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 experimentation can be found in the Progressive Big Band genre.

big band top albums

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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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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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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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 Swingin' New Big Band Album Cover Swingin' New Big Band
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 1 ratings
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JOE LOVANO Symphonica Album Cover Symphonica
JOE LOVANO
5.00 | 1 ratings
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LEE KONITZ Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band Featuring Orquestra Jazz De Matosinhos : Portology Album Cover Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band Featuring Orquestra Jazz De Matosinhos : Portology
LEE KONITZ
5.00 | 1 ratings
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JOSIF WAINSTEIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA / ДЖАЗ-ОРКЕСТР ПОД РУКОВОДСТВОМ ИОСИФА ВАЙНШТЕЙНА Josif Weinstain Jazz Orchestra / Джаз-Оркестр Иосифa Вайнштейнa (aka Leningrader Jazz) Album Cover Josif Weinstain Jazz Orchestra / Джаз-Оркестр Иосифa Вайнштейнa (aka Leningrader Jazz)
JOSIF WAINSTEIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA / ДЖАЗ-ОРКЕСТР ПОД РУКОВОДСТВОМ ИОСИФА ВАЙНШТЕЙНА
5.00 | 1 ratings
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big band Music Reviews

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".

QUINCY JONES Quincy Jones Eight Classic Albums

Boxset / Compilation · 2012 · Big Band
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These Real Gone Jazz label compilations are so low priced and look so cheap that its hard not too assume that “Quincy Jones, Eight Classic Albums” is just some sloppily thrown together tracks with no particular rhyme and reason, but fortunately, quite the opposite is true. Instead, what get on this four CD set is an almost complete collection of all of Quincy’s early big band music, with no meaningless flotsam and jetsam to clutter things up. The only Jones’ big band album that did not make the collection is “Home Again”, which could be seen as much a Harry Arnold album as a Quincy Jones album, which I assume is why it was probably picked for exclusion. All the other Quincy late 50s to early 60s big band albums are here, including the studio albums from his first up through “I Dig Dancers”, plus two live albums. One of the best features about this comp is that RGJ went the extra step and included a couple albums that were recorded in that late 50s to early 60s time frame, but not released until the mid 80s. Its also nice that the two live albums are isolated on one CD, allowing for a three CD shuffle with just the studio albums if you want.

The music included on here ranges from top notch big band jazz to artsy orchestrated pop music and sometimes somewhat cheezy ‘cute’ dance numbers and other products of early 60s American suburban hipness. The most salient feature of all of Quincy’s orchestral work is the easily recognizable ‘Quincy sound’, a very modern sound that influenced much of the music world for decades to come. The Quincy sound was a bright sparkle voiced with slinky muted horn sections and punctuated with subtle high end tone colors. There are a lot of excellent musicians in these big bands, as well as a lot of great solos from folks like Phil Woods, Zoot Sims and Clark Terry. In fact, a virtual who’s who of late 50s jazz artists seem to find a spot in Quincy’s band at some time or another.

If you have any interest in Quincy Jones’ early career as a big band leader, or if you want to check out one of the more influential ensembles for early 60s jazz and pop orchestration, I don’t think you could find a better compilation than this one by RGJ.

QUINCY JONES Quincy Jones And His Orchestra At Newport '61

Live album · 1961 · Big Band
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If if you’re in a hurry, we can wrap up a quick review of Quincy Jones’ “Newport 1961” by saying that this CD contains a spirited performance that often involves material that is not up to this big band‘s talent, and its poorly recorded as well. These Newport live recordings tend to lean toward crowd pleasing type material as the festival was known to attract many curious non-jazz fans and people who just wanted to hang out. “Air Mail Special” has some great bop flavored high speed unison horn lines, and Phil Woods supplies a moving solo on “Evening in Paris”, but much of the rest of this CD is given to foot-stomping, hand-clapping pop RnB dance tunes that probably had the crowd on its feet, but as a home listening experience, it doesn’t quite carry over.

Despite the repetitious material, the band is excellent and burns bright all the way through. Checking the band lineup, its interesting to note that Pat Patrick, from Sun Ra's big band, was riding with Quincy at this time. The biggest problem with this CD is the sound. It sounds like everything was recorded through the soloist’s microphones, so needless to say, the soloists come through loud and clear, while the ensemble lines and rhythm section are too much in the background. How bothersome this is depends on the system you are listening to. I found this CD to be bearable in the house, but almost un-listenable in the truck.

Some people hold this CD in high regard, but a much better live Quincy Jones big band CD from this same time period is “The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones Live”. It has better material, and better sound too.

QUINCY JONES The Great Wide World Of Quincy Jones: Live!

Live album · 1984 · Big Band
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“The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones Live” is a recording of Jones’ big band live on tour in Zurich Switzerland on March 10, 1961, but it was not released until the mid-80s. This is one of Jones’ last recordings as a full-time jazz musician and big band leader, soon the world of studio music will take him to more lucrative fields. The band on here is based on Quincy’s previous studio album, “The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones”, but there are a few different performers and an almost entirely new set of tunes. This was Quincy’s second big band tour of Europe, having just completed a fairly difficult tour the previous year.

Despite Quincy’s sometimes leanings towards pop, this album is pure jazz from start to finish, and it is smoking hot all the way through. Quincy has a great band on here, featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Phil Woods and Bud Johnson on saxes and Curtis Fuller on trombone and many more greats. The ensemble work is super tight and the solos are intense. The recorded sound of this live concert does not have all the bright sparkling colors of Jones’ studio albums, but it replaces all that finesse with sheer energy and passionate performances.

There’s lots of great tunes on here, “Air Mail Special” is always played fast, but never before like this, the high speed ensemble horn lines on here will raise the hair on your neck, turn it up loud! Elsewhere, both “Banja Luka” and “Stolen Moments” are lengthy hard bop/blues jams with lots of solos. Phil Woods shines as always on the beautiful ballad, “Bess You is My Woman Now”. Overall, this is an excellent big band album with a decent, but not remarkable recorded sound. Quincy’s legacy as a big band leader has almost been forgotten, overshadowed by his work in movies and pop, but this album is proof that Quincy’s short lived band ranked up there with the best.

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