The Carnegie Hall Jazz band has been in operation for 10 years. The
personnel vary to fit the work being undertaken this particular concert
was a review of some of their previous work. The leader is Jon Faddis;
his own performance is brilliant in the roles of outstanding jazz soloist,
musical director and excellent host and compere.
The musicians were as follows:
Trumpets. John Faddis, Earl Gardner, Michael Phillip Mossman,
Lew Soloff, Tom Williams.
Trombones. John Fedchock, Steve Turre, Dennis Wilson, Douglas
Saxophones Dick Oatts, Jerry Dodgion, (alto) Ralph Lalama. Frank
Wess (tenor), Gary Smulyan (baritone).
Piano. Renee Rosnes
Bass. Todd Coolman
Drums. Dana Hall
Carnegie Hall is maintained in pristine condition, it has a tremendous
atmosphere and on taking our seats, we could not help thinking of all
the great players and bands who had appeared there.
The hall was about 90% full when the band arrived on stage to a tumultuous
welcome at 8.00pm; it was great to be among so many enthusiasts of big
band music. The first number was an arrangement by Slide Hampton of
Frank Foster’s ‘Shiny Stockings’. This showed off first of all the absolute
precision that the band played with, it’s faultless dynamics, a rhythm
section second to none and then the remarkable trumpet playing of John
Faddis, who probably plays the way Dizzy Gillespie would were he alive
today. Jon really has everything, an amazing range, a great jazz feel
and an ability to create tremendous excitement and expectancy in the
crowd. The second number featured brilliant lead alto Dick Oatts and
drummer Dana Hall in a Jim Mc Neely arrangement of Louis Prima’s show
stopper for Benny Goodman, ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’. It was followed by an
amazing piece of ballad playing by Frank Wess on Leonard Bernstein’s
‘Lucky to Be Me’. Frank was for many years the Tenor soloist with the
Count Basie Band, he demonstrated that it is easy for an eighty year
old musician to steal the show if he has Frank’s undiminished talent!
‘Blues All Around Us’ by Muhal Richard Abrams had it’s world premiere
by the orchestra on Dec.6th. 2001, it featured Ralph Lalama
on Tenor, Dick Oatts on Alto, Renee Rosnes on Piano and finally the
leader again in great form. Any one of these soloists could hold your
attention for as long as they wanted. This concluded the superb first
The second half began with a Frank Foster arrangement of John Coltrane’s
Giant Steps, this time the soloists were Gary Smulyan on baritone, an
instrument that can easily sound clumsy at high speed, but not in Gary’s
hands. I hope to hear more of his work in the future. There were also
excellent solos from Steve Turre trombone and Earl Gardner trumpet.
The programme continued with another Coltrane composition ‘Acknowledgement’
from his suite ‘A Love Supreme’. The featured soloists were John Faddis
and brilliant pianist Renee Rosnes, her playing was new to me. Her contribution
to the music was very important. She has absorbed more than any pianist
I have heard in a big band for ages a true understanding of the role
has. Where her parts were part of the orchestration, they were cleanly
played and audible, her ‘comping’ was a joy and she helped each soloist
build to a climax his contribution.
Jon Faddis introduced a nice touch of humour by saying that the next
composition was originally written for another trumpet player and pretended
to forget his name, it was of course Maynard Ferguson! The piece is
called ‘Frame for the Blues’ and Slide Hampton wrote it. This time the
soloists were Faddis who more than adequately showed us his command
of the top register, I knew this man was good but I did not know until
this concert how good. There was a Bass solo from Todd Coolman, which
was inventive and interesting and some fascinating trombone exchanges
between John Fedcock and Steve Turre. The number concluded to a standing
ovation and after about 6/7 minutes of sustained applause the band played
an encore ‘Duke Takes a Train’ arranged by Randy Sanke. There was more
really exciting jazz from John Faddis, Ralph Lalama, Renee Rosnes and
This brought to an end the best big band concert I have ever heard
and I would like to think I have heard most of the best during my 50
years of playing and listening to his kind of music. As well as the
quality of the soloists, the ensemble playing was a joy to listen to.
The programme is strengthened by the use of arrangers of the quality
of Frank Foster and Slide Hampton, just to name two; the others are
equally good. The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band do not attempt to recreate
the past, but instead present a pastiche of the past and present of
big band music. In John Faddis they have the ideal Musical Director.