Monday, May 27, 2013

Los Angeles Jazz Institute, Day Four, 5.26.2013 - “Swingin’ On A Riff: Big Band Masters of the 21st Century.”

© -Gordon Sapsed, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The last Day of the current event opened with an hour-long film show, starting at 8.30, tracking the emergence of West Coast Jazz on film, with some rare clips. Ken Poston traced the music from Lester Young, Claude Thornhill, Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan  with clips that also included Shorty Rogers, Marty Paich and others.

It was then time for the 'extra added attraction' - a new-style LAJI fundraiser event, lasting 3 & 3/4 hours, within the main event, offering brunch with the music (or not, if preferred) - "The Birth of the Cool and The Origins Of the West Coast Sound".

Composer/Arranger/ Bandleader Chris Walden then directed a 17-piece band re-creating Claude Thornhill's music complete with French horns and tuba and arrangements from Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan, among others. As Chris said "This music could have been written 10 or 20 years ago, but dates from the 1940's ...

Charts played included Yardbird Suite, Anthropology, Donna Lee and Godchild as well as Thornhill icons such as Snowfall, Robbin's Nest and Rose of the Rio Grande

Hearing this music live was a different experience from the surviving recordings - one enthusiast told me that he felt "It did not feel as light as I normally expect to hear it". I thought that the clarity distinguishing individual instruments seemed notable, although , as ever for my taste, the LAJI sound mixing was generally too loud.

Chuck Findley was next up leading a 'Miles Davis' Nonet through the Birth of the Cool charts. Again the tuba ( Bill Reichenbach) and French horn (Stephanie O'Keefe) parts were notable - this time being full members of the band , with solo space. Matt Harris, from California State Northridge had been brought in to add his familiarity with this music - in the John Lewis piano role in this set and as director for the following set. Ira Nepus on trombone and Chuck Berghofer on bass were among those brought in just for this Nonet set.

'Miles Ahead - the classic Miles Davis plus 19 collaboration with Bill Evans' was the third event for this special morning and featured Bobby Shew in the Miles Davis role.
The originally - released album was a mix of spliced sections, over-dubbing and reworking, none of which was available for this live performance. However, the result was outstandingly good as has been almost everything during this four days. The caliber of musicianship has delighted even the musicians themselves  and congratulations between musicians and from their leaders has been frequent and well-deserved.

A characteristic of the weekend has been the emergence of a new generation of LA musicians  - some familiar, some less so, but playing with phenomenal technique and, I thought, more personal involvement than might have been the case is earlier times. 

Another observation for me was that, in earlier times, if I saw a new young face, I mentally 'wished him luck' when he was perhaps exposed by a solo opportunity.
This time round I found myself being relieved when a veteran musician pulled something off in the very challenging company of talented younger players and attracted nods or gasps from the youngsters!

The set-list for the Miles Ahead set was, essentially the album titles.

The hour long Composers Workshop, moderated by KJAZ's Helen Borgers, had Kim Richmond and Chris Walden participating, but lacked Bob Curnow who could not make the trip due to health issues.

The Workshop, I thought, was less interesting than the earlier ones, being bogged down in the perennial debate about the death of big band music ( strenuously denied) and audiences for Big Band music (less strenuously denied). There were some good words said about the overall impact of the work of Gordon Goodwin with younger people and its impact on the whole big band appreciation scene. Kim Richmond made some good points about the different skills evident among younger players and his own experience in dissolving and re-creating his own band.

Kim's 23-piece  Concert Jazz Orchestra then gave an hour plus concert, with much of the material drawn from his newly-released tribute to Stan Kenton "Artistry". This music really had the audience on their feet and cheering long before the end. It is billed as 'orchestral jazz' and Kim acknowledges the inspiration of the Kenton Neophonic as a source, but with his own writer's twist.

Re-writes of Artistry in Rhythm, Intermission Riff and even a almost unrecognisable Peanut Vendor were part of it, but 'Poetry', 'Zippidy Altered' and the wonderful Neal Hefti theme 'Virna' were outstanding, with each bringing something totally unique.
I thought this an outstanding set and thoroughly recommend the album. A highlight of this Festival.

Hubert Laws guests on the album but Alex Budman did an outstanding job live - as did other soloists.

We then had 3 and a half hour gap to the final set billed as 'Bob Curnow LA Big Band Reunion'.

In Bob Curnow's absence Bobby Shew directed the band, which played the Pat Metheny music Bob Curnow arranged a couple of years ago for an album recorded in LA with Bobby and several other band members as part of that recorded line-up. The music was also, on that previous occasion, presented at an LAJI event.

The set list was 11 items from the Metheny/ Curnow collection and included pieces from other  Metheny jazz outings such as an encounter with Chet Baker, entitled "Chet's Call". Especially notable was Bobby Shew's sole feature - a beautiful melody written by Pat Metheny and dedicated to his parents "Always and Forever".

As Bobby said, regarding the rest of the music, "I think Bob Curnow has some Wagnerian blood"  and certainly this LAJI event went out with a huge BANG as the FFF's dominated - with high trumpet lovers especially excited.

Jack Bowers, who was at this event will be offering a more considered review of it all in his Big Band feature on All That Jazz in the weeks to come.

I apologise for the necessary haste in compiling these notes off the top of my head between sets  and thank you for your comments off-line, encouraging me to continue.

The photos, with many many others are beginning to appear on my Gallery at and will continue to do so when I get back to UK.

Gordon Sapsed

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Los Angeles Jazz Institute, Day Three, 5.25.2013 - “Swingin’ On A Riff: Big Band Masters of the 21st Century.”

© -Gordon Sapsed, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“I must firstly apologise for my error yesterday in implying that the USC band had started their set late - whereas they were not even invited this year..... The honour of opening the Festival this time was with the Fullerton College Band - who turned up on time but minus their leader.

I'd have to say that Bruce Babad (their leader) has more than compensated since with his contributions to the Festival as well as joy he has brought me in the past with his playing. I was delighted to hear that he is planning to record a second Paul Desmond Tribute album later this year - no surprise really following the success of his earlier one.

Saturday morning's LAJI programme opened at 
11 am with a film show - this time focused on jazz related clips from the 1950's . With arranger/composers as the theme, the first film clips showed Kenton's band of that period playing 'I Feel Pretty' and 'Maria' - from the Ed Sullivan show. Interesting was a glimpse of young Carl Saunders wrestling with a mellophonium.

