Peers gather to laud master
The All-Stars At Bob
Haggart’s 80th Birthday Party
There’s nothing quite like a jazz party: a gathering of top drawer jazz artists assembled by a host or hostess for a weekend of informal performances in a fun-filled atmosphere before as many as 500 well-heeled jazz hounds, usually at a posh hotel ballroom.
And Mat Domber, owner of Arbors Records and host of a March of Jazz Party in Florida, had the tapes rolling for his first Florida fling in 1994, a salute to Bob Haggart (now dead) on his 80th birthday. From the weekend, Domber has put together two discs that truly capture the ambience and mystique generated by mixing and matching 26 musicians in any number of settings.
Improvisation and spontaneity are the essence of a jazz party. Variety, too. And both discs 10 tracks on the first and nine on the second reflect those key qualities, beginning with a bristling take of “Oh, Lady Be Good” featuring clarinetists Ken Peplowski and Allan Vache to the very end of the proceedings, the old Dixie warhorse, “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” with trumpeter Joe Wilder out front of an eight-piece combo.
There are other goodies galore. Examples: bassist Milt Hinton’s poignant vocal on “Old Man Time”; the trumpet work of Yank Lawson and Wilder and pianist Ralph Sutton’s Basie-like intro on “Oh, Baby,” and the free-spirited abandon with which trumpeter Randy Sandke, pianist Dick Hyman and trombonist George Masso attack “Wolverine Blues.”
The sound of Soprano Summit is revived by soprano sax soulmates Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern with a performance of “Nobody’s Sweetheart” while a reunion of sorts of the World’s Greatest Jazz Band produces “Three Little Words” with Wilber, now playing clarinet, showing his love of Benny Goodman.
Guitarists Howard Alden, George Van Eps and Bucky Pizzarelli make 21 strings sing in essaying “Lullaby of Birdland” at a leisurely tempo and the clarinets of Peplowski, Davern and Wilber massage “The Mooche” over drummer Bobby Rosengarden’s pulsating tom-tom. Trombonist Dan Barrett and Peplowski share the honors with Pizzarelli, Hinton and Rosengarden on “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and the old sarge, tenorman Flip Phillips, gets in his innings with take-charge performances of “Limehouse Blues” and “Symphony.”
Jazz parties, being what they are, occasionally produce less-than-perfect outings. And the racehorse pace at which clarinetist Walt Levinsky takes “Airmail Special” and “Lover Come Back To Me”( the latter showcases Peplowski’s tenor sax) turn both tunes into train wrecks waiting to happen.
Small chinks, they are, however, in two glorious wall-to-wall jazz recordings.
( Note: proceeds from sales of the double dipper CD will be earmarked for the Bob and Wendy Haggart Scholarship Fund at the University of Miami.)
Cam Miller is a free-lance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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