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.

big band top albums

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CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho Album Cover Hi De Hi De Ho
CAB CALLOWAY
5.00 | 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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DUKE PEARSON Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band Album Cover Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band
DUKE PEARSON
4.82 | 2 ratings
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STAN KENTON Adventures in Jazz Album Cover Adventures in Jazz
STAN KENTON
4.58 | 3 ratings
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QUINCY JONES This Is How I Feel About Jazz Album Cover This Is How I Feel About Jazz
QUINCY JONES
4.52 | 2 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall Album Cover The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.40 | 5 ratings
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BUDDY RICH The Greatest Drummer That Ever Lived With... The Best Band I Ever Had Album Cover The Greatest Drummer That Ever Lived With... The Best Band I Ever Had
BUDDY RICH
4.50 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Time Out Album Cover Time Out
BUDDY RICH
4.50 | 2 ratings
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DIZZY GILLESPIE A Portrait of Duke Ellington Album Cover A Portrait of Duke Ellington
DIZZY GILLESPIE
4.50 | 2 ratings
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DUKE ELLINGTON Festival Session Album Cover Festival Session
DUKE ELLINGTON
4.45 | 2 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Big Swing Face Album Cover Big Swing Face
BUDDY RICH
4.25 | 4 ratings
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STAN KENTON Kenton in HI-FI Album Cover Kenton in HI-FI
STAN KENTON
4.06 | 4 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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SWR BIG BAND
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WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY JAZZ ORCHESTRA
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The Music of Gary Lindsay: Are We Still Dreaming
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Jazzing 8: Vol. 1
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Flyin' Through Florida
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Cool Fantasy
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A Tribute To Geri Allen
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Explosion
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CORY WEEDS
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Live At Storyville
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We Play for Tips
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Rock Around the Rock Pile
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RAY ANTHONY
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Concerts In Miniature - Volume 23
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STAN KENTON
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Rhapsody for Now! & Doc(SACD)
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DOC SEVERINSEN
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Catwalk
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ANDREW NEU
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Memories of Maynard
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MAYNARD FERGUSON
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big band Music Reviews

BUDDY RICH Mercy, Mercy

Live album · 1968 · Big Band
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darkprinceofjazz
Most Critics would agree with me, This Recording, live from Caesar's Palace, was probably the peak of Buddy Rich's career, Certainly the peak of his late 60's Big Band. All the Charts for this fantastic performance are spectacular, With the Bill Reddie arranged Chanel 1 suite being the zenith of this Cookin' Big Band. Only West Side Story from the album Swingin' New Big Band Is possibly it's Equal. I always liked "Goodbye Yesterday" as well, The bonus tracks added to the remastered CD are also all worthy listens, With The Theme from Mr. Lucky being of most interest, also you might want to checkout the Sammy Davis Jr. album, "The sounds of 66'" With The Big Band backing him up, one of his best singing performances I think. I would have loved to had been in the audience that night in Vegas, I can only imagine how vibrant and exciting this music sounded as it was being played live.

SOUTH FLORIDA JAZZ ORCHESTRA The Music of Gary Lindsay: Are We Still Dreaming

Album · 2018 · Big Band
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js
I don’t know if a lot of people think of Florida as a hot bed for current big band activity, but with Micah Bethea having just released another excellent album in the Jacksonville area, followed quickly by this set out of the Miami area by The South Florida Jazz Orchestra, its starting to look like Florida could become known for more than just alligators, mosquitoes and shirtless guys with mullets. The truth is, Miami has had a very active jazz scene for a long time now, and has contributed many major players to the jazz world. One such local star is saxophonist Gary Lindsay, who arranged all of the music on “The Music of Gary Lindsay: Are We Still Dreaming”, hence the CD title of course, and Gary also composed several of the numbers as well. The big band assembled here is top notch with many in-demand New York and Miami session musicians taking up the chairs.