Later clips showed Andre Previn playing with Bobby Darin, a Nat Cole rendering of a song written by Pete Rugolo and footage from Johnny Mandel's score for 'I Want to Live' plus the jazz club scenes. Woody's band was represented in several clips including a rendering of Bill Holman's arrangement of "After You've Gone ".

In the Workshop discussion later in the day Bill Holman said how it took him about two weeks to complete that arrangement as relevant 'crazy ideas' emerged daily to incorporate in the score. He was relieved and delighted that Woody liked it and , in retrospect, he feels it was something special in his career. Woody said 'Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the band'.

The Workshop/ Panel discussion, moderated by Kirk Silsbee was, I thought, very effective, concentrating as it did on HOW arrangers work. The 'Panelists' were Bill Mathieu, Bill Holman and Lou Rovner - each very different in their musical style, how they trained and how they tackle their work.

Before the panel started we had a chance to hear Lou Rovner's work - which many of us had never heard before - although every member of his 10 piece "Small Big Band" was a familiar face to LAJI audiences.

His music was, for me and for many others, a total revelation and an absolute delight! As they say - well worth the price of admission if we had to go home now....
His music, in retrospect, is perhaps best heard when you know a little about him - but don't bother to go to record shops. His only recordings are on his website - but downloadable free. (I haven't tried it yet) . The website is

He grew up in
Chicago, but left town at 17 and , among other things, spent a year at Berklee and also qualified to become a practising psychologist.

He claims to have no musical style of his own , but seeks to write things which are different to things he has written previously ... I can only say that every instrumentalist in the band plays a role in everything - often doubling. Each player gets features but none have a single role. The repertoire is totally mixed and this list gives you no idea how it sounds. Take, for example Neal Hefti's "L'il Darlin'". Lou decided to arrange that but use none of it and instead carry that mood into "It's Only a Paper Moon", or , strictly speaking, a series of short vignettes related to 'Paper Moon', with an overall mood of 'L'il Darlin'. - Still with me?

This really WAS a set where the musicians had fun, but maintained their competence whilst smiling and laughing.

Totally delightful music - with an impression that they made it all up as they went along - another of Lou's goals ...

The Lou Rovner set list was : Hi Fly, Body & Soul (at a fast tempo), Take Me Out To The Ballgame, 'It's Only a Paper Moon' - and 'Milestones'.

Interestingly, one theme of the Worksop/Panel discussion was 'writing so that it seems they are making it up'. All three panelists cited that as a worthwhile goal, although all three also found such a quality in some classical writing from Mozart and even Beethoven ...

All three also spoke of having in the past felt, on hearing something inspirational that 'I could write that' - but then, with pencil and paper in hand found that they couldn't!

Regarding personal style, Bill Mathieu told of years of studying other American composers, Europeans and even music from Eastern cultures, before realising - sometime after age 50 that he was writing stuff which was peculiarly his own. Bill Holman reported no such 'nirvana' or 'serendipity', but recalls , quite early in his career, being told that people could recognise his style.

Lou, as said above, seeks to 'not sound the same twice' ( despite having spent some years writing for shows and acts in Vegas).

Both Lou and Bill Holman spoke of a personal challenge, perhaps imagined, that they feel to keep their top-calibre players interested in coming to unpaid rehearsals !
Bill Holman also spoke of an almost unconscious goal, derived from his playing background to write things that are playable. Bill Mathieu said he tries to stay away from the piano as long as possible 'To not limit what I'm writing to the abilities I have as a pianist'. He recommends to students not to sit close to the piano. Instead 'you must get up to go and check things'.

A very worthwhile Workshop, I thought.

The afternoon closed with a romping set from Ton Kubis's Band - "excuse us rushing - some of these guys have real jobs tonight".

Several top LA players appeared for the first time this weekend in Tom's Band - Sal Lozano, Andy Martin,
Wayne `Bergeron and such. Within the Festival's theme of composer/arranger bandleaders it was a typical Kubis set - a lot of swing, a lot of energy, a lot of laughing and great music. Herman sold out of the band's new CD afterwards and 'could have sold 50 more copies'.

If the titles matter (or are even correct ) : "Uptown Blues", "Hey Georgia" ( a Georgia Brown variant), In a Mellow Tone, "Hi 5's ('- and a good chance of
Wayne ???), Alone Together, Some of these Days ( rendered for dancers in alternate styles), Triste (a feature for guitarist Mike Higgins), Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home.
Some audience members noted the band's upcoming monthly date in
Huntington Beach on Monday - they can't get enough of this band ... 

I'll bring you notes on the BIll Russo and Bill Holman concerts in a later post and some photos - it's a very full day here today with an 8.30 a.m. start .

Saturday evening brought 'The Music of Bill Russo' , with the 'Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra' ( an aggregation put together by LAJI), directed by Bill Mathieu. Bill had, in the Workshop discussion said how significant this concert was for him, bearing in mind his long association with Bill Russo, who had also been his tutor and mentor ('gaps in age get smaller as you get older').

The band once more introduced faces not seen earlier in this Festival - with the opening number 'Over The Rainbow' featuring one such, Eric Jorgensen on trombone. This was followed by Russo's arrangement of 'Autumn in New York' featuring Ron King and The former Frank Rosolino feature for the Kenton Orchestra  'Frank Speaking' , with George McMullen taking the solo part.

'Dusk' was followed by "Portrait of Conte Candoli", with Bob Summers in the Candoli role. There continued a mix of Russo compositions and arrangement for the Kenton Orchestra alternated with material issued under his own name in later years :
'I've Got You Under My Skin', Fascinating Rhythm', Sophisticated Lady' (featuring Bruce Babad on alto), and then something different. That was Bill Mathieu's own 'audition piece' for the Stan Kenton Library "Silhouette" - which had been played here a couple of years ago in Bill Mathieu's own concert but was chosen by Bill on this occasion to highlight his own dedication to the Russo arranging influence and style.

The remaining pieces were all Russo's work - 'You and the Night and the Music', Shadow Waltz ( a surprise for many) and perhaps the inevitable closer '23 degrees North 82 Degrees West'- which had bravely (and beautifully) been offered by the Fullerton College student band on the first morning, in Bob Curnow's Kenton Kollage.

For my personal taste Bill Russo's work, on this showing under Bill Mathieu's guidance, moved up in my estimation. I found it lighter and more 'swinging' than I remembered it. I think the presentation and success owed a lot to Bill Mathieu's fondness and care.

