Keeping the GAS (Great American Songbook) Flame Burning: “Over the Rainbow”

September 26, 2015
Rpger Crane Song Scout

Rpger Crane Song Scout

By Roger Crane

What is left to say about the lovely and iconic “Over the Rainbow?” Well, some basics. The music is by Harold Arlen and the lyric by E. Y. “Yip” Harburg. As many of you know, it was written for and featured in the 1939 Judy Garland movie The Wizard of Oz. The song became Garland’s piece de resistance and has, since its introduction, been recorded by just about everybody (a few examples below).

By the way, 1939 was a spectacular year for well-written songs. Just to cite a small handful, in addition to “Over the Rainbow,” “All the Things You Are,” “Darn That Dream,” “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” “I Thought About You,” “Day In-Day Out,” and so many more were published in that year. None of these songs has in them a clichéd note.

Here is something maybe you did not know. The original composer assigned to write the songs for The Wizard of Oz was Jerome Kern. But he suffered a mild stroke and was unable to accept the assignment, So, Harold Arlen accepted the task. Then, the deal to have Shirley Temple play the leading role of Dorothy Gale fell through. Instead the part went to an unknown actress named Judy Garland who, at age 16, was asked to play a 12-year old. Interestingly, Frank Baum’s Oz books never mention a rainbow but the lyricist Harburg thought that a little girl in barren monotone Kansas would find color in her life only by looking at a rainbow.

Surprisingly, initially few liked the centerpiece big ballad “Over the Rainbow.” ”In fact, the producers hated the song so much that they cut it out of the movie not once, but three times. Studio head Louis B. Mayer griped that it slowed down the film. They especially didn’t like that delightful opening octave leap “Some-WHERE.” Only Arthur Freed, the associate producer (and himself a songwriter), persuaded the powers-that-be to leave the song in the final cut.

Of course, all else is history. The young Judy and the public loved “Over the Rainbow” and it won the Academy Award for Best Song of 1939 and has since attained the rare status of a beloved American classic. It was ranked number one on the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America. The American Film Institute named it the greatest movie song of all time.

Although featured in a young person’s movie, the song easily made the transition to the dance halls and the swing bands of the era. In fact, before the end of 1939, the song had entered the repertoires of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. Miller’s version, which was recorded before the film was released, was a number one hit for his band. “Over the Rainbow” spent six weeks as the number one hit on the radio show Your Hit Parade. “Over the Rainbow” has been featured in several films besides The Wizard of Oz. James Stewart (yes, THAT James Stewart) sang it in the 1940 The Philadelphia Story. Eileen Farrell dubbed it for Eleanor Parker in the 1955 film Interrupted Melody and Elizabeth Hartman hummed it in the 1965 A Patch of Blue.

Some Recordings

Since its initial appearance,”Over the Rainbow” has never totally fallen out of favor among jazz players nor among vocalists who focus on the GAS repertoire.
1) Judy has to be included, of course. Here she is in 1939 with Victor Young and his orchestra. In 1981 this record was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

2) The under-valued altoist Art Pepper recorded it many times. This version is from a 1978 Galaxy session. That is Stanley Cowell, piano, Roy Haynes, drums and Cecil McBee, bass.

3) Even the great Ray Charles can find something new to add to the maleable melody. Here is ”the genius” in 1963 with an arrangement by Marty Paich.

4) Unfortunately, Eva Cassidy died at only 33 (of cancer) before she became a star She was the rarest of the rare – a truly genre-free vocalist – rock, pop, gospel, jazz, folk. Eva just sang and to heck with labels. Her impassioned 5-minute version became a posthumous hit (especially in England) in 1992.

5)Dave Brubeck has noted that his 1952 Storyville performance of “Over the Rainbow” is one of his favorites among his own recordings. Those final mournful but lovely notes of course are by Brubeck’s right-hand man, saxophonist Paul Desmond.

Many of the best GAS singers past and present have recorded “Over the Rainbow,” including Joe Williams (with Sweets Edison) from their live 1961 recording. Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan as well as Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and even Willie Nelson have recorded this evergreen.