The music on here strikes an interesting variety. Three cuts utilize vocalists; Nicole Yarling’s “Easy Living” hit’s a slinky groove that‘s perfect for the lyrics, and Julia Dollison’s wordless vocals add much to the ethereal Lindsay original, “Are We Still Dreaming”. Julia also sings a high energy medley of two standards as well. Other covers include fairly straight ahead readings of “Round Midnight” and Pat Metheny’s “Better Days Ahead”, plus a far more creative rendition of Strayhorn’s “Upper Manhattan Medical Group”, titled “UMGG” on here. The best tracks though, are the Lindsay originals, such as the aforementioned “…Dreaming”, and the classically influenced “Toward Hope”. These two in particular allow Lindsay to portray how he uses the various voices in the band to intertwine melodies in infinite kaleidoscope variations. “The Music of Gary Linday: Are We Still Dreaming” is a worthwhile listen for anyone interested in contemporary big band music, or jazz in general, there is plenty of room for soloists in these arrangements.

DIVA 25th Anniversary Project

Album · 2018 · Big Band
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Carmel
Singularly the hardest working Big Band in the industry today, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra is lead by superwoman Sherrie Maricle, who not only is the drummer of the band but the collaborative ball of energy that drives the 15-piece group of highly qualified female instrumentalists. The inspiration for DIVA came from Stanley Kay, one-time manager and relief drummer for Buddy Rich. In 1990, Kay was conducting a band in which Sherrie Maricle was playing the drums. Stanley immediately picked up on her extraordinary talent and began to wonder if there were other women players who could perform at the same level. The search was on and through nationwide auditions, the foundation for DIVA was poured in June 1992, and what emerged is the dynamic musical force that holds forth to the present day.

Though DIVA holds dear the traditional jazz idiom, the release of 25th Anniversary Project includes original compositions by some of the members who are genuine, yet ingenious composers. Maricle explains; “the CD offers our listeners 10 original compositions by 9 remarkable composers, writing for 15 friends in 1 amazing band. It’s DIVA’s mission to continue to swing hard and grow, through the exceptional individual talent within the band and their extraordinary composers and arrangers.”

One such composition is by baritone saxist Leigh Pilzer, titled “East Coast Andy,” a romping tune with high flying horn hits, creatively conceived sections that add to the textural interest of the tune and a burning solo by Pilzer herself, as well as trumpeter Jami Dauber who has a penchant for stomping the gates with her high stepping style.

A beautifully written “Square One,” features alto and soprano saxophonist Alexa Tarantino in the writer’s seat. The tune is harmonically rich with soothing pastoral colorizations and emotional dips, that lead to emotive, conversationally based solos between Rachel Therrian on flugelhorn and Tarantino herself on alto saxophone. The elongated melody is stirring and memorable.

Maricle takes the album out with her original “The Rhythm Changes,” which is aptly titled as it refers to the rhythm of the motif and how it changes through the form of the composition. Soloists, Barbara Laronga on trumpet, Mercedes Beckman on alto saxophone, Noriko Ueda on bass and Maricle on drums create an interactive atmosphere for swing era stalwarts and jazz aficionados to savor. 25th Anniversary Project is certainly a keepsake, when taking stock of its measure, one asks; is it authentic to its source and performed with expertise and awareness, in this case a resounding yes can be heard.

MICA BETHEA Stage 'N Studio

Album · 2017 · Big Band
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js
The days of traveling big bands going from town to town and entertaining dancing patrons passed long ago, but in the last couple decades, big bands have been making a comeback as a vehicle for composer/arrangers to display what they can do with tone color and part arranging to achieve music that can not be done with a smaller ensemble. This leads us to Mica Bethea, an ambitious composer/arranger who works out of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Maybe its because Mica isn’t associated with NYC that his name is not as well known yet, but his new CD, “Stage ‘n Studio”, should help change that. This is an excellent modern big band recording with complex music that is both challenging, but also loads of fun too. Not only is Mica a top notch arranger for pieces by well known composers such as Herbie Hancock, Harold Arlen and George Gershwin, but his original compositions are often better than the aforementioned better known composers.