Top of the Bill for Saturday Night was Bill Holman's Band, which again brought new faces and revealed an absence of some faces formerly in that band. At one stage, in introducing the players Bill said "Yes - they really are old enough". - 

Age was not really the issue  - the audience were, I'm sure potentially more concerned about competence. But they needed to have no fears - the newcomers coped with everything in front of them perfectly and then added solos that were sometimes perhaps beyond the limits of their predecessors, both in technical skill and creativity.

As Kim Richmond said next day in the Workshop discussion -"There are really top class talented jazz players these days in every American City and here in LA about 20 for every top job on every instrument.”

Bill Holman's Band still had veterans like Billy Kerr, Bob Efford, Jack Redmond Carl Saunders , Ron Stout and Bob Summers but alongside them drummer Jake Reid, bassist Alex Frank and even piano player Christian Jacob were among new faces to many of the audience - at least in this band.

Some of the music was more familiar, but some also very new to the band book. They opened with 'No Joy in Mudville' - an opportunity for several newcomers to stretch out and then Woodrow, St Thomas and a feature for Carl Saunders 'Sweet Spot', "Zoot and Al" gave Doug Webb and Rickey Woodard a chance to extend themselves and Bruce Babad did a superb job with 'Lover Man". Bill Holman confessed to being fascinated by the notion of "Zamboni" ( as was Snoopy !) and used it to real workout the whole band - Bob Summers and Doug Webb excelling.
The encore was drawn from the Band's Thelonius Monk repertoire "Bemsha Swing".
My overall impression of the band this time was that it is a transition period with new players and new material 'bedding in'. Very enjoyable - but different and hinting at a lot to come ....

and so to tomorrow - our final day of this Festival.

Gordon Sapsed

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Buddy Rich and ANIMAL: The Legendary Drum Battle on The Muppet Show 1980

Los Angeles Jazz Institute, Day Two, 5.24.2013 - “Swingin’ On A Riff: Big Band Masters of the 21st Century.”

Visiting from Southampton, England, Gordon Sapsed continues his reporting on the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s biannual, 4-day festival at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. You can locate the full program for the Spring, 2013 Concerts by visiting

© -Gordon Sapsed, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The second day of the LA Jazz Institute's 'Swingin' on a Riff' events began with a Film show hour - "Central Avenue Breakdown".

As with the previous day's film show this attracted about 150 attendees ( my estimate) from the 200 plus that had attended the final session the previous day.

Comprising at least 20 separate clips the show principally had footage from the 1940's. Ken Poston, in his introduction said how Central Avenue was at that time a very lively area for jazz flavoured entertainment - although little was reported in the LA Times of the day. The jazz scene in the area had existed from the 1920's with performers such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Jelly Roll Morton , Kid Ory and others. Later developments had the Nat 'King' Cole Trio, Duke Ellington's band, visits from Louis Armstrong and others and local black bands - as shown previously. For this show, footage was of these artists but from non-LA sources in some cases. Early 'Modern' jazz players shown included Hampton Hawes, Buddy Collette and Lucky Thompson. There was also film of jazz players performing with Johnny Otis and T-Bone Walker from early TV shows.

First band up in the main room was the UCLA Jazz Orchestra who, like their rivals the Fullerton Jazz Orchestra the day previously, lacked a leader when show-time came and didn't get started until 15 minutes later when Charley Harrison appeared to conduct them.

Their 36 minute set comprised Kim Richmond's arrangement of 'Lady Bird', 'Lion and The Lamb' , Bob Mintzer's arrangement of 'Dolphin Dance', A beatiful piano feature built around 'Young and Foolish', and a very-professionally performed arrangement of Bill Russo's 23 degrees North 82 degrees West from the Kenton band book.

Everything the band played seemed faultless, with effective tone shadings and confident playing throughout. The solos offered were mostly outstanding - again showing a great deal of rehearsal and effort as well as high technical ability. 

After lunch it was the turn of Steve Huffsteter's Big Band which included a further set of LA's finest - Kim Richmond , Doug Webb and Alex Budman among the saxes, Scott Whitfield and Jack Redmond among the trombones and Pete De Siena with Mark Lewis among the trumpets. Charlie Ferguson, a highly rated young star, was at the piano. 

Steve Huffsteter, as he explained in the later panel discussion, has been writing music since he was about 12 years old and his band book is mostly his own compositions plus some arrangements of standards.

He told how a conversation with Dizzy Gillespie about the inappropriate use of the E natural note in a G7 chord inspired him to write "Dizz-Ception" , a piece dependent on that chord usage as an exception to the rule! He is having difficulty with the title for another piece temporarily named 'Nostalgia' - a name he thinks inappropriate. 

Characterised by careful attention to detail and played with precision, Steve's work is that of a musical craftsman and was played by players happy to be part of it and enjoying the experience.

The whole flavour of this festival with bandleaders participating in presenting music which they have created and personally written down ( or typed) is very evident in the way it comes over. Steve's band was one such.

Other pieces played were 'Rizzle (?) - 'every big band has to have a Rhythm Changes chart - this one of the fast and furious variety and Steve's 'hit' "Night Walk" - which he said yielded over $40 in royalties .....

Alone Together was re-clad as "Joint Tenacy" - an opportunity for trumpet duetting with Mark Lewis and `Steve' - who acknowledges how difficult it is for trumpet soloists in a trumpet leader's band. In saying that he paid tribute to the recent Mike Vax tour, where Steve was a sideman.

A driving original 'Waltz and Battery' ended the set.

The 'Composers Workshop' Panel discussion involved the day's three leaders Steve, Gary Urwin and Alan Broadbent. The discussion was moderated by Ken Borgers. This hour was characterised by all three panelists being especially revelatory about their early musical influences and experiences. Gary Urwin told of his move from rock guitar to arranging and both Steve and Alan spoke of music from childhood out in the boon-docks to the later music scene in the centre of the action.

Gary Urwin, who, usefully, has a Law degree as well as his musical talents, has a 'business manager' (sitting in the front row) who helps him bring together the A-list talent for his big band, who took the stage late afternoon for an hour. With three albums already available and a fourth on the way the band can be heard on radio and recordings although they rarely appear live.

Featured soloists throughout the set were Pete Christlieb, Carl Saunders and pianist Christian Jacob, with Bill Watrous as a special guest - not playing in the trombone section.

