Big Band

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The Big Band genre at JMA is for large ensembles (generally ten or more musicians) who play in what best can be called a "big band style". The big band style involves breaking the large ensemble into separate sections, usually grouped by instrument, that then engage in call and response type figures with each other. These motifs can be arranged or improvised. The big band arranging style can also use repeating interlocking riffs by the various sections that provide a rhythmic groove for soloists. Early innovators in big band music include Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Modern big band leaders include Quincy Jones and Maynard Ferguson.

The Big Band genre at JMA also includes jazz influenced pop orchetra leaders such as Paul Whiteman, Glen Miller and the Dorsey Brothers. Modern big bands that are influenced by avant-garde music, 3rd stream music or other types of modern elements can be found in the Progressive Big Band genre.

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Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 5 min. caching

STAN KENTON Adventures in Jazz Album Cover Adventures in Jazz
STAN KENTON
4.99 | 3 ratings
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STAN KENTON Kenton in HI-FI Album Cover Kenton in HI-FI
STAN KENTON
4.98 | 3 ratings
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STAN KENTON Standards in Silhouette Album Cover Standards in Silhouette
STAN KENTON
5.00 | 2 ratings
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CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho Album Cover Hi De Hi De Ho
CAB CALLOWAY
5.00 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Time Out Album Cover Time Out
BUDDY RICH
4.95 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Big Swing Face Album Cover Big Swing Face
BUDDY RICH
4.95 | 2 ratings
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STAN KENTON Stan Kenton Conducts the Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton Album Cover Stan Kenton Conducts the Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton
STAN KENTON
4.95 | 2 ratings
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DUKE PEARSON Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band Album Cover Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band
DUKE PEARSON
4.90 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Blues Caravan Album Cover Blues Caravan
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 1 ratings
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BUDDY RICH The Roar of '74 (aka Buddy Rich Big Band  aka I Giganti Del Jazz Vol. 88) Album Cover The Roar of '74 (aka Buddy Rich Big Band aka I Giganti Del Jazz Vol. 88)
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 1 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Big Band Machine Album Cover Big Band Machine
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 1 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Plays and Plays and Plays Album Cover Plays and Plays and Plays
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 1 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings At The Village Vanguard
Live album
THAD JONES / MEL LEWIS ORCHESTRA
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big band Music Reviews

THELONIOUS MONK The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall

Live album · 1959 · Big Band
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When Thelonious Monk recorded “The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall” in 1959, his career was at a peak, no longer a sometimes derided outsider, Monk had finally emerged as a ‘living legend’, and a recognized leading architect of modern jazz. The concert, at which ‘at Town Hall’ was recorded, received much attention because this was to be Monk’s first attempt at presenting his music in a big band format. Initial critical reception to Monk’s big band performance was somewhat tepid. Many felt that Monk’s band members didn’t really get his music, nor his feel for rhythm, but many years later, after our eardrums have been pummeled with barbaric volume, such idiosyncrasies are probably barely noticeable anymore, ha. But seriously, this recording has aged well, and although Monk’s orchestrations are not particularly revelatory, the combined effort of all the musicians on here results in an imaginative, if somewhat quirky, late 50s hard bop LP.

To get help orchestrating his first big band album, Monk enlisted longtime fan and big band arranger, Hal Overton. The two worked painstakingly on several Monk originals before they called in a band for some rehearsals and then the concert/recording. Despite his well deserved reputation as a composer and innovator, Monk’s orchestrations are not particularly remarkable, but as can be expected, a little bit odd. The choice of instruments favors the low end sounds, and Monk uses this to paint dark murky colors. Similar to his piano playing, much of Monk’s ensemble arrangements are almost simple and plain. His best use of the orchestra comes when he is able to add contrasting lines to his melodies, lines that were often only implied by his piano.

A big plus on here is Monk’s band mates, a virtual all-star crew of jazz talent at that time, including; Donald Byrd, Phil Woods, Charley Rouse, Pepper Adams and more. Phil Woods in particular shines with his ‘bird like’ flight on “Friday the 13th”. On “Little Rootie Tootie”, the entire front line of the band plays Monk’s original recorded solo as a unison solo. The end result of so many horns trying to stay together on such a jaggedy solo results in some humorous train wrecks. Monk’s playing is brilliant throughout, but especially on “Monk’s Mood” where his rhythmic shifts produce almost hallucinogenic effects. Overall, this isn’t one of Monk’s best, but it still rates high in his discography, and due to the big band format, partly as a curiosity.

