, as surely as any up-tempo jazz standard and as far from Tin Pan alley as you can get.”

The original recording features Joe Pass, one of the greatest jazz guitarists. He has more than fifty (50) albums under his own name, in addition to countless sessions as a sideman. He is even heard on the final 1973 Ellington small group album, Duke's Big 4. The Wilson recording was made only a year after Pass' debut album, Songs Of Synanon, was released; that album was named after a drug treatment center—and, later, a cult and self-proclaimed “church”—where Pass spent time in the early 1960s. Pass recorded so many albums on Norman Granz's Pablo label in the 1970s that sometimes think he was to Pablo what Bird and Diz were to Verve.

Forty years later, Wilson re-recorded the chart with his son, Anthony Wilson, in the featured role. The 2002 recording, from New York New Sound, is notable especially for the more transparent microphone work that seems to have produced a lot more transparency in the end recording. Even though most critics believe that Wilson has never exceeded the caliber of his 1960s big band, the advances in recording technology seem to have allowed the studio in 2002 to separate out the voices much better. You can now clearly hear, for example, the lead alto, which is subsumed by the ensemble far more in the original recording.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gerald Wilson's Nancy Jo: Liner Notes (from album New York New Sound)

The liner notes for New York New Sound have this to say, inter alia: “Composer-arranger-trumpeter-band leader-film scorer-educator, Wilson boasts enough hyphens to flourish in the Big Orange and enough energy to ignite any of those specialties in the Big Apple. Added to those talents, he has the advantage of hindsight plus synergy to put all genres in perspective. Gerald has graced the scene for 85 years! And he remains as lean and as sharp as that exclamation point. Wilson not only knows all about jazz . . . his life virtually covers the history of jazz. He has played with and written for the cream of the crop, and his big band, thanks to his big book, has consistently pushed the envelope, creating boppish ideas before it was hip to be hep.

“No, he did not study with Buddy Bolden, but he proudly lists Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie and Duke Ellington in his resumé. He, Willie Smith and Clark Terry were among the first blacks to play in the U.S. Navy Band; Wilson has written well over 100 arrangements just for Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson; he even wrote a classical work for the L.A. Philharmonic at the request of music director Zubin Mehta; he's now teching at UCLA. (In his spare time he's a brain surgeon.)

“There's East Coast Jazz, there's West Coast Jazz, and Mack Avenue Records' head honcho, Stix Hooper, founder of the Houston-bred Crusaders, swears there's Gulf Coast Jazz. Face it, while there are many seething centers of swinging sounds (New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, etc.) seemingly the two main cosmopolitan convergences where the art of jazz is being refined and re-defined 24/7 is New York and Los Angeles, which brings us to an under appreciated genius who has conquered both: Gerald Wilson.

“For this album, the only non-laid back resident of L.A. Was in a New York state of mind, and came up with a session that sounds like it was written by a cat half his age. Between the jet-propelled bookends of “Milestones” and “Nancy Jo,” are outstanding examples of Gerald's thick-textured wide voicings providing plenty of stretch-out room for such stellar soloists as Jimmy Owens, trumpet; Luis Bonilla, trombone; Jesse Davis, alto sax; Jimmy Heath, tenor sax; and Kenny Barron, piano.

. . .

“'New York, New Sound' turned out to be quite a big band bash. Hooper correctly labeled it 'a party.' Another participant, pianist Renee Rosnes, summed up the leader's charisma most eloquently: 'If I were to watch a silent film of Gerald conducting, I would still be able to experience the swing of the music, his presence is that powerful.'”

The New York New Sound recording features solos by Sean Jones on trumpet, Jesse Davis on alto saxophone, Anthony Wilson (the composer-arranger-director's son) on guitar, and Kenny Barron on piano.