Bill Watrous, prior to his contribution, took the unusual step of paying tribute to Charlie Loper, who WAS in the trombone section , saying ' Charlie may be embarrassed to hear this but I regard him as the greatest trombone player I have ever heard in my life'.

(Charlie, as predicted, was embarrassed while the band and audience applauded.)

Gary Urwin's charts, which mostly draw on The Great American Songbook or jazz standards, undoubtedly take a new approach, with ' a lot going on' and particular attention to the dynamics and multi-instrumental usage. He also draws widely for material (e.g. the Disney 'Beauty and the Beast') . Titles included My Foolish Heart, Joy Spring, Waltz for Debbie, and the bossa-nova Gentle Rain. An up-tempo, 'more PC', re-working of 'Girl Talk' as 'Women's Conversation' has apparently been an unexpected radio hit for the band. 

I also enjoyed Carl Saunders' original tribute to Bob Florence "Dear Mr. Florence" and the bebop closer 'Shaw 'nuff'.

As previously the composer-writer's presence to get tempos exact and offer a nudge here and a twist there made a difference, but even these A class players, familiar with the charts, had to sit forward in their seats most of the time .... 

The evening session brought two sets from "The Alan Broadbent Big Band' - an aggregation created for this Festival.

Alan opened by saying how he had not regularly written music for a big band since his days with Woody Herman in the late 1950's. He also said that his set of original compositions had grown at about 1 a year in the last 5 decades, but a dozen of them would feature tonight.

In recent times he had arranged his material for the Phil Norman Tentet and he had 'fattened up' those charts, and also added some charts originally written for Woody to build the two sets on offer.

The piano had been moved to centre stage to allow Alan to play as part of the band. For some numbers he played an unaccompanied intro - as he often does with his trio, whilst in others he had written parts within the score or occasional solos.

Based as he now is, on the East Coast, this was a coming-together for Alan with these players and new charts, although he had played with many of the players in earlier days. There was a lot of close attention, but also a lot of smiling and nodding and congratulation as the sets developed. They enjoyed being part of what felt like a very special occasion. 

Alan was clearly delighted with this opportunity to , as he said, 'present my work to these guys - to add their personal touches and then share the whole thing with you - the audience'. The audience response both in applause, those standing ovations and the discussions afterwards was, as I heard it, all very favourable and in some instances almost awestruck ...

An abundance of impressive solos from the band- notably Doug Webb and Jerry Pinter on tenors, Bruce Babad on alto, Scott Whitfield and Alan Kaplan on trombones and Carl Saunders and Jeff Bunnell on trumpets as well as Alan's long-time associate Putter Smith on bass and Bernie Dressel at the drums. The other band members also soloed occasionally and played crucial parts in the detailed arrangement. Alan Broadbent charts often have bebop running through them and his fondness for that genre is mixed with a lot of emotion, be it happiness, grandeur or simply 'landscape'
One original 'A long white cloud' actually took us on a boat across the South Pacific in that Maori-inspired vision - broad grandeur, yet jazz flair.

Other Broadbent tunes included Sweet' Pea ( for Billy Strayhorn), 'Love in Silent Amber ( an original for Woody's book), Chris Craft (combining half a dozen Bird themes), and Woody 'n Me ( again for Woody)

In the second set Glen Berger was the key soloist for 'Don't Ask Why' ( Alan's memorial for Irene Kral), and the whole band excelled in 'America The Beautiful' ( Alan said ' every arranger has had a go at that') .

The closer was 'Sonny Step' with 'Journey Home' as an encore, both former trio offerings enlarged for this Big Band opportunity.

Altogether a memorable day, with an attendance, including musicians and musical associates, much closer to a full house.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Los Angeles Jazz Institute, Day One, 5.23.2013 - “Swingin’ On A Riff: Big Band Masters of the 21st Century.”

It’s that time of the year again when the Los Angeles Jazz Institute holds it biannual, 4-day festival at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. You can locate the full program for the Spring, 2013 Concerts by visiting

Gordon Sapsed arrives from Southampton to attend these event. He generally does write-ups of each day’s activities and has been kind enough to allow the editorial staff at JazzProfiles to share them with visitors to the blog.

Our thanks to Gordon for his generosity in preparing and sharing these observations and comments about the LAJI Spring Festival and, in so doing, making it possible for us to take a bit of a “Spring Break.”

© -Gordon Sapsed, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“On Wednesday this week a bus-load of enthusiasts took the 12 hour round trip from the Marriott Lax to Las Vegas to attend two concerts recalling jazz of yesteryear in 'Sin City'. Reports were that Carl Saunders and Bobby Shew were in fine form playing with a big band aggregation of jazzmen still currently based in Las Vegas.

Tommy Vig had also flown in from Europe to lead the group through some of the charts which established his name there in earlier times.

Thursday brought the first day of the Festival proper, but the opening half hour was not perhaps what Festival attendees expected. 

All events this year are being held indoors so the usual music by the pool in the California sunshine was not available.

Starting time came and went, with an audience of about 100 looking at the Fullerton College Big Band who were assembled and ready to play in the Marquis Ballroom.

Then, in the absence of their leader and with no introduction, student singer Greg Fletcher took the initiative and the band struck up without a conductor. The Four Day Festival , subtitled 'Big Band Masters of the 21st Century' was underway!

The Festival's underlying design seeks to bring to the audience the sounds of Big Band leaders who compose and arrange their own music using bands under their own baton, with a sub-theme that notes LA-based music from before the swing era to the sounds of today.

Joined, after about 20 minutes, by their leader Bruce Babad, the Fullerton band demonstrated their familiarity with the whole gamut open to them. Bruce and singer Greg soon had the audience responding as they recalled Cab Calloway's 'Hi-Di-Hi-Di-Hi' and then, with some talented section work from everybody in this high class College Band carried jazz forward through the swing era , bebop  and especially enjoying a new Kenton Medley titled Kenton Kollage. I also enjoyed their take on a big band version of Cherokee - their closer at Monterey where they recently won a major award. They had apparently learned from that previous experience - judge Jeff Hamilton having suggested that the tempo had been set ' a little too fast for the band members'. Not so on this occasion where almost any band leader would be ready to sign up the whole crew for a coast to coast tour. In summary, a fun set with a lot of smiling, hard rehearsal work evident and some real talent on show.