DUKE ELLINGTON Ellington At Newport

Live album · 1957 · Big Band
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This review concerns the original version of "Duke Ellington and His Orchestra at Newport", which mostly consists of tracks done in a studio after the concert, with crowd noise added later in an attempt to make people believe they were hearing the actual recording of Ellington's performance at Newport in 1956. The real live recording was finally released in 1999, which makes this previous phony live album somewhat pointless now. If you don't already know the story, this is how all this happened.

Ellington’s performance at Newport in 56 was a smash success that turned around his lagging career and inspired so much enthusiasm that the concert almost ended in a riot of sorts. Eager to get a recording of this concert out to the public, Ellington discovered that the concert recording was marred by sloppy playing, and even worse, key solos had been played into the wrong microphones and barely recorded at all. Quickly Ellington pulled together another rehearsal and had the entire concert re-recorded fresh in the studio, except for the one piece that had gotten the crowd to its feet, “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”. That one piece had featured a lengthy solo by Paul Gonsalves that Ellington wanted to preserve as is, even though you could barely hear Gonsalves at times because he was pointed towards the wrong mic.

When “Ellington at Newport” hit the shelves in 57, everyone assumed that was an actual recording of the Duke’s big comeback and the story could have ended there, but many decades later, someone miraculously discovered the tapes picked up by the “wrong microphone” (it was for a taping to be played over seas), all of a sudden the original concert was back again. To say this was one of the biggest musicological finds of the 20th century is practically an understatement. Next came the painstaking task of matching the various tapes together, but new developments in digital technology finally allowed the entire concert to be released in fairly good sounding stereo.

So in 1999 the complete “Ellington at Newport” was released with the entire 56 concert intact, as well as Ellington’s studio remake of the concert that had been the original album. Its fun to compare the two versions, the studio recording is tighter and more polished, but the live recording has so much energy and raw enthusiasm. Some sloppiness in the live recording is pretty bad, such as Johnny Hodges mangled opening note glide on “I Got it Bad”, but overall, the live recordings have more life than the studio ones.

Since the expanded complete version also contains the studio recordings that were used for the fake live album, is there any point in owning the original album at all. Possibly the best future for this album will be as a true oddity for those who like to collect oddities, because this original album is the only one that has the studio versions with fake 'liveness' added on. Possibly there is some sort of humorous camp value there. The recording of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue", in particular" gets fairly comical with lots of added on crowd noise pulled from other parts of the recording. You almost expect someone to enter this musique concrete monstrosity and start saying 'number nine' over and over.

CLIFFORD BROWN Clifford Brown Big Band in Paris

Album · 1970 · Big Band
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Much like Hendrix, Dolphy and Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown was one of those brilliant artists who died way too young, and just like the aforementioned three artists, his fans still scramble to find anything he recorded and put it out in various slapped together collections. The title “The Clifford Brown Big Band in Paris”, is misleading, as the musicians on here were never part of any Clifford Brown Big Band. Instead, this is a collection of tracks that were recorded by musicians who were on a 1953 tour of Europe with Lionel Hampton’s big band. This core of American jazz musicians was supplemented by some local French musicians as well. The sessions were put together by French pianist Henri Renaud, and heavily feature the solos of Clifford, who was a rising star at that time. Also of note is the presence of the young Quincy Jones, who provides some compositions, arrangements and even piano comping on one track. There is some good music on here, but some tracks feature less than great recording quality, and the inclusion of alternate takes and little incomplete excerpts make this much more for Clifford Brown collectors than casual listeners.

The CD opens with a big band playing two takes of “Brown Skins”, two takes of “Keeping Up with Jonesy” and one take of “Bum’s Rush”. The alternate takes on any of these songs can only be interesting to Cliff Brown fanatics, and since they are placed in sequence with the good tracks, they become a nuisance to someone who just wants to hear some good music. Having said that, the playing is quite good, but the recording is not great, it sounds like there was one mic for the whole band in a small radio performance style recording setting. On the plus side, Brown plays some great solos, and Quincy Jones fans can hear the young Quincy working out his new big band style on his two originals.

The rest of the CD features two different eight piece bands playing two takes each of “Chez Moi” and “All Weird”. Once again, the alternate takes are sub-par, while the two good takes feature much better recording quality than the previous big band tracks. The final takes of these two tracks are what make this CD worth the purchase, even if some of the musicians seem to struggle with the complex changes to Brown’s “All Weird”. The other factor that makes this CD worth the purchase is its extensive and helpful liner notes. Clifford Brown collectors should also note that this CD is the third in a three part series that deals with Brown’s 1953 tour of Europe. Of course this CD is highly recommended for Clifford Brown completionists, and be-bop collectors, but for someone just looking for something to listen to, the weak alternate takes and incomplete tracks need to be taken out, then you might have an okay CD.

