One of the best small groups I know is the ABQ — the Alden-Barrett Quintet — originally Howard Alden, guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone and cornet; Chuck Wilson, alto and clarinet; Frank Tate, string bass; Jackie Williams, drums. Like the Ruby Braff – George Barnes Quartet and the various permutations of Soprano Summit, they had energy and delicacy, force, precision, and sweetness. And they also swung like mad.
One of the pleasures of Jazz at Chautauqua through the seven years I’ve been attending is the reunions of the ABQ — usually with four of the original members onstage, romping through charts that they created or were done for the group by Buck Clayton (someone whose hundredth birthday just took place on the calendar).
At the September 2011 Chautauqua, Chuck Wilson couldn’t be there, but his place was taken — nobly — by the ever-ready Dan Block. Here are four wonderful performances from their set:
Basie always merits first place: here’s Earle Warren’s 9:20 SPECIAL:
Buck Clayton’s BLACK SHEEP BLUES (perhaps referring to the necktie that used to be one of Dan Barrett’s sartorial trademarks, with an ebony fellow in the midst of the flock):
Something for Louis! ORIENTAL STRUT, by Johnny St. Cyr. Not to be pedantic, but I hear very little “Asian” in this composition: I think Johnny had been to the movies and seen some film with Rudolph Valentino in the desert:
And a mini-evocation of the 1940 Ellington band in COTTON TAIL:
The group doesn’t get many occasions to get together, which is a pity. Come to the 2012 Chautauqua and — while you’re waiting — look for their CDs on Arbors and Concord Records.
Fifty-Second Street lives when the ABQ is playing.