You jazz fans might wish to also take a listen to Sonny Rollins recordings of “Valse Hot” which is a piece that he wrote based on Arlen’s “Over the Rainbows” chord changes (but with a changed meter) This song was also a 1953 virtuoso keyboard show piece for the magnificent Art Tatum. Another pianist, Keith Jarrett recorded an achingly beautiful version for his 1964 Live in Tokyo album

Enjoy. As always, comments welcomed.
Roger, the Intrepid Song Scout

Keeping the GAS (Great American Songbook) Flame Burning: “These Foolish Things”

September 10, 2015


Roger Crane, the Song Scout

Roger Crane, the Song Scout

By Roger Crane, the Song Scout


“These Foolish Things” was composed by two Brits, Jack Strachey and lyricist Eric Maschwitz (writing under the name Holt Marvell). The structure is what’s known as a “list song” or sometimes a catalog song. Such songs typically develop by working through a list – sometimes in the more humorous ones, using terms of escalating absurdity. Cole Porter was noted for his often-witty list songs such as “You’re the Top” and “Let’s Do It.” Less often a list song can be romantic.”These Foolish Things,” published in 1935 imparts a depth of feeling that few other list songs achieve.

This song was featured in the 1936 London musical Spread It Abroad but received little fanfare. But true to the musical’s name the song quickly caught on “abroad” in the US where five different recording artists were able to achieve popular recordings. Benny Goodman reached the top of the chart with his 1936 release, featuring his vocalist Helen Ward.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Goodman sideman, pianist Teddy Wilson put a lasting stamp on the stylish ballad when he cut a 1936 record with Billie Holiday who has, in my opinion, the definitive version of this standard. She was only 21 but her vocal has the astringency of a world-weary woman who has seen it all.

Nat “King” Cole


Other memorable recordings are by Nat King Cole who performed it in varying settings, both instrumentally and vocally.The highly-respected but still under-valued saxophonist Art Pepper loved “These Foolish Things” and recorded it a few times. I favor his 1977 Village Vanguard version. Vocalist Chris Connor’s recording on her 1959 Ballads of the Sad Cafe (Atlantic) is memorable with some lovely flute work by Eddie Jaspar. Connor included the alternate lesser-known and very interesting lyrics (see link below). Speaking of the many choruses here are two more Maschwitz choruses that are seldom heard.

Gardenia perfume ling’ring on a pillow
Wild strawberries only seven francs a kilo
And still my heart has wings
These foolish things
Remind me of you

The smile of Garbo and the scent of roses
The waiters whistling as the last bar closes
The songs that Crosby sings
These foolish things
Remind me of you

Speaking of lyrics, the music of the song’s verse has a romantic quality although, admittedly, the lyrics are pedestrian. Nevertheless, I have long thought that more vocalists should include them. Here they are in totality – –

Oh! would you never let me free ?
Oh? Will you never set me free?
The ties that bound us
And still surround us
There’s no escape that I can see
And still those little things remain
That bring me happiness or pain..


1) Billie Holiday and the elegant Teddy Wilson and Johnny Hodges,1936

2) Art Pepper, alto sax a  sublime eight minute
version, live at the Vanguard in 1978

3) Chris Connor, with alternate lyrics, 1959

4) Trumpeter Chet Baker from one of his finest recordings,
The Italian Sessions. That’s Rene Thomas on guitar, 1962.

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You may also wish to investigate recordings by the following

> A later Billie Holiday version from the 1952 Solitude.
> Artie Shaw from Did Someone Say a Party? 1953.
> Nat King Cole from Just One of Those Things, 1957.
> Frank Sinatra from his Point of No Return album, 1961.
> a young Stan Getz with Duke Jordan, a 1952 Verve recording.

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To read more posts and essays by Roger Crane the Song Scout click HERE.

Keeping the GAS (Great American Songbook) Flame Burning

July 15, 2015

“How Long Has This Been Going On?”


Roger Crane, Song Scout

By Roger Crane, the Song Scout




“How Long Has This Been Going On?” is an early song (1927) composed by the Gershwin brothers that expresses the delight of a first kiss. George was blessed to have a brother who was a brilliant wordsmith. In the 2001 Listening to Classic American Popular Song (YALE Press) writer Allen Forte devotes eight pages of in-depth analysis of Ira’s lyrics to “How Long,” praising the song’s integration of lyrics, rhythm and harmony. George and Ira wrote the song as a duet for Adele Astaire (Fred’s sister) and Jack Buchanan in the Broadway production Funny Face. It was not used in that show but quickly added as a solo number in Flo Ziegfeld’s 1928 Rosalie. It didn’t quickly catch on but became a standard after Peggy Lee recorded it with the Benny Goodman orchestra. Interestingly, Audrey Hepburn sang the song in the 1957 film version of Funny Face (see link below). So, it came about that this lovely ballad at last returned to the place of its intended origins and is now firmly entrenched as an entry in the Great American Songbook (GAS) canon. .