Age-wise. the next band up was at the other end of the spectrum but none the worse for that. 

David Angel, who I mentioned here earlier this year when he appeared at the Lighthouse with his 'Saxtet', (photos on my Gallery at brought his "Big Band" along - with an instrumentation unlike any Big Band that you might ordinarily envisage. The line-up has 5 reed players - each doubling on three instruments or more and a second line with a trombone, French horn, cornet, flugelhorn and tuba. A piano-less guitar-bass-drums rhythm section completes the ensemble.

David's arrangements, sometimes involving instrument doubling within the same phrase, are delightful.

David draws on themes from established composers of any era - with a special fondness for Ellington - as well as his own originals.

Some songs are arranged to allow a lot of solo space while others are built around features for the sound of one instrument.

I particularly enjoyed Stephanie O'Keefe's French horn feature on "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing", a romping 'Rangoon Express' with solo space for several and "Wild Strawberries" recalling a drive when David felt inspired by an expanse of strawberries  - you could almost taste them. Interesting brass combinations abounded in this music, as well as those Angel-saxes. 

The leader joined in on tenor sax for the final solos-all-round 'Alright' .

A few words about this years sound. Miking of every instrument continues, with mixed results. As the day went on I thought things improved, while others said the sound was 'better further back'. The vocal mike was indistinct early in the day and there remains a problem of failing to identify soloists until mid-chorus.  The huge 'stadium-rock' speakers have given way to smaller stacks but are still very loud for the front rows. There was quite a lot of sound technician activity - rushing about plugging and unplugging things for most of the day.

Sound in the Meridian Room for the panel discussion was a different issue. 

There were three people on stage for 'Panel 1 - Jazz Composer's Workshop 1'.  Larry Hathaway moderated - for the 27th year in LAJI's history of these events - with Mike Barone and Roger Neumann sharing their ideas. David Angel, I understand, had to leave for a flight to Europe, although scheduled to take part.

Mike and Roger both outlined their own histories in becoming arranger/composers and developing their own bands. They also shared their respective histories from early days in Iowa, or wherever,  various musical experiences and forks in the road  and both eventually settling in the LA area. They also both cited Bill Holman's work as an early inspiration in their arranging.

It  was a pity that, despite six or more mikes arranged on the panel table , no mike was made available for audience contributions and dialogue with the audience was difficult. The panel discussion attracted almost a full house as did the following movie session.

Ken Poston had, as usual put together a collection of clips from the LAJI archives, this time with a theme " The Swing Era in Los Angeles". Most of the early clips involved variations of the Les Hite band - occasionally fronted by a young Lionel Hampton or Louis Armstrong in the 1920's and 1930's. There were also clips involving Spud Murphy as leader and later offerings showing Benny Carter and Bobby Sherwood in the 1940's. One clip showed the earliest Stan Kenton band - even pre- Howard Rumsey!  Bobby Sherwood's nephew Carl Saunders, was among the audience. 

Mike Barone's set gave opportunity to hear some examples of things he had mentioned earlier. His own trombone background shoed through in his arrangement of 'Birdland', also saxes doubling  and flugelhorn doubling in other arrangements.

Mike's fondness for less common themes showed in his powerful version of 'his pal Rimsky's' Flight of the Bumblebee, and in a re-arrangement dedicated to Sweet Georgia Brown's sister - "Sour Sally". The set featured outstanding solos by several band members , with Bob Summers frequently popping up to surprise and delight. A new arrangement of "Sheik of Araby'", which appears on the band's latest (9th ?) album caught my ear among several others. The closer was the Limehouse-Blues-based 'Limes Away).

Top billing for the day - with two sets in the evening was "Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band". Dress for the night had been defined as 'bright colours' and Scott Whitfield was deemed to be 'best dressed'. Scott was one of several arranger/composer/ bandleaders in Roger's band who, but for the grace of Ken, might have also been on show with their bands - others included Alex Budman on tenor sax and Geoff Stradling on piano.

This aggregations of some of LA's finest was supplemented by two short sets of Madeline Vergari singing not only her husband's arrangements but some others from her repertoire. The band was also notable for having a female member in every section.

Roger's arranging/composing work history enabled him to draw on material written for Buddy Rich, Ray Charles, Ray Anthony and many others, as well as some contributed by earlier members of Roger's long-established (1974 ?) band. 
There was a lot of creativity in the music - fancy A-Train in 6/4 ? - or a tuba/piccolo feature using Tadd Dameron's 'Good Bait' ?

The band had a great laid-back feel in several blues-based compositions such as EZ-chair from a former bass-player and current bass player Kirk Smith taking an extended bass walk to give the whole band solo opportunity ....

Charlie Parker would have been flattered to hear 'Au Prive' in a setting where all the saxes paid tribute as well as the brass sections.

Jamie Havorka was impressive leading the trumpets and Matt Witek, who I had not previously heard with a big band, drove everything strongly. The future of Big Band music is in good hands.

Altogether an entertaining set with Madeleine adding a lot of zest, fun and jazz feel in her contributions....”

Monday, May 20, 2013

Meet Robb Cappelletto - !!!

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles enjoys learning about new musicians who help move the music forward in the sense of adding new dimensions to it.

Such was the case recently when Chris DiGirolamo of TwoForTheShow Media sent us guitarist Robb Cappelleto’s debut CD entitled !!! along with the following press release.

“The Robb Cappelletto Group releases debut recording -!!!

!!! is the driving debut recording from Canadian Guitarist Robb Cappelletto and his group. The recording simply titled "!!!" shows the remarkable talent that Cappelletto poses as a guitarist and composer. Aside from Jobim's Corcovado and Cole Porter’s It's All Right With Me, the recording clearly shows off the compositional brilliance of this young guitar slinger. A unique tone, a fresh approach and pure emotion towards his playing make !!! one of the best guitar releases of 2013! Robb Cappelletto is the complete guitarist and this new release shows you why!

Robb Cappelletto - Guitars - Jon Maharaj - Bass - Amhed Mitchel - Drums

About Robb Cappelletto:

Robb Cappelletto is a guitarist who believes in aggressive rhythm and melodies that stick; he does not make music that sounds like math. His interests are jazz, polar bears and hot rods—in that order—and grew up listening to progressive metal as much as Wes Montgomery and Buddy Guy. He earned a Masters degree in composition from York University, and is on faculty there as an instructor today. Robb currently lives in Toronto with his wife and cat. !!! is the debut recording for the Robb Cappelletto Group.

