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Jazz Review

Rutherford Leads 3 for the Road at OCC

November 03, 1998|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In most ways, Sunday's Big Band Extravaganza was like the other concerts jazz director Charles "Doc" Rutherford has led at Orange Coast College in his 31 years there.

Rutherford brought in notable guest professionals to join his three student orchestras: trumpeter Oscar Brashear and singers Dewey Erney and Cathy Segal-Garcia.

He also chose smart and ambitious charts, music that tested the students' individual skills and their ability to play as an orchestra. Rutherford's droll, low-key stage presence allowed the musicians to take center stage.

Yet in one significant way, Sunday's show was different: It was Rutherford's last as professor of instrumental music and director of the college's jazz studies department.

Rutherford, typically, made no mention of his pending retirement during Sunday's show. But Ted Baker, OCC's dean of fine arts, confirmed Monday that Rutherford will leave his post at the end of this semester. (He'll continue to teach two classes and will conduct the Jazz Pacific Orchestra during a concert March 21.)

Rutherford's OCC bands have produced a number of players, including saxophonist Eric Marienthal and pianist Tom Ranier, who have gone on to major musical careers. Rutherford occasionally has led combos in area clubs, at times playing saxophone, to introduce promising young musicians to the jazz community.

Sunday's concert was typical Rutherford.

Between numbers from his Jazz Pacific Orchestra, Rutherford explained that the bands had not rehearsed with featured artist Brashear. In fact, at the group rehearsal Saturday, the power went off.

The lights-out rehearsal may have explained why the band didn't sound as sharp as it has in the past. But, blessed with a number of professional ringers--including trumpeter Ron Stout, saxophonist Tom Margitan and bassist Benjamin May--the group gave good readings of the difficult charts and often delivered superior improvisations.

Brashear, who appeared with all three bands, seemed reticent at first but warmed as the afternoon proceeded. A veteran of stints with Woody Herman, Count Basie, Joe Henderson, Dizzy Gillespie and countless others, he nevertheless modestly came out only to solo, disappearing off stage as soon as he finished.

With the 19-piece Monday Evening Big Band, the trumpeter gave a sparkling solo during "On Green Dolphin Street"; the solo was full of blunt, contrasting phrases.

Backed in the final set by the Friday Evening Big Band, Brashear blew with his usual devil-may-care attitude on a Tom Kubis' arrangement of "Exactly Like You."

Rutherford didn't play it safe with any of the ensembles, challenging each with modern charts from the likes of Kubis, Ranier, Don Menza and Matt Cattingub.

Singer Erney cruised impressively through "Route 66" with the Jazz Pacific Orchestra. Vocalist Dorothy Collins applied a rich tone to "God Bless the Child" in the company of the Monday Night Big Band, and Segal-Garcia was warm and intimate on "We'll Be Together Again" with the Friday Night Big Band.

Instrumental highlights came from trumpeter Stout, tenor saxophonists Margitan and Steve Hommel and pianist David DiIorio. Alto saxophonists Paul Navidad and Paul Bastin combined for sonic antics on Cattingub's "High Altitude."

Rutherford gave each band plenty of time and a variety of material. Yet the three-plus hours, probably like the past 31 years for Rutherford, went by quickly.

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