Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
One band is on the East Coast, one on the West and both give definitive, invigorating performances of music that celebrates what’s best about America — jazz, bands, even Bugs Bunny.
Emcee and JazzSet guest host Rhonda Hamilton is onstage at Jazz at Lincoln Center to introduce a unique pairing. First, there’s trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and men from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In addition, Vince Giordano has his tuba, guitar and bass saxophone (a magnificent instrument) and players from his Nighthawks, who’ve been performing New Orleans music since 1976.
Marsalis says of his trumpet hero, Louis Armstrong, “‘Pops’ taught us all, and we are basking in the glory of his music.” Giordano has transcribed many Armstrong recordings so that today’s musicians can play it as the Hot Fives and Sevens did. Two of the four pieces we’ll hear were written by Armstrong’s wife and pianist, Lil Hardin Armstrong. And the last is “St. James Infirmary” in the tempo of a dirge, with lyrics.
Gordon Goodwin from Los Angeles won the Best Instrumental Arrangement Grammy in 2012 for “Rhapsody in Blue” from Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. He was nominated again this year for his arrangement of “Salt Peanuts” by Dizzy Gillespie. As Goodwin says, arranging is great, but the notes are just scribbles on the page until someone plays them. The Big Phat Band makes its Monterey Jazz Festival debut with “Rhapsody” and “Hunting Wabbits,” inspired by Carl Stalling’s 1940s scores for Warner Brothers cartoons — think Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny. The music tumbles all over itself; it’s just about perfect.