Many of the better vocalists have recorded this song, including Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Cher, Cassandra Wilson, Mose Allison and Mel Torme, just to cite a few names. Since songs from the 1920s tend to sound quaint to modern ears, modern day jazz artists, other than the trad bands, often exclude songs of this era. But “How Long” is a notable exception. It does not date and is perfectly malleable with chords that are appealingly open, uncluttered and innovative. Enjoyable instrumental jazz recordings include saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon, Al Cohn and Scott Hamilton (with some British jazz players). The great Louis Armstrong cut a recording as did guitarist Joe Pass and pianists Tommy Flanagan and Bill Charlap. Trombonist J.J. Johnson, who recorded (and composed) many ballads, included “How Long” on a 1954 recording with fellow trombonist Kai Winding.

A Few Sample Recordings

Sarah Vaughan, 1957.  Thankfully Vaughan includes Ira’s lengthy but well-written verse. She is accompanied by the Hal Mooney orchestra.

Audrey Hepburn, also 1957. Nothing wrong with a grand voice (such as the great Sarah) but the last thing you need to “sell” a song is great “chops.” Audrey’s voice is small, pitch maybe a bit ambiguous. But she sings with heart and her sound arrests attention. Hepburn understands that some lyrics are better whispered than declaimed.

Carmen McRae, 1981. Carmen is that rarity, a pure jazz singer who gives as much attention to lyrics as to music. Below is a version recorded live at Bubba’s, accompanied by only Marshall Otwell’s piano.

Lee Wiley, 1939.  The recording quality is a bit poor but certainly not Wiley’s singing. She was the first vocalist to record a series of songs by a single composer (that is, the concept of a “songbook” album). Perhaps the best of these is the Gershwin tribute which produced a touching version of this romantic song.

Last but not least, an Instrumental link, Ben Webster, 1967. The great Webster could do it all – swing hard or break your heart with a ballad. Here he is in balladic mode, accompanied by Kenny Drew-piano, Alex Riel-drums and the great NHOP (Niels Henning Orsten Pedersen) at his bass. Big Ben is so relaxed you can almost hear him smiling.

You may wish to also investigate Peggy Lee’s recording with Goodman which was in 1941. Sarah Vaughan recorded “How Long” a second time in 1978 with Oscar Peterson. Chet Baker, who had impeccable taste in tunes, included this song on his 1958 It Could Happen to You album. In 1962 Webster also recorded a thoughtful rendition of “How Long” with Sweets Edison. Pianist Brad Mehldau is always worth a listen and he included this song on his Art of the Trio CDs (volume 5 of that beautifully crafted series)

All the Best, Roger, the Song Scout
and the Inimitable Benevolent Guardian of Song

Live Jazz: Ken Peplowski and the Ed Dunsavage Trio in a Siskiyou Music Project Concert

May 30, 2015

By Don Heckman

Ashland, Oregon. In a fast happening program Wednesday night, a full collection of jazz perspectives were showcased in an entertaining evening of music reaching from small groups to the Rogue Valley All-Star Big Band. Topping it off, there was the stellar presence of veteran, award-winning clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski and the briskly swinging playing of the Ed Dunsavage Trio (guitarist Dunsavage, basist Joe Cohoon and drummer Gary Hirsch).

The Rogue Valley All-Star Big Band was all that and more, alternating their hard-driving big band sounds with various smaller groupings in groove-driven, solo-filled selections reaching from Count Basie to Cannonball Adderley.

The Rogue Valley All Star Big Band

The Rogue Valley All Star Big Band

The young, student-level players were mostly at the stage of finding themselves as improvisers. But they were doing so with high-spirited enthusiasm, eager to find their way in fascinating offerings articulately played under the adept guidance of the group’s conductor, Martin Behnke.

