Posts Tagged ‘recording’


Monday, July 16th, 2012

With the exception of the moonlight-serenading Glenn Miller ghosters, there are no longer any big bands on the road these days. The young crew led by Maynard Ferguson was the last of its kind. MF’s death in 2006 represented, once and for all, the end of the traveling bands.

But the big band genre’ is hardly extinct. Certainly, there are the superb college and high school jazz bands, but in the professional sector, big bands abound for recording purposes, rehearsals and local gigs. An exception of sorts to the traveling rule is the case of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, which does tour from time to time on a limited basis.

In the “local sector”—and “local” is not to be taken as a negative term—there is the Zeropoint Big Band based in central Pennsylvania. This talented crew has just recorded a CD, “James Witherite + 17,” featuring the arrangements, six of the nine compositions recorded, and the flugelhorn solos of Mr. Witherite himself.

You’ve got to love this guy. He’s a superb improviser—who swings like the dickens–an inventive composer and arranger, and, get this, a horse racing announcer who has breathlessly described thoroughbred and harness races at more than 50 tracks throughout north America. A renaissance man, indeed.

He’s been at the jazz game since childhood, studied formally at Duquesne, released his first CD as a leader, “West by Northwest,” in 2006; followed by “Live in Pittsburgh,” recorded a year later with the Duquesne University Jazz Ensemble.

The new CD is just marvelous in terms of ensemble tightness, intonation and sense of swing. There are, maybe, one or two ragged edges in the brass section on a selection or two, but that only adds to the excitement and makes these guys seem human! The rhythm section, booted by drummer Kevin Lowe, is loose enough to cook but precise enough to drive the rather complex shout choruses.

The short title cut, “0.67;” “Father John;” the standard “My One and Only Love” (featuring the Arthur Prysock-inspired vocals of Michael Andrews); and Duke’s “Love You Madly” (with a fine, fine vocal by Carolyn Perteete) are personal favorites. All the titles, however, are worth listening to again and again, as there’s something new to be heard on each go-round.

On a personal basis, I’ve heard James Witherite several times—on piano as well as flugelhorn—and I’ll only repeat what I told him. “Whenever I get a band together,” I said to him: YOU’RE HIRED.

And about the band? Take the plunge. Go on the road.

For more information on James Witherite, the Zeropoint Big Band, and the CDs availability, log on to and/or


Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

One of the first records I ever heard was the original “Perdido” from Jazz at the Philharmonic, with tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips playing his soon-to-be-legendary solo, battling it out with Illinois Jacquet, and backed up beautifully by Jo Jones on drums. If memory serves, that JATP recording was made in 1947 at Carnegie Hall, and the music writers say Flip was “forced” to repeat his set-in-stone solo, almost note-for-note, until the JATP ride ended around 1957. I was hooked from day one. I always believed that jazz should be exciting. 

Norman Granz, founder and JATP instigator, was a singular human being. He insisted that all the members of his troupe traveled first class and were treated on a first class basis all the way. He kept mainstreamers like Roy Eldridge, Lester Young and yes, Gene Krupa, in the limelight by making them stars of his tours. He mixed and matched players from different eras. As an example, a JATP front line might have included Prez, Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins, backed up by a rhythm section that included Oscar Peterson and Gene Krupa. I’ll never figure out why this isn’t being done today. Why isn’t there a recording, just as an example, of vibist Terry Gibbs and Gary Burton playing together? I could venture a guess, given the personality of Mr. Gary Burton, but it still should be done. 

This is why the “discovery” of our Hamburg, Germany, concert of 1956 is so important. Here, on the same stage for one of the few times in history, were Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, Illinois Jacquet, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis and Ella Fitzgerald. Backing all of them up from the drums? Gene Krupa. 

Gene was musically a generation behind artists like Ella and Dizzy, but he backed them up so sensitively, so thoughtfully and so happily, that the more than two hours of music presented at this show is simply a total joy to hear. Though it could be my ears playing tricks on me, I swear that Dizzy and Ella never swung harder, and never sounded as happy as they do on these tracks. An added plus, of course, is the wonderful fidelity of these shows, which likely came from a German radio broadcast. 

This is one of the few instances where I fervently believe that these programs should be released by a “major” record company. People need to hear this. If only out of loyalty (Verve did put out most of the original JATP recordings), these tracks were sent to Verve Records, where they are under consideration for future release. But as they say on T.V., “Wait…there’s more.” 