Available on CD Baby and iTUNES”

Robb Cappelletto has a website – - on which you can learn more about him, find out about forthcoming show dates, the gear he uses, as well as, order the  debut CD.

The more you explore the music on this CD, the more it will move your ears in new directions.

Mr. Cappelletto’s music is an example of syncretism in that it attempts to reconcile and/or unite different and sometimes opposing elements into a new musical form. It has a warmth and a zest to it, both of which are made all the more compelling by the obvious commitment of the musicians who play it.

It takes a certain courage to seek out new, musical horizons, and this is what the musicians on this recording have done.

You have not heard Mr. Cappelletto’s music before.

What’s on offer in !!! is an exciting adventure – a new musical experience.

I certainly hope that it is just the beginning and that there will be more of Mr. Cappelletto’s music on offer in the future.

Here’s an audio-only example of the Robb Cappelletto Group at work. It will provide you with an idea of his unique approach to guitar and his style of contemporary music.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pops – Louis Armstrong, “West End Blues”

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The First Great Soloist”

“When on June 28, 1928, Louis Armstrong unleashed the spectacular cascading phrases of the introduction to West End Blues, he estab­lished the general stylistic direction of jazz for several decades to come. Beyond that, this performance also made quite clear that jazz could never again revert to being solely an entertainment or folk music.

The clarion call of West End Blues served notice that jazz had the poten­tial capacity to compete with the highest order of previously known musical expression. Though nurtured by the crass entertainment and night-club world of the Prohibition era, Armstrong's music trans­cended this context and its implications.

This was music for music's sake, not for the first time in jazz, to be sure, but never before in such a brilliant and unequivocal form. The beauties of this music were those of any great, compelling musical experience: expressive fervor, intense artistic commitment, and an intuitive sense for structural logic, combined with superior instrumental skill. By whatever definition of art -be it abstract, sophisticated, virtuosic, emotionally expressive, structurally perfect — Armstrong's music qualified.

Like any profoundly creative innovation, West End Blues summarized the past and pre­dicted the future. But such moments in the history of music by their very brilliance also tend to push into the background the many prepa­ratory steps that lead up to the masterpiece. Certainly, West End Blues was not without its antecedents. It did not suddenly spring full­-blown from Armstrong's head. Its conception was assembled, bit by bit, over a period of four or five years, and it is extremely instructive to study the process by which Armstrong accumulated his personal style, his "bag" as the jazz musician would put it.

Armstrong’s recording activity in the years 1926-29 was so prolific that the jazz analyst's task is both easy and difficult. On the one hand, the recordings give an exhaustive, almost day-by-day documentation of Louis's progress. On the other hand, he recorded so much, under so many varying circumstances and pressures, recorded such a variety of material with the indiscriminate abandon in which only a genius can afford to indulge, that the task of gaining a comprehensive view, in purely statistical terms, is formidable. The wonder of it all is that Armstrong, irrespective of what or with whom he recorded, main­tained an astonishingly high degree of inventiveness and musical in­tegrity, at least until the early 19305, when he did succumb to the sheer weight of his success and its attendant commercial pressures.” 

[Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development, New York: Oxford University Press, paperback edition 1986, pp. 89-90; paragraphing modified].

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ahmad Jamal on Mosaic Records - [From The Archives]

Kenny Washington: “How did you come up with your concept of less-is-more?”

Ahmad Jamal: “… I think it has to do with philosophy and how I approach the disciplines. There’s a discipline in music. There’s an amount of showiness and showing off in front of musicians, which is always a mistake. So I kind of backed off sometimes and I think it’s part of the discipline that I’ve employed through the years. I still have that. Some people call it space, but I call it discipline.”

“These sides are glistening examples of the polished skill and remarkable interplay that are the hallmarks of the Jamal trio.  Israel Crosby is on-hand to give imaginative and rock-steady support. Vernel Fournier is, as ever, fluid and quick as mercury. Jamal displays all the qualities that have elicited so much vociferous respect from fellow musicians, critics and records buyers ….”
Jack Tracy/Original liner notes to Jamal at The Pershing, Vol. 2

“The mid fifties was a fertile time for Jazz; fresh, original ensembles were taking shape all over the country. The Modern Jazz Quartet, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, The Jazz Messengers and the Ahmad Jamal Trio immediately come to mind. Among musicians, each group had its imitators and its creative disciples who took its innovations one step further.

But no group in this era was as pervasive as the 1957 incarnation of Jamal’s trio with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. Like the Nat King Cole Trio of the previous decade, its influence penetrated so many different aspects of music.

Jamal is first and foremost a pianist with a natural gift for the instrument. His technique, dynamics and control are something to behold, but the mind that manipulates what comes out of the piano is extraordinary.  Like only the greatest of improvising artists, Jamal is a master architect, realizing with his mind conceives with seeming ease.”
Michael CuscunaMosaic Records

 © -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

At the time of its original posting in August, 2010, this feature did not include the tribute video to the late Nigerian artist, Ben Enwonwu [1921-1994] that uses Ahmad trio's performance of Taboo which the editorial staff at JazzProfiles subsequently developed with the assistance of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD.

You can now locate this video at the conclusion of this piece.

My feelings about the music contained in this nine-CD set [MD9-246] can be summed up with the expression on Ahmad’s face in the following photo:

Click on this link to Mosaic Records for more information about the set’s discography.

Around 1958, when I first heard pianist Ahmad Jamal on many of the trio LP recordings that make-up the Mosaic boxed set, I was immediately reminded of Erroll Garner.

I was vaguely aware that both Ahmad and Erroll were born and raised in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t know that Garner was his “biggest influence” [Jamal speaking to drummer Kenny Washington during a 2003 KBGO radio interview, a transcription of which is included in the insert notes to the Mosaic boxed set].

