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JAZZ REVIEW

A rare L.A. edition of Big Band Monday Night

January 08, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Big Band Monday Night. It's one of the jazz world's most persistent traditions, one in which clubs use the week's off night to showcase large ensembles. Long a practice in New York City, it has produced such superb groups as the Mel Jones-Thad Lewis Big Band and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Monday's performance by Steve Huffsteter's large ensemble at the Jazz Bakery was a considerably rarer Los Angeles example of Big Band Monday Night.

A veteran of the Stan Kenton and Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin bands, as well as an active studio player, Huffsteter is admired for the warmth of his trumpet sound and the cool, articulate qualities of his improvisations. His writing for a large ensemble of 18 musicians, however, offered a considerably wider musical perspective.

At its most intriguing, in offerings such as his musical rethinking of "Autumn Leaves," his arrangements blended imaginative harmonic revisions with lush, flowing textures and turbulent inner lines. In a more perky number such as "3 1/2" -- so titled because it is a 7/4 piece played in half time -- Huffsteter suspended a riff-driven melody over the hop-step rhythm, generating a surprising foot-tapping quality from an unusual meter.

The music was performed by a first-rate collection of L.A.'s finest players. with fine soloing from saxophonists Bill Perkins, Kim Richmond and Doug Webb, pianist Mark Massey and guitarist Jamie Findley.

And the spirited response the music received from an enthusiastic crowd underscored the need for the Bakery and other clubs to give more consideration to Big Band Monday Night.

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