Ken Peplowski and the Ed Dunsavage Trio

Ken Peplowski and the Ed Dunsavage Trio

The evening’s musical high point began with the arrival of Peplowski and the Dunsavage Trio. In an era in which the clarinet has not been

Ken Peplowski and Ed Dunsavage

one of the primary jazz wind instruments, Peplowski is one of the few clarinetists working to keep the instrument’s remarkable creative potential alive and well. And he kept its roots vividly alive in this set by playing “Let’s Dance,” the Benny Goodman theme song and Artie Shaw’s “Moon Ray.”

Peplowski was backed superbly by the Dunsavage Trio, dynamically driving Peplowski’s finger-busting up-tempos, and finding the lyricism in a set of Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington tunes climaxing with a romp through “A-Train.”

Ken Peplowski

Ken Peplowski

And Peplowski didn’t stop there. On a few numbers he displayed his warm engaging adeptness as a tenor saxophonist.

Add in the whimsical, wry sense of humor in his between tunes commentaries. And equally important for the evening’s young jazz players, there were Peplowski’s warm, supportive efforts to personally interact with various collections of players. Simultaneously an inspiration, a mentor and a fatherly leader, he gave the young players an evening of musical memories that will be with them for many years.

For the numerous players’ parents who were in the audience, as well as the dedicated jazz fans, it was the best sort of musical evening – one which underscored the timelessness of America’s improvisational art.

All best to Ed Dunsavage for having created another memorable Siskiyou Music Project. The Summer Series 2015 begins June 6 & 7. Click HERE for more information.

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Photos by Faith Frenz. To see more photos by Faith Frenz click HERE.

Brian Arsenault Takes On, or rather, Treasures: Peggy Lee

October 12, 2014

 By Brian Arsenault

Elton John had Marilyn Monroe but I had Peggy Lee. Miss Peggy Lee, pardon. No, I didn’t write a song for her but she did a song for me. Not really for me but maybe . . .

Peggy Lee at mic gesturesI was 11 or 12 when I first heard “Fever” in 1959 and it gave me a whole new, shall I say, feeling about girls. I was beginning to notice they were different in more things than hair and giggles but “Fever” was a revelation, even if I wasn’t quite sure yet what was being revealed.

As Don Heckman has written, she had so many strengths as a singer: deep sensuality, phrasing at a level only achieved by a handful of greats like Francis Albert and Mr. Bennett, and also like them, the ability to find the emotional center of the song.

An example of another artist finding the emotional center of a song: I was only recently reminded that Sinatra didn’t sing “Luck Be a Lady” in the film version of Guys and Dolls even though he was in it. (So was Brando, sheesh) Yet the song became a signature for Frank who showed it wasn’t really about shooting craps but seeking love. He found the center.

Peggy made “Fever” her own even though a guy named Little Willie John had an r&b hit with it that even crossed over to the pop charts. Still it’s like it was written for her. The song’s been recorded by who knows how many since Peggy, by performers as varied as Madonna and Beyonce, even Elvis. But does anyone doubt its Peg’s song.

Backed by just drum and bass, she just kills it with that deep voice you might have wished your girlfried had, with her funny fake Shakesperean take on the Romeo and Juliet verse, with a restrained eroticism that is almost palpable.

Miss Peggy Lee was singing professionally as an early teen. She fled a wicked stepmother and started by singing on a radio station literally for food. By 17 she was established as a radio singer. By 20 she was fronting the Benny Goodman band. At 21, she wrote “What More Can a Woman Do?” recorded by Sarah Vaughan with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

If I put exclamation points at the end of each sentence in the previous paragraph it would not have been misplaced punctuation. And I almost never use exclamation points. She was just getting started, one of the few survivors of the big band era whose career flourished into the 1950s and 60s and beyond.
Her early 60s appearance at the Basin Street East, mercifully preserved on a great album, just dazzles with its array of songs: “Day In -Day Out,” “The Second Time Around,” “Moments Like This,” “Them There Eyes,” and of course “Fever.” Hear her versions on the album and you don’t need any others. Consider also the limitations of live recordings, any recordings, in 1961 compared to today’s digital, if rather frozen, age.

If you can get a vinyl copy you will know why. On the cover, Peggy smiles to the side, the dress low on her shoulders, an earring dangles. Simply dazzling. And then you listen and dazzling isn’t enough to say.
As an aside, I also love the message on the back of the album below the liner notes:
“This monophonic microgroove recording is playable on Monophonic and Stereo phonographs. It cannot become obsolete. (Italics mine).” Damn right.