For those readers who are not familiar with Erroll Garner’s inimitable piano playing, perhaps the following description of it may prove helpful:

Unique is an inadequate word to describe Erroll Garner. He was a musical phenomenon unlike any other. One of the most appealing performers in jazz history, he influenced almost every pianist who played in his era, and even beyond. Self-taught, he could not read music, yet he did things that trained pianists could not play, or even imagine. Garner was a one-man swing band, and indeed often ac­knowledged that his main inspiration was the big bands of the thir­ties—Duke, Basie, Lunceford, et al. He developed a self-sufficient, extremely full style that was characterized by a rock-steady left hand that often sounded like a strumming rhythm guitar. Juxtaposed against this was a river of chordal and single-note ideas, frequently stated in a lagging, behind-the-beat way that generated terrific swing.”
- Dick Katz, Pianists of the 1940’s and 1950’s in Bill Kirchner, ed. The Oxford Companion to Jazz [New YorkOxford, 2000, p. 365]

The point in comparison between Garner and Jamal styles had to do with this part of the above quotation: “rock-steady left hand that often sounded like a strumming rhythm guitar. Juxtaposed against this was a river of chordal and single-note ideas, frequently stated in a lagging, behind-the-beat way that generated terrific swing.”

You can listen Erroll’s distinctive approach in the following YouTube; be patient as his patented, left-handed comping doesn’t really kick-in until 2:55 minutes.

But why did this comparison between Ahmad and Erroll come to mind as Jamal does not do what Garner does with his left-hand?

The “…river of chordal and single-noted ideas, et al.” struck a responsive chord [bad pun intended] as both pianists seem to gush forth with improvisatory ideas, but only Garner emphasized the rhythmic pulse of a piece by playing four-beats to the bar with his left-hand.

And then it dawned on me!

Jamal had substituted bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier in place of Garner’s left-hand thus freeing up both hands so that he could dart in and out of the time and play over the time using astounding runs, arpeggios, quotations from other tunes, counter-melodies and even counter-rhythms.

What sets all of this off is Jamal calculated use of space, something that rarely enters into Garner’s style because Erroll is always playing – there is no space.

As you can hear in the audio track to the above video, Garner can’t wait to finish one improvised phrase before starting another while Jamal, on the other hand, might play an idea, let it linger, leaving a space in which the bassist and the drummer continue to play before coming back into the tune again and exploring how other ideas might work. Jamal now had both hands free to build Garner-like orchestral creations.

Put another way, no Erroll Garner no Ahmad Jamal: Ahmad replaced Erroll’s always driving left hand with the always driving Israel Crosby-Vernel Fournier rhythmic pulse that he darted in and out of or played Erroll like orchestral phrases over.

But this wasn’t just any rhythm section that Ahmad was abandoning responsibility for the time to. With bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier he had a well-oiled rhythm machine.

Crosby was a master of the walking bass which Gunther Schuller defines as: “In Jazz, a line played pizzicato on a double bass in regular crotchets in 4/4 meter, the notes usually moving stepwise or in intervallic patterns not necessarily restricted to the main pitches of the harmony. The style arose as the use of stride piano patterns declined, …, it has since become lingua franca for Jazz bass players, allowing them to contribute pulse, harmony and countermelody simultaneously.” – The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz [p. 1257].

John Voight describes Crosby as “… one of the earliest virtuoso double bass players, capable of improvising melodic solos, rhythmically exciting accompaniment and scalar walking bass lines.”  – The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz [p. 257].

Although he was one of the busiest drummers in Chicago by the time he joined Ahmad in 1958, Vernel Fournier was born and raised in New Orleans and his drumming never lost some of the syncopated, cadence feeling associated with the famous marching bands of the Crescent City.

According to Jack Chambers in Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis:

“Despite his exposure in Ahmad’s trio, Fournier never received full credit and remains relatively unknown, but he is a percussionist of extraordinary delicacy. Jack DeJohnette, a much younger Chicago drummer says, ‘One day I heard Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing [a Chicago nightclub], and I heard Vernel Fournier on drums. His brushwork was so incredible – I mean just impeccable.’” [New York: William Morrow, 1960,p.202]
Vernel’s drumming has a bounce, a jauntiness and a swagger to it that seems so characteristic of New Orleans in its heyday.

His brush work has a big fat, meaty sound, his stick work is clean and crisp and his time is flawless.

Fournier is from a  period in Jazz drumming when it was almost an inviolable rule that whatever rhythmic figures you played on the snare and bass drum, you had to intersperse them within the cymbal beat.

No matter what else you played as accents, you had to keep the insistent chang-a-dang, chang-a-dang, chang-a-dang going.

This was also true of licks, kicks and fills; you played these in such a way as to return the music as neatly to the cymbal beat as possible.

[When using brushes on the snare drum, the “cymbal beat” was replicated with by crossing the right brush over a swirling pattern being made by the left brush.]

Momentum, swing, metronomic time – whatever you want to call it – were all driven off of a cymbal beat, preferably one that was in lock step with a walking bass line.

No bassist and drummer in the history of Jazz ever locked-in better in a trio format than Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier.

Vernel also feathers the bass drum, another technique that was very much a part of modern drumming before the advent of the Elvin Jones and Tony Williams freer or looser style.

Feathering involves using the bass drum petal and the beater ball to lightly tap the bass drum, four-beats to the bar.  It is a vestige of the earliest time in the history of Jazz when drummers carried the beat on the bass drum in a more pronounced manner.

Beginning with the bebop era in the 1940s, especially with some of the more frenzied tempos associated with bop, drummers took carrying the beat off the base drum and brought it up to the ride cymbal, using the hi-hat or sock cymbal to heavily accent only the second and fourth beat of each bar.

In effect, this loosened up the sound and the feel of the rhythm so that it fit better within bebop’s melodic and harmonic framework.

It also helped prevent the poor drummer’s foot from falling off while trying to play the bass drum constantly during some of bebop’s wickedly fast tempos.

Some drummers got caught up in the changer-over from traditional Jazz and swing to bop with the result that while they could play the looser feeling time on the cymbal or with brushes, they never got away from playing four-beats-to-the-bar with the bass drum.

Instead, they toned-it-down, hence the advent of feathering.

Given how quietly it is played, the feathered bass drum generally went unnoticed particularly with the loudness of brass and reed instruments in a bop combo.

However, in a piano-bass-drum configuration, the net effect of the feathered bass drum was to give depth to the pulse of the beat, make it more insistent and drive it more.

I always thought that that the combination of Israel Crosby’s superb walking bass and Vernel’s fat sounding brush work gave Ahmad’s trio a driving propulsion and forceful swing that other trios rarely achieved.

But whether it was due to my wonky ears, the manner in which the original LPs were recorded, or my under-performing audio playback system,  I missed actually “hearing” the added ingredient in the Jamal’s trio swing: Fournier’s feathered bass drum.

