A Few Truly Great Honours

I guess I'm just not used to thinking about keeping the blog going so regularly. As you can see it has been a while since the last entry. Considering my excitement with the last two commissions to write arrangements, I thought I'd share that information with you...whoever may be listening out there! :-) First, I have to say that after years of friendship and mutual admiration for each others' work, I was absolutely thrilled to get a call from internationally renowned vocalist, Judi Silvano, to write two arrangements for her "book" (as we call it). Specifically, these arrangements were to be premiered by members of the Bard College Jazz Department on a presentation of "The American Songbook," although Judi will maintain them for future use as well. She has such a great spirit and it was such fun to connect and discuss tunes and her ideas for how she wanted to present them. We decided on Gershwin's "Embraceable You" as a bossa nova and Ellington's "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart" as a shuffle! Evan Barker copied the parts in a hurry for a rehearsal that Judi and I had put on the calendar that same day. Being that I'm overly neurotic about booking plenty of rehearsal time, I suggested to Judi that we book more time than necessary on a couple of different dates, so as to secure the rehearsal space. In New York City, rehearsal space is sometimes not easy to come by, particularly the preferred venue(s). I'm glad I have learned, over the years, to go with that gut instinct. Lo and behold, Judi had to remain in Europe after her gig in Paris. Had she been home on time, we could have rehearsed just a couple days following her return. But alas, her husband, the legendary tenor saxophonist whom we all love, Joe Lovano, took a fall. He's fine now and resting, but as a result, we ended up quite happy that the alternate rehearsal date was already booked! We rehearsed my two charts and one other by Janice Friedman under my baton at The Musicians' Union in midtown. We had Alex Norris on trumpet, Marc Phaneuf on alto, Bill Saxton on tenor, Bruce Eidem on trombone, Jim Ridl on piano, Mike McGuirk on bass and Scott "Newmie" Neumann on drums and WE HAD FUN!! I gave my new H4 Zoom a spin and promptly recorded AND lost the file for "Embraceable You" but got the others. LOL Fortunately Judi still brought her old standby cassette recorder! Those arrangements will be premiered tomorrow night, Saturday December 5th at 7:00pm at Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY by members of the Jazz Department under the direction of Mr. Thurman Barker. (You know...the school Donald Fagen & Walter Becker--Steely Dan guys--went to.) It's at least two hours from my place and we have a forecast for a "WINTRY MIX" so I'm thrilled about the drive (not) but wouldn't miss it for the world. With the completion of that rehearsal (after a really fun hang in midtown) my attention turned to the UNC Jazz Press paperwork which I need to take care of in order to submit the three arrangements they approved for its catalogue. I'm very excited to have been approved for their publishing my arrangements of Jobim's "Sabia'," Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain" and Dad's (Ted Brown) "Dig It" for 16- sometimes 17-piece jazz orchestra, a.k.a., big band. Meanwhile...a few days ago I returned home to find a message on my answering machine from FRANK WESS! I LOVE Frank Wess both as a player and as a friend and can't even BELIEVE that he showed up to my 50th birthday party in midtown this past June. Of course, one does NOT wait to return calls to Jazz Royalty! So, I called him back right away. I hear Frank say, "Oh HI! I was just thinkin' about you..." I said, "Well I was thinking about you too! I just got your message!" "Oh yea? So how's everything with you?" I replied, "Good...good..." There were one or two more exchanges before I realized that I was talking to his OUT GOING MESSAGE!!!!!!! LOL!!!! The OGM went on for a while and got progressively more hysterically funny; no surprise to those of us who know Frank! Finally, by the time the beep sounded I was in hysterics, cracking up out loud and trying to leave a message, when he picked up the phone. He cut right to the chase, and I was once again, incredibly honoured with his request for me to write an arrangement of one of his ballads, entitled "Entre Nous" (Between Us), for his octet to play on his hit at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, NYC, in celebration of his 88th birthday, January 19th-24th!! I hope you'll try to come down for that! I'll write more about that later. Last but not least, I attended "Funksgiving 24" on the evening of Black Friday in Huntington, NY at the Elks Lodge where The Funk Filharmonik played it's 24th consecutive Thanksgiving Show! Suffice it to say I REALLY NEEDED TO DANCE!!!!!! And there is no other drummer I'd rather dance to than Lee Finkelstein playing that funky stuff they do! If you don't know this band, they are an incredibly outstanding band that started out as a Tower of Power cover band 24 years ago in Huntington, NY at a place called Canterbury Ales. They built a following when they had a regular monthly gig at The Brokerage in Merrick, NY (every last Thursday of the month) which I attended religiously for many, many years. My brother Jeff took me to see them for the first time in May 1990, knowing how much I love Tower of Power. At that time, his friend, and my new acquaintance, Tony Kadleck, was subbing for Ron Fox, the regular lead trumpet player. That band knocked my socks off that night. By the time they finished the musicians' introductions I realized I had gone to undergrad school at SUNY Old Westbury with Lee and Steve Finkelstein, drums & percussion respectively. All the members of the band and I became fast friends. Soon after that I began transcribing Tower of Power charts for them for fun, and actually, after only having written for my school ensembles where I taught, cut my teeth writing in the professional forum for them. They still do two of those arrangements regularly: "A Little Knowledge (Is A Dangerous Thing)" and "Souled Out." I was thrilled to hear them sound SO great on them last Friday night!!!! :-) Not only is the band comprised of outstanding musicians, but many are Tower of Power alums* or subs+. Personnel includes Ron Fox and Vinnie Cinquemani (trpts), Ozzie Melendez (trbn) [toured w/Mark Anthony], John Scarpulla* (tenor), Norbet Satchel* (bari sax), Greg Schleich (keys), Dave Lavender, (gtr), Jack Knight (bass), Steve Finkelstein (perc), Lee Finkelstein+ (drums) [The Blues Brothers and "Shifting Tides of Montauk" from ABJO's "27 EAST," track 4], Tom Bowes* and Brent Carter* on vocals. Special guest, another long time friend previously with Maynard Ferguson and currently with Billy Joel, was the silly, albeit incredible Carl Fischer on trumpet. So proud to know these guys and have my arrangements in their book, for these fine musicians would never consider using them were they not up to par. And now...back to the daily grind for a bit. Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays to all! Don't forget to check out "Santa's On His Way" on the music page of my website! --AB