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S&H Jazz review

The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band Carnegie Hall Thursday Feb. 21 2002


The Carnegie Hall Jazz band has been in operation for 10 years. The personnel vary to fit the work being undertaken this particular concert was a review of some of their previous work. The leader is Jon Faddis; his own performance is brilliant in the roles of outstanding jazz soloist, musical director and excellent host and compere.

The musicians were as follows:

Trumpets. John Faddis, Earl Gardner, Michael Phillip Mossman, Lew Soloff, Tom Williams.
Trombones. John Fedchock, Steve Turre, Dennis Wilson, Douglas Purviance (Bass)
Saxophones Dick Oatts, Jerry Dodgion, (alto) Ralph Lalama. Frank Wess (tenor), Gary Smulyan (baritone).
Piano. Renee Rosnes
Bass. Todd Coolman

Drums. Dana Hall

Carnegie Hall is maintained in pristine condition, it has a tremendous atmosphere and on taking our seats, we could not help thinking of all the great players and bands who had appeared there.

The hall was about 90% full when the band arrived on stage to a tumultuous welcome at 8.00pm; it was great to be among so many enthusiasts of big band music. The first number was an arrangement by Slide Hampton of Frank Foster’s ‘Shiny Stockings’. This showed off first of all the absolute precision that the band played with, it’s faultless dynamics, a rhythm section second to none and then the remarkable trumpet playing of John Faddis, who probably plays the way Dizzy Gillespie would were he alive today. Jon really has everything, an amazing range, a great jazz feel and an ability to create tremendous excitement and expectancy in the crowd. The second number featured brilliant lead alto Dick Oatts and drummer Dana Hall in a Jim Mc Neely arrangement of Louis Prima’s show stopper for Benny Goodman, ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’. It was followed by an amazing piece of ballad playing by Frank Wess on Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Lucky to Be Me’. Frank was for many years the Tenor soloist with the Count Basie Band, he demonstrated that it is easy for an eighty year old musician to steal the show if he has Frank’s undiminished talent!

‘Blues All Around Us’ by Muhal Richard Abrams had it’s world premiere by the orchestra on Dec.6th. 2001, it featured Ralph Lalama on Tenor, Dick Oatts on Alto, Renee Rosnes on Piano and finally the leader again in great form. Any one of these soloists could hold your attention for as long as they wanted. This concluded the superb first half.

The second half began with a Frank Foster arrangement of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, this time the soloists were Gary Smulyan on baritone, an instrument that can easily sound clumsy at high speed, but not in Gary’s hands. I hope to hear more of his work in the future. There were also excellent solos from Steve Turre trombone and Earl Gardner trumpet. The programme continued with another Coltrane composition ‘Acknowledgement’ from his suite ‘A Love Supreme’. The featured soloists were John Faddis and brilliant pianist Renee Rosnes, her playing was new to me. Her contribution to the music was very important. She has absorbed more than any pianist I have heard in a big band for ages a true understanding of the role has. Where her parts were part of the orchestration, they were cleanly played and audible, her ‘comping’ was a joy and she helped each soloist build to a climax his contribution.

Jon Faddis introduced a nice touch of humour by saying that the next composition was originally written for another trumpet player and pretended to forget his name, it was of course Maynard Ferguson! The piece is called ‘Frame for the Blues’ and Slide Hampton wrote it. This time the soloists were Faddis who more than adequately showed us his command of the top register, I knew this man was good but I did not know until this concert how good. There was a Bass solo from Todd Coolman, which was inventive and interesting and some fascinating trombone exchanges between John Fedcock and Steve Turre. The number concluded to a standing ovation and after about 6/7 minutes of sustained applause the band played an encore ‘Duke Takes a Train’ arranged by Randy Sanke. There was more really exciting jazz from John Faddis, Ralph Lalama, Renee Rosnes and Dick Oatts.

This brought to an end the best big band concert I have ever heard and I would like to think I have heard most of the best during my 50 years of playing and listening to his kind of music. As well as the quality of the soloists, the ensemble playing was a joy to listen to. The programme is strengthened by the use of arrangers of the quality of Frank Foster and Slide Hampton, just to name two; the others are equally good. The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band do not attempt to recreate the past, but instead present a pastiche of the past and present of big band music. In John Faddis they have the ideal Musical Director.


Don Mather


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