DUKE ELLINGTON Duke Ellington's Greatest Hits (aka The Duke Lives On)

Live album · 1967 · Big Band
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Calling the album in question here, “Duke Ellngton’s Greatest Hits”, might have been an attempt to make it more appealing and increase sales, but it is very misleading as this is not a collection of old original studio recordings, but is actually a live concert recorded some time in 1963, while the band was on tour in Europe. Sure the band covers a lot of their old favorites, but that was true of almost any Ellington concert over the years. Actually, if this record had been labeled as the live concert it really is, that would have helped sales more than the bogus “greatest hiits” tag. Ellington 'best of' albums are a dime a dozen and most Ellington fans don’t need one more re-packaging of studio recordings they already own, but they would probably be a lot more interested if they knew that this is an excellent live recording that shows the band to be in top form as they play some old favorites, but in ways that differ significantly from the originals.

Ellington was known for not playing tunes the same way twice, and that is apparent as you re-visit many of these well known songs. “Satin Doll”, and “Creole Love Call” are tossed off rather quickly and they don’t even play the recognizable main melody to “Love Call”. On the other hand, “Black and Tan Fantasy” is stretched out with more space at the end for the clarinet(s). Another top track is “Pyramid”, a real gem in that Ellington exotic pseudo-African style that influenced many, from Sun Ra to Les Baxter. All of the remaining tracks are good because the band sounds particularly cohesive and in tune with each other. I would guess that a lot of the good vibes come from the fact that the band was touring Europe where they were likely to get treated better than in the states. The band sounds relaxed and happy and all the subtle colors that the Ellington band is capable of sound very rich and delicate. It seems playing for a European audience really brings out the influence of French impressionism in the Ellington ensemble sound.

Unfortunately, this record has slid into obscurity and is mostly ignored and forgotten, most likely because of the misleading ‘greatest hits’ title. If you are an Ellington fan and can find this vinyl in good shape, pick it up, you won’t be disappointed. The recorded sound on here is excellent, and the band is in very good form, the ensemble tone colors are superb. This is a hidden gem in the vast Ellington discography, where good things can easily be lost and forgotten.

DIZZY GILLESPIE At Newport

Live album · 1957 · Big Band
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The original “Dizzy Gillespie at Newport” is an excellent CD, but its no match for the 50th anniversary re-issue. The 50th Anniversary edition of “Dizzy Gillespie at Newport” is another one of those CD re-issues that adds enough new material to make it a significant improvement over the original. The original version of “At Newport” did not include the songs that Gillespie’s band performed with Mary Lou Williams that day, those songs instead showed up on a split EP with Count Basie. The 50th Anniversary edition brings all the songs together and you can now hear the entire show, although the songs are not in the right order as they happened that day. Having said that, this review will deal only with the original CD, which is good enough in its own right.

“Dizzy at Newport” contains some of the hottest playing you will ever hear from Dizzy and his band, or anyone else for that matter. Unlike the swing based bands of Ellington, Basie and others, Dizzy’s band was the be-bop big band; their tempos were fast, their unison lines a blur of speed and their solos displayed a new formidable modern technique. The opening tune, “Dizzy’s Blues”, busts out of the gate with Dizzy leading the charge with an incredible fiery hot solo relentlessly pushing the beat forward. Wynton Kelly’s jagged piano backup adds to the beautiful chaos. Dizzy tended to gear his shows towards the general public, not just die hard jazz fans, so there is always an upbeat easy going crowd pleasing nature to his shows, along with a good dose of humor. Whether or not Gillespie’s humor gets to be too silly or over done sometimes is a matter of taste.

After the fierce opener, follow up tune, “School Days”, is provided as a sure crowd pleaser with Dizzy doing silly school boy raps over a jump blues/rock-n-roll beat. “Manteca” is intense Latin Jazz and “Cool Breeze” brings back the fast energy of the opener. In between those two you get a beautifully orchestrated version of “I Remember Clifford”. For a live big band recording in the late 50s, the sound quality on here is not too bad, but not remarkably good either.

As mentioned earlier, the salient features of these six tracks are pure energy and instrumental fire, few performers can take a tune to the next level the way Dizzy can with a solo. This original album is good enough, but if you can get the 50th anniversary re-issue, go for it. The extra cuts with Mary Lou Williams show a whole different side of the band as they tackle William’s ambitious 3rd stream “Zodiac Suite".

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