After Norman Granz sold his Verve/Clef/Norgran catalog (and what a catalog it is) to MGM in 1961, he was effectively out of the record business. He came back in a big way in 1973 with his famed Pablo label, and again started putting together all kinds of players from all kinds of eras, on record (Oscar Peterson with Count Basie, Duke Ellington with Joe Pass, et al.). The Pablo imprint, as well as Fantasy Records and several other well-known jazz record labels, is now owned by Concord Jazz. I spoke to the good people at Concord recently about our “newly discovered” JATP release. 

The good news? According to the folks in the archival department at Concord/Fantasy, there are “hundreds” of tapes of JATP concerts–both European and stateside–that sit in the vaults. This may even include the concert at hand, the Hamburg, Germany concert of February, 1956. And more good news is that this archival material may include more unreleased drum battles between Krupa and Rich, Krupa and Bellson, Bellson and Rich, J.C. Heard and Krupa, Jo Jones and Rich, and who knows what else. 

The bad news? We were told, in no uncertain terms, that most of this material will remain unreleased, due to the costs involved of clearing the rights with the surviving artists, the estates of the artists, etc. Concord/Fantasy/Pablo will put one of these things out from time to time (their most recent release being an “unknown” JATP concert that featured Fats Navarro and Shelly Manne), but we were told, point blank, that “it’s just not worth the expense and the trouble.” 

We did, however, get a promise that we would be informed of all of the undocumented JATP drum battles. At least that’s something. 

If I had to pick two “must haves” from, it would have to be the “Championship Jazz” DVD of Gene, and these JATP shows. I urge you to get them. I don’t know how long we will be able to carry them. 

And in terms of “special” and “singular,” stay tuned for more news about The Gene Krupa Jazz Trio’s television performance on the “Georgie Jessell Show” of 1954. Certainly, this will be something. 

Finally, my thanks to all of you for your good wishes, thoughts and prayers about my mother, Frances Klauber. She is hanging in there, and just sang the other day with a visiting pianist who was entertaining at the Bryn Mawr Terrace Convalescent Home. She called me the next day complaining about his time. 

We should all live so long…and have good time!!! 

God bless and keep swingin’ 

Bruce Klauber


Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

There’s no rhyme or reason to Verve Records’ reissue program, especially when it comes to Gene Krupa. It often seems, in fact, that Gene really gets the short end of the stick (pardon the pun) when it comes to putting out vintage product on CD. As an example, the famed “Big Noise From Winnetka” CD is available only as an import, as are the “Sextet Sessions” compilations. Basically, only “Krupa and Rich” and the “Original Drum Battle” are commonly available, and none of these projects have any unissued or alternate takes, and no one even bothered to write a set of updated linear notes. Many of us remember when the “Original Drum Battle” was released on CD, and we had all hoped for a bunch of additional, unissued material. Other than restoring Ella Fitzgerald’s vocal on “Perdido,” there was nothing else new. 

“Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements” is no exception. Recorded in 1958 with an all-star group that included Phil Woods, Hank Jones, Kai Winding, Urbie Green and many more, the recording received four stars from Down Beat magazine when it was reviewed in 1959. It was and it is superb, albeit not particularly inspiring. Mulligan’s charts, most written in 1946, held up when this was recorded and for the most part still hold up today. Though a couple of the songs could have used another take or so, it is generally well done. Gene is not really featured on this date, other than for a few breaks here and there, and you can hear that he’s really devoted to playing Mulligan’s charts properly. The charts are the star on this recording, and as a matter of fact, Mulligan actually conducted four of the twelve tunes on this outing. The other “star,” if there was one, was alto saxophonist Phil Woods’ playing. Every Woods’ solo is an absolute gem. The stereo sound, by the way, is fabulous, and you can really hear everything that was going on. 

What is terribly disappointing, though, is the lack of out takes, alternate takes, updated notes or any “extras” that we’ve come to expect from CD reissues. Although most of the Krupa discographers only list the master takes to this session, there simply had to be others during the course of these two recording dates. It is unlikely that every thing else, other than the masters, was destroyed. Most of the other artists who are the subject of Verve reissues, including Tal Farlow, Count Basie and many others, get the “full treatment.” Why not Gene? It makes one wonder why they put this thing out at all. 

“Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements,” in terms of sound, is a 96KHG, 24-bit digital transfer. I’m not sure what that means, other than to report to you that the sound is great. Verve Records, now owned by an outfit called the Universal Music Company, informs that this CD will only be available until March, 2008. Presumably, that makes it a “limited edition,” which is another thing I can’t figure out. 

If any of our good supporters out there are having a problem finding this, let us know and I’ll make sure you get a copy. You should have it. I only wish there were more of it. 

Keep swingin’ 

Bruce Klauber