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JAZZ NOTES

Herman's Sounds Blowin' in 'Autumn'

September 17, 1993|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Woody Herman, the swing-styled saxophonist, clarinetist and bandleader, is considered by many to be one of the giants of jazz.

For four decades he led some of the finest big bands in jazz, assembling top-rank artists to play a continually evolving panorama of challenging and swinging music.

However, throughout his career Herman, who died in 1987 at age 74, was continually underrated for his appreciable abilities as a reed artist and hearty blues-based singer. But Herman didn't mind these slights and instead devoted his energies to furthering the work of his various bands.

The musical achievements fostered by Herman will be celebrated at "Early Autumn," a four-day series of concerts and discussions, running Thursday through Sept. 26 at the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach.

In the '40s, Herman's was one of the first big bands to play in the then-revolutionary be-bop vein, with tunes like "Lemon Drop," and in the '50s, he played pieces that had a hard-bop and soul jazz feel, among them Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie." Later, in a never-ending quest for contemporary currency, came interpretations of works by John Coltrane, Chick Corea and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

Herman was also instrumental in developing the careers of many jazz greats, among them saxophonists Flip Phillips, Stan Getz and Zoot Sims; trumpeters Shorty Rogers and Tom Harrell; trombonist Bill Harris; and composers Ralph Burns and Neal Hefti. Burns, Phillips and Rogers are among the 50 ex-Herman associates who will take part in "Early Autumn." For information, call (310) 420-7480.

SECOND THOUGHTS: In this column on Aug. 20, a less than favorable review was given to the Warner Bros. recording "Miles Davis and Quincy Jones: Live at Montreux," which documented the July 8, 1991, live performance by the trumpeter at the famed Swiss jazz festival.

On the album, Davis, who died the following Sept. 28, played very difficult material, most drawn from his classic late-'50s albums--"Miles Ahead," "Porgy and Bess" and "Sketches of Spain," all of which featured wonderful orchestrations by Gil Evans.

The review stated that Davis was not up to his usual high standard, fluffing notes consistently and letting Wallace Roney, who played alongside Davis at the concert, handle most of the solos.

Not true. Watching a video of the concert at a recent screening made clear to the eyes what the ears had found hard to believe: that Davis did almost all the soloing, and that he was in fine form almost throughout. His improvisations on "My Ship" and "Solea" are particularly invigorating.

Though the new recording, which is now recommended, still is not of the level of his earlier work, it does pay tribute to Davis' creative resourcefulness and musical bravura. The video, also on Warner Bros. and priced at $29.95, will be released on Oct. 5.

ON TAP THIS WEEK: The American Jazz Philharmonic, which was formerly known as the New American Orchestra and the Los Angeles Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, has finally released its debut, eponymously titled CD on GRP Records.

The album is highlighted by "Nostalgico," a spirited Manny Albam work showcasing the ebullient alto saxophone of Phil Woods, and "Open Me First," a John Clayton number that blends big band and orchestral writing.

Clayton and saxophonists Tom Scott and Tommy Newsom will appear with the American Jazz Philharmonic when it performs in a free concert on Tuesday, 8 p.m., at USC's Bovard Auditorium. Information: (213) 740-7111 . . .

Also out with a new CD is bassist John Patitucci, whose quintet--featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and keyboardist John Beasley--opens a six-night stand at Catalina Bar & Grill on Tuesday.

Underpinned by a symphony of animated African, Caribbean and Latin rhythms, his "Another World" (GRP) spotlights uninhibited performances.

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