Her gifts were enormous. She was a songwriter for the Disney animated film Lady and the Tramp, a cartoon feature done with a loveliness unknown today. She also did four of the voices, from the lovely Lady to those nasty Siamese cats. I have never been able to warm up to a Siamese since and I kinda like cats.

Peggy also wrote songs with luminaries like Duke Ellington. She wrote TV scripts. She hosted variety shows. She acted in movies. She wrote poetry.

Her last big hit was in 1970 with “Is That All There Is?” Could there possibly be another hit song ever with lyrics taken from a Thomas Mann story? The band on the song was conducted by Randy Newman. Anyone else’s singing career span from Goodman to Newman?

She was in great demand right into the 1980s when failing health finally took its toll. She’d had a near fatal fall in Vegas some years before and came near death again with heart disease and surgery.
Yet she carried on into the 90s when she even performed a few times in a wheelchair. Now that could break your heart, eh?

Miss Peggy Lee died in 2002 having risen above enormous life challenges and changes in popular music tastes over so many decades. But if she’d only ever done “Fever” she’d be great to me.

Live Jazz: Alan Broadbent at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.

May 30, 2013

By Don Heckman

The stage was almost empty Tuesday night at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  Almost, that is, except for one notable exception.

Seated at the club’s large concert grand, pianist/arranger/composer Alan Broadbent performed several generous sets over a memorable three hours.  Originally scheduled as a duo with bassist Pat Senatore, it became a solo night for Broadbent when Senatore had to remain at home to fight the flu.

All of which made for a considerably different musical evening, one that was completely focused on Broadbent’s gifted, far-ranging talents as a pianist, an improviser, a composer and arranger.  All those skills were present, as Broadbent framed each tune – fast or slow with spontaneous arrangements, embraced the melodies, dug into improvised passages, and brought every song he touched vividly to life.

Alan Broadbent

Alan Broadbent

A master of the diverse music in the Great American Songbook, Broadbent filled his sets with classic items, thoughtfully shaping songs such as “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” “Spring Is Here,” “They Asked About You,” “You Go To My Head,” “Sophisticated Lady” and more.  Some of the ballads were offered with soaringly lyrical melodic phrases; some were tinged with rhapsodic classical touches.  And some were propelled forward via Broadbent’s laid-back, easy-going sense of swing. An occasional bebop line such as Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” moved intriguingly from forward-driving bop to a reminder of the ragtime which is at its roots.

There were offbeat choices, as well: Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” called up memories of its role as the theme song of the Benny Goodman orchestra. A medley of film themes focused on the atmospheric sounds of “Laura.” And John Lewis’ “Django,” a tribute to the great Gipsy jazz guitarist, was played with a sensitive awareness of its roots in J.S. Bach.

A Grammy nominee and a Grammy winner, the New Zealand-born Broadbent had been, until very recently, one of L.A.’s busiest first call musicians.  In addition to his briskly swinging, straight ahead jazz skills, singers such as Irene Kral, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and others have deeply valued his ability to provide the perfect settings for their very different styles.  And his work with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West has produced some extraordinarily musical recordings and live performances ranging from Broadbent’s imaginative instrumental settings, some of them orchestral, to his compelling vocal arrangements on recordings such as Sophisticated Ladies.

Pianists performing either solo or in duos or trios at Vibrato have been known to be overwhelmed by audience noise, especially from the bar.  But on this evening, Broadbent’s playing was so musically mesmerizing that his listeners seemed completely in tune with the magic he brought to each song.

And, as the evening got thoroughly underway, there was no sense of emptiness on the stage. Operating on his own, with no back up players, Broadbent – on his own — nonetheless filled Vibrato with an irresistible sense of imaginative musical completeness.

Broadbent’s performance at Vibrato was a rare Southland appearance since his move to New York City a year or so ago.  But this listener (and no doubt many others) will happily welcome any future Broadbent L.A. visits – either on his own, or blending with the right compatible players, backing a singer, or displaying the rich complexities of his extraordinary arranging and composing skills.  He is truly one of a kind.

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Photo by Faith Frenz.  To see more of her photos click HERE.