“Stage n’ Studio’ is a tale of two CDs in one package. CD one consists of eight tunes recorded in the studio, while CD two contains many of the same tunes, plus a couple different ones, recorded live. For my money, I think the live CD is the stronger of the two, not only is the playing more loose and energetic, but even the sound mix and production have a stronger congruence than CD one. The tunes on the two CDs are roughly 80% the same, but once again, where there are differences, the choice of tunes on CD two is better. The range of music on here is varied from fusion to bop, plus a couple ballads as well. Bethea sites Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer, Thad Jones and Maria Schneider as influences, and you can hear all that, plus on “Frahm out of Nowhere” you can hear a hard driving Quincy Jones TV theme effect, and that is most definitely a complement. Other top tracks include, “Birth Rite”, a beautiful Bethea original ballad that shows the Gil Evans influence, as well as a taste of French composers like Maurice Ravel. The arrangement of Herbie’s well known funk classic “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” is a total gas, excellent music to crank up in the car as you beat the traffic. “Jonesin for Thad” is another top notch Micah original that swings like crazy as complex horn lines intersect in a tribute to the arranging style of Thad Jones.

I can’t say enough good things about this CD, this is very exciting music and highly recommended for fans of modern big band. Give Micah a chance to engage your ears (and dancing feets), I don’t think you will be disappointed.

CANNONBALL ADDERLEY African Waltz

Album · 1961 · Big Band
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siLLy puPPy
After releasing his critically acclaimed and most popular albums of his career with such classics as “Something Else” on the Blue Note label, CANNONBALL ADDERLEY spent many years after pumping out album after album with totally new lineups with many of them including AFRICAN WALTZ ending up on the Riverside label. This album is completely different than ADDERLEY’s other albums which fall on the hard bop side of jazz. For AFRICAN WALTZ he has no less than 22 musicians on board including five trumpet players, four on trombone as well as other lesser used musical timbres such as bass trombone, tuba and of course ADDERLEY’s signature alto sax sound. This big band sound comes across as brash and bold with every track being carefully crafted for a full-on larger than life experience.

The album was built around the title track which was actually a surprise hit single in the UK for Johnny Dankworth. The huge big band experience was orchestrated by Ernie Wilkins, best known for his work with Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Dizzy Gillespie and the well seasoned approach to taming the large musical beast shines through as everything is perfectly executed. Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer also contributed the arrangements of two tracks. While this is a big band album through and through, this was the early 60s and there is plenty of evidence of the milestones in jazz that had recently come into play. The hard bop still finds its way into the musical compositions with several bass lines lifted right out of the 50s bop scene. The modal jazz set forth by Miles Davis shines through as well.

Since the eleven tracks on board are short with none venturing over the five minute mark, they hit hard and offer a quick and to-the-point approach that focuses most of all on the melodic development and like much in the big band world of jazz don’t rely on improvisation as much as other types of the genre. The only rip roaring solos found on this one are by ADDERLEY, his brother Nat Adderley on cornet with some lesser roles by pianist Wynton Kelly. The album has a hardcore exotica feel to it as well. It sounds like a 60s movie soundtrack of some sort and despite the title really evokes nothing AFRICAN at all in mood or musical texture.

While this album delivers some extremely strong well played pieces with a unique albeit bloated lineup, to my ears it sounds extremely powerful and confident and as far as early 60s jazz goes, quite catchy without ever entering syrupy ballad territory. It captures all the best aspects of big band jazz but offers the wild swinging tapestry of instruments so common in hard bop and more improvisational types of jazz. While AFRICAN WALTZ failed to inspire the fans at the time and has since been relegated to the bottom of the pile of ADDERLEY releases, i find this to be an exciting and exhilarating big band jazz experience with every track delivering high quality performances. Woefully underrated in most jazz circles.

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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My Favorite Things Hard Bop
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