By Dave Kerridge
www.strictly-smokin.co.uk

Dave Kerridge plays second tenor in Strictly Smokin’ – here are his all time top 10 big band recordings.

Art Blakey
“Night in Tunisia”

The Art Blakey Big Band, recorded at Mount Fuji Jazz Festival on August 28, 1988.  This recording features soloists, Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Joe Wallace Roney, Don Sickler, Terumasa Hino

 

This is all about raw energy.  Art Blakey is best known for forming the Jazz Messengers, a band that he lead for 35 years, and over that period featured worked with many of the legends of the bebop era as well as discovering much new talent including Jackie McClean and Johnny Griffin.

This clip has everything including a comedy moment when Johnny Griffin starts his solo with a towel in the bell of his horn.

The pleasure on the band leaders face throughout says it all !!

Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass
“T.O.”

Featuring Rob McConnell (valve trombone) & Rick Wilkins (tenor).

My first gig around the time I finished at Music College in Newcastle, was on a cruise liner sailing out of Miami. Many days a sea were spent listening to jazz on a Sony Walkman with a double headphone socket (high tech!) with my band leader Marty Roker.  He still lives out there and introduced me to Boss Brass.  Digital recording was new and this album persuaded me to buy my first CD player.

Little did I know that when I returned to the UK there was only one outlet on Oxford Street in London to buy CDs and they were horrendously expensive!

T.O. has a great sax soli and valve trombone solo by the Canadian bandleader.

Buddy Rich
“Birdland”

One of the most memorable gigs I went to while at college was in the early 80s – it was The Buddy Rich Band at Sunderland Empire.  Most of the light music students were in attendance and what at treat it was!

Arguably the greatest jazz drummer kicking up a storm with some a top band featuring Steve Marcus on tenor.  Most of the set was segued and it became very obvious that a prerequisite to lasting in his band was memorising the intros as Buddy would just call the chart and then instantly count it in.

Dont get any ideas, Michael!!!

James Morrison
“Audition” for The Big Phat Band

I had the pleasure of seeing James Morrison at The Gala Theatre in Durham 2 years ago – what a tallented multi instrumentalist.  Here he is “auditioning “ for The Big Phat Band.

Brilliant trumpet work all round the section and I just love the sarcastic reactions after Morrisons ridiculas solo.  Also features the rare sight of a sax section flute / piccalo soli.

Dave Grusin Big Band feat. Michael Brecker
“Something’s Coming On”

Now for something different – “Something’s coming” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story arranged by Dave Grusin, with a stella line up including Arturo Sandoval on trumpet.

Grusin’s credentials for arranging speak for themselves with his many memorable TV themes and film scores . This is a relatively rare chance to hear the genius of Michael Brecker lines played within a big band arrangement .

Duke Ellington
“Take the A Train”

This classic Billy Strayhorn arrangement is iconic in the big band genre.

This clip from the movie Reveille does little to help the type casting of black musicians of the era, but it would be nice to think that the cats were really on The A Train… accompanied by the lush vocals of Bette Roche.

The Tenor solo is by Ben Webster but unfortunatly we don’t see him.  He may be camera shy, but he’s sure smooth!

Woody Herman
“Early Autumn”

The haunting sax soli that kicks off this ballad is a text book lesson in sax session arranging.

Herman co wrote this arrangement with Ralph Burns in 1957 with lyrics later added by Johnny Mercer.  I remember playing this in a youth big band and making the mistake of thinking this would be easy because of the tempo. It was an eye opener in tuning and intonation within a section.

The highlight is the lush and understated melodic solo by Stan Getz.


Thad Jones / Mel Lewis
“Central Park North”

This album from 1969 broke away from the usual restraints of big band arranging and features some of the more progressive players of the era.

It’s a real epic piece with exceptional soloing, firstly a slow haunting fugal from Thad Jones that leads to a raunchy blues featuring Snooky Young then Jerome Richardson takes over on Soprano incorporating some brilliant modern phrasing.

Mel Lewis finishes the chart with an epic drum solo.1


Quincy Jones 
feat. Phil Woods
“Quintessence”

A very apt title, as Phil Wood’s work on this chart is pure class.

By this time Quincy had his pick of the crop – Freddie Hubbard, Clarke Terry, Thad Jones and Snooky Young made up the trumpet section. Enough said!

Woods floats over the arrangement with his smooth lines and tone.

Delicious.


Count Basie feat. Lester Young
“1 O’clock Jump”

Epitomising the dance hall days of big bands, ‘The Count’ lead his band for over 50 years from the 1930s.

His arrangements became classic repertoire and none more so than 1 O’ Clock jump .

This footage features the legendary Lester Young whose improvisation set the benchmark for his peers and generations to follow. In these various clips of you can hear ‘Prez’ weaving his magic with smooth tone and sophisticated harmonic lines that became the classic sound of the tenor sax in years to come.

 

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