Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Big Band Traditions, From Basie to Monk

For the third week Summer Sessions 2015, a week devoted to the enduring vitality of the Big Band tradition, we present four of the finest large ensembles working in jazz today – bands with ties to the past, who are standard bearers of the Big Band sound in the 21st Century. 2015 GRAMMY winner Gordon Goodwin counts Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich among his idols, and his Big Phat Band boasts a number of superb instrumentalists including longtime Chick Corea saxophonist Eric Marienthal and trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, known for his work with the late Maynard Ferguson. The Big Phat Band's focus is as a laboratory for Goodwin's own inventive compositions.
Tommy Igoe is clearly one of the drumming world’s major forces, a virtuosic musician and educator whose influential method books have inspired thousands of aspiring percussionists. His masterful Groove Conspiracy band takes on the music of Steely Dan for this week’s performance, joined by Steely Dan guitarist Drew Zingg.
Two of this weeks bands, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and John Beasley’s MONK’estra, directly reference the illustrious history of large group jazz through experience and inspiration.
John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton, Jeff Clayton
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra is led by siblings John and Jeff Clayton (on bass and woodwinds respectively) and drummer Jeff Hamilton, all three of whom came through the iconic big band of jazz giant Count Basie. For each, working with a larger-than-life figure like Basie was an experience that shaped their careers and informed their development as world-class instrumentalists, bandleaders and arrangers. In an interview with blogger Tsvete Tyuleva, the bassist said, “I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from Count Basie. It would just take forever… It was always lessons, not only about music, but about life.”
Pianist, composer and arranger John Beasley began as a true prodigy, penning an arrangement for the
John Beasley - photo by Richard Schoenberg
legendary Stan Kenton Orchestra before attending high school. From that rather auspicious start, Beasley has had a truly staggering career packed with highlights including tours with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Christian McBride, music direction with Steely Dan and Queen Latifah, and composition for television series Cheers, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Family Ties. His 15-piece all-star big band, MONK’estra, naturally pays tribute to the inimitable Thelonious Monk with fresh, innovative arrangements of Monk’s signature compositions.

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