However, because of the improved sound quality made possible by Mosaic’s digital transfers, the feathered bass drum is no longer hidden and is revealed throughout these recordings.

For example, as the time switches from a “two” feeling to a straight "four," you can hear Vernel’s feathering of the bass drum beginning at 1:55 on Angel Eyes, the Matt Dennis tune from the Mosaic series which is used as the audio track for the following YouTube tribute to the classic Ahmad Jamal Trio of 1957-1962.

Here’s are Kenny Washington’s thoughts about the tune:

“The Matt Dennis song Angel Eyes is one of the great torch songs of all time. Ol' Blue Eyes owned this one. I especially love the last lyric "scuse me while I disappear." A year earlier, Gene Ammons had had a hit with this standard. This tune is usually done as a ballad, but Ahmad takes it at a nice medium tempo. Ahmad reshapes the form of this standard like a sculptor, to fit the needs of the trio playing a chorus and a half of the melody. He uses the intro as an interlude. For the first chorus of his improvisation, he switches to the regular A-A-B-A song form of the tune. He then goes directly to the bridge and last A section with the interlude. This form is repeated again (bridge, last A and interlude). Listen to how he changes his dynamics to a pianis­simo and brings back the bridge melody. The Gershwin classic It Ain't Necessarily So is quoted for a second time at the last A before the intro is again stated for a powerful ending. This is another one of those performances where there's a lot happening. This marvelous arrangement sounds so natural and the trio pulls it off with such ease.”

Listening to the recordings on the Mosaic 9-disc set, it’s hard to understand why a number of critics rejected Ahmad and the trio’s music at the time of their original release. John Hammond put it more strongly when he stated that Ahmad’s music during the period from 1957-1962 was “scorned by the critics but worshipped by musicians and public alike ….”

Even the enormous appeal of his music to the likes of Miles Davis was derisively described by the noted Jazz critic, Gary Giddins, as an “… overbaked … fascination.”

Martin Williams, another Jazz literary luminary, went even further when he stated that:

“Pianist Ahmad Jamal is a success: he has several best-selling LP's, a supper-club following (which otherwise displays little interest in jazz), and several direct imitators. He has also re­ceived the deeper compliment of having admittedly affected the work of an important jazzman. His success should surprise no one, and his effect on Miles Davis should prove (if proof were needed) that good art can be influenced by bad.

Clearly, Davis responds to some of Jamal's interesting and very contemporary harmonic voicings and the very light, and impecca­bly accurate rhythmic pulse of Jamal's trio, particularly in the support he got from his bassist, the late Israel Crosby, and from his drummer, Vernel Fournier. Further, Jamal has the same interest in openness of melody, space, and fleeting silence that Davis does. But for the trumpeter these qualities can be aspects of haunting lyric economy. For Jamal they seem a kind of crowd-titillating stunt work. Indeed, in a recital like "Ahmad Jamal at the Blackhawk," recorded in a San Francisco night club, it appears that Jamal's real instrument is not the piano at all but his audience. On some numbers, he will virtually sit things out for a chorus, with only some carefully worked out rhapsodic harmo­nies by his left hand or coy tinklings by his right. After that, a few bombastic block chords by both hands, delivered forte, will absolutely lay them in the aisles. And unless you have heard Ahmad Jamal blatantly telegraph the climax of a piece, or beg applause en route with an obvious arpeggio run which he drops insinuatingly on the crowd after he has been coasting along on the graceful momentum of Crosby and Fournier, then you have missed a nearly definitive musical bombast. …” Jazz Changes [New YorkOxford, 1992, p. 281].

But while Giddins, Williams and others thought Jamal’s approach to be limited and limiting, drummer Jack DeJohnette observed:

"Ahmad's always been his own man - way ahead of his time in terms of using space and chord voicings, which is one of the reasons Miles liked him so much. Ahmad knew how to get the most out of his instrument, so that a piano trio sounded like a symphony orchestra. He's a great organizer, and his concept is so sophisticated and intelligent, yet so loose and funky." [Jack Chambers, Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis, pp. 202-203]

And Jack Chambers offers these engaging explanations by Ahmad:

To his persistent critics, Jamal replies, "Sometimes people don't identify with pur­ity - that's what my music was then and that's what it is now. I've endured some of the harsh statements, but for every harsh statement there have been 99 compli­mentary ones. What I've done and am still doing is a product of years of blood, sweat and tears, and as long as I am completely secure in the knowledge that what I am doing is valid, then eventually even the most stupid critic has to acknowledge the validity of my work."

Part of the problem critics have with his music, according to Jamal, is that it is understated. "Anybody can play loudly," he says. "It is more difficult to play softly while swinging at that same level of intensity you can get playing fortis­simo. To swing hard while playing quietly is one of the signs of the true artist." Almost completely overlooked by the most negative critics is Jamal's flawless technique. It is a virtue that other musicians, especially piano players, talk about with reverence. Cedar Walton says, "I never heard Ahmad even come close to playing anything without a great deal of technique, taste and timing. When he goes across the piano, he just doesn't ever miss a note - there's never any question. For me, that's still a great thrill, just to hear somebody do that." Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis, p. 203]

Summing up Jamal genius, his influence and the significance of the Mosaic set, Michael Cuscuna offered these observations:

“He certainly exercised a profound influence on pianists and his trio set a new standard for what the piano trio in jazz would aim for and achieve. His knack for finding obscure but viable material which lent itself to a jazz treatment was equal to that of Sonny Rollins and Jimmy Rowles. But when Ahmad put an overlooked tune into circulation, it often stayed in the jazz repertoire forever thereafter. And with songs like "Poinciana" and "Billy Boy," it was Jamal's unique and imaginative re-arrangement of the tune which would become the standard form with which to play the piece.

Much like Miles Davis (who incidentally was greatly influenced by him), his influence is felt in music that attempts to replicate his and in great music that sounds nothing like his. But unlike musicians of similar or even lesser impact, the music of the 1957-62 Ahmad Jamal Trio has been mysteriously and distressingly hard to come by, even in the "reissue everything" era of the Compact Disc.

Literally years in the making, this set introduces 23 previously unreleased gems approved by the artist himself. It was delayed by a fire on the Universal Studios lot in California which took much of the original Jamal trio LP masters with it and our search to reconstruct the music on the set from a variety of analog and digital sources sitting in vaults around the world.

It's been a hell of a long time coming and we hope you enjoy The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions.”