Live Jazz: Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band at Vitello’s

June 10, 2012

By Michael Katz

If  you have never seen Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band in a Small, Close Room, it is an experience I would heartily recommend. For sheer excitement, it is about the closest thing to actually being in the band – if you are a musician or just an air saxophone player, you will be tempted to stand up and take a solo.  Friday night, the eighteen musicians occupied every nook and cranny of the stage at Vitello’s. The guitarist seemed to be sitting in your  lap. The conga player was wedged between Goodwin’s piano and the back wall — his rhythms floating unseen from the direction of Laurel Canyon. The baritone sax player was perched just in front of the curtained stage entrance; one step backward and he could have been the Wizard of Oz. The drummer, Bernie Dresel, sat smack in the middle of  all this, cool and hip in black-rimmed glasses, looking like Steve Allen reincarnated in an argyle sweater.

If you are an acoustic purist, this may not be for you. There are just too many sounds colliding and reverberating between the low ceiling and around the walls. But that is hardly the point. This is a musical Funhouse. It’s a chance to get up close to precision section playing and scorching solos, not to mention a few young players who have infiltrated the roster of Goodwin’s veteran group of LA session men.

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

Goodwin, who handles the arrangements and plays mostly piano now,  started this band a decade ago. He’s developed a rousing, hard swinging sound that borrows liberally from all points of the American jazz scene – over two sets Friday night there were nods to Benny Goodman, George Gershwin, Diz, Herbie and even Elmer Fudd. It’s all done with panache, humor and Goodwin’s trademark in-the-pocket groove, dominated by a front line of saxophones that doubles impressively on flutes and clarinets.

The first set featured tunes from the BPB’s most recent album, That’s How We Roll, opening up with the title cut. A typical foot-stomping Goodwin piece, it featured Francisco Torres, best known for anchoring the trombone section of the Poncho Sanchez Band, and Willie Murillo,  the lead trumpet soloist most of the night. “Howdiz Songo” followed with a lilting piano riff by Goodwin,  Joey De Leon’s congas bubbling up from behind. A couple of newer names made their presence felt: Katisse Buckingham is a fine young saxophonist who doubled on flute and Andrew Synoweic showed his versatility on guitar.

Goodwin won a 2012 Grammy for his shape-shifting arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Another young reed player, Kevin Garren, opened it up with a stirring clarinet solo. The tempo shifted to an aggressive swing, featuring Bob Summers on trumpet, then laid back for a Dorsey-like trombone burst from Charlie Morillas. Finally Murillo took over on trumpet as the tempo assumed a rollicking strip tease tone, perhaps not exactly what Gershwin had in mind, but who’s to say?

Singer Becky Martin, who I’d heard with Arturo Sandoval last month, stepped in for two numbers. It is especially hard belting out a tune over an 18 piece band in such a small room, but Martin carried an up-tempo version (was there anything else?) of “Cheek To Cheek” and followed with a persuasive interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night In Tunisia,” augmented by Murillo’s homage to Diz.

There were only two ballads over the evening, placed in penultimate  positions of each set. Guitarist Synowiec had a nice casual feel to “Everlasting” in the first set with Goodwin accompanying him gracefully on the piano. The same spot in the second set brought Goodwin back on tenor sax with a samba-like rendition of “I Remember,” from the BPB’s first album. Bob Summers delivered some soulful work on the flugelhorn   with harmonic support from the woodwinds, alternating from an all flute background to a medley of saxophones. And speaking of stellar section work, the trombones, who had carried less solo work most of the night, performed beautifully in “It’s Not Polite To Point” with Jason Thor and Craig Gosnell joining Torres and Morillas in a perfect blending of the four horns.

Mostly, though, it was the rip-roaring numbers that had the capacity crowd on their feet. There was “Hunting Wabbits III,” the third variation of Goodwin’s salute to the Warner Brothers cartoon themes. “Sing Sang Sung,” which opened up the second set, is based on Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” and featured more great clarinet work by Kevin Garren. Lead tenor man Brian Scanlon, after losing a pad on his horn, borrowed Goodwin’s and blew through “Rippin’ N Runnin’ from the new album.  By the time the Big Phat Band finished off the night with “The Jazz Police,”  highlighted by percussionist Joey DeLeon and drummer Bernie Dresel tearing things up, the audience and band alike were on the edge of exhaustion.

Which is the way it ought to be. The next time I see this band it will be opening the main stage show at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September. I’m sure it will be great, but I won’t be sitting two feet from the band, trading eights in my mind with the horn section.

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To read more iRoM  reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


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