Shorty Rogers, one of the most recorded jazzmen of a generation ago, has been making a comeback in recent years. Friday, he brought a big band to Donte's; Tuesday, he led a quintet in the first of a series of live broadcasts on KKGO that will emanate weekly from the Biltmore Hotel, hosted by Chuck Niles.
You could say the only thing missing Friday was Howard Rumsey on bass. Many of Rogers' and Rumsey's colleagues from the Lighthouse years were on hand: Bob Cooper, Bob Enevoldsen and Pete Jolly.
Despite this personnel, the first two numbers sounded as though Rogers could have written them in his sleep: a fast blues that was given over mainly to a string of solos with no organized backing, and Rogers' 1953 opus "The Sweetheart of Sigmund Freud," with slightly sloppy work by the reed section.
The band came dramatically to life in an extended piece, in shifting moods and tempos that displayed Rogers' capabilities as a weaver of rich harmonic textures. Lanny Morgan was the featured soloist throughout, alternately reading and ad-libbing to compelling effect.