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

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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
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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
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BUDDY RICH Big Swing Face Album Cover Big Swing Face
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DUKE PEARSON Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band Album Cover Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band
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BUDDY RICH Swingin' New Big Band Album Cover Swingin' New Big Band
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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
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5.00 | 1 ratings
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STAN KENTON Live From the Las Vegas Tropicana Album Cover Live From the Las Vegas Tropicana
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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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big band Music Reviews

QUINCY JONES Quincy Jones Eight Classic Albums

Boxset / Compilation · 2012 · Big Band
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js
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.

QUINCY JONES I Dig Dancers

Album · 1960 · Big Band
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With “I Dig Dancers”, Quincy Jones continued his gradual shift from a pure jazz artist to a pop artist with a jazzy slant, but with no real drop off in quality or creativity. As the title suggests, this album is geared toward dancing, but not of the rockin RnB variety, instead this is more of a throwback to jazz’s ballroom dancing days in the heyday of the swing band, but the music isn’t particularly retro, its Quincy’s fresh 60s sound all the way. The band assembled here was an all-star aggregation that was put together to support a European tour of “Free and Easy”. When that show ended, Jones took this great band, that featured Benny Bailey, Clark Terry, Phil Woods and others, on a tour of Europe and also made many of these recordings. After returning to the states, Jones made some more recordings, this time with Freddie Hubbard and Oliver Nelson on board.

Along with Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones was inventing the soundtrack for life in the 60s and the new middle-class suburban hip. This is the sound of double martinis, James Bond movies, Playboy magazine and car commercials featuring Sting Rays and Thunderbirds. Some of this music might be a bit cute for the serious jazz fan, but for those who enjoy 60s soundtracks, albums like this are the pinnacle of a distinct sound and nuance. Although much of this music leans pop, there is no lack of artistry; Melba Liston’s “Tone Poem” is interesting in its 3rd stream abstractions, “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set” is a beautiful ballad featuring one of the best Phil Woods solos you will ever hear and “G’wan Train” has some nice driving RnB horn riffs. Its also interesting to note that the version of "Midnight Sun" on here is far jazzier than the straighter version that will appear on "Birth of a Band Vol 2".

Although this music is not as pure jazz as Jones’ early albums, such as “How I Feel About Jazz”, its not near as cute and corny as the pop tunes that will surface on “Birth of a Band Part 2” or the bonus tracks on “The Complete Birth of a Band”. Instead, the music on “I Dig Dancers” walks a fine line between big band jazz and artsy pop music. I think most Quincy Jones fans will find a lot to like here, the orchestrations and recorded sound are excellent.

QUINCY JONES The Birth of a Band Volume 2

Album · 1984 · Big Band
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In the late 50s, when Quincy Jones recorded his successful “The Birth of a Band” big band album, he recorded several tunes that did not make the final cut for that original release. Flash forward to 1984 and the Japanese division of Mercury decides to put out those cast aside cuts as “Birth of a Band volume II”. A quick listen to Volume II and its immediately apparent why these tracks were cast aside. Whereas Volume I is mostly high quality jazz tracks, the tunes on Volume II veer more into pop, easy listening and oddly appealing cheezy ditties of different types. Sure Volume II is light on content, but this is still Quincy Jones, and if you have a taste for this kind of orchestrated pop jazz and the swanky sophisticated side of late 50s/early 60s easy listening, you have come to the right place.

Volume II opens with the well known kitsch classic, Leroy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock”. This one may sound familiar to some, because it was released as a single long before Volume II came out. After “Clock” we get some revved up swing revival, several corny pop RnB tracks that recall 60s dance shows like “Hullabaloo”, and a very nice pop-jazz version of “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set”. Also included in this mish-mash of tunes are a couple of out-takes of tracks from Volume I, including “Moanin” and “Happy Faces”. The final four cuts on Volume II get back into more of a jazz vein, although in a condensed pop influenced manner.

Recent re-issues of the original “Birth of a Band” have included the cuts from Volume II under the title “The Complete Birth of a Band”, and jazz fans could not be more unhappy. The pop cuts from Volume II have not set well with fans of the original Volume I. All the same, I think there is a fan base for these clever and well orchestrated pop tunes. Any fan of early sophisticated easy listening LPs and those ‘swingin bachelor pad’ type retro collections, and even fans of exotica, may find a lot to like on “Birth of a Band Volume II”. The sound Quincy presents on here went on to be a big influence on TV soundtracks in the 60s.

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