Howard Alden, guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone, cornet, arrangements, of course. A working band is one of the great glories of jazz. Although some prize the ideal of the jam session, where disparate musicians come together, elate and startle us, a group of players who have stood side by side for a period of time might create something more lasting. Think of Soprano Summit, of Davern and Wellstood, of the Ruby Braff trios and quartets, the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet. If you would like historical precedent, there’s the rapport that Bird and Diz developed or the Armstrong All-Stars.
The ABQ was nurtured by the friendship of its two California pals, then mentored even more by the aging but still very creative Buck Clayton. It held together as a working (and recording) band for less time than it should have, but one of the delights of Jazz at Chautauqua was the ABQ reunions that its late founder Joe Boughton insisted on and made possible. The charter members of the ABQ are Chuck Wilson, clarinet / alto; Frank Tate, string bass; Jackie Williams, drums — and in my delicious immersions at Jazz at Chautauqua beginning in 2004, I believe I saw an ABQ that was authentic in all but Jackie. And it always swung — a neat mixture of stripped-down Ellington colors, Kirby-with-guts classicism, a Basie rock, a Kansas City Six swagger.
Here, from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua, are two lengthy outings for this glorious band — Howard, Dan, Dan Block on alto and tenor, Frank Tate, Pete Siers. The first is a Buck Clayton composition and arrangement: Buck had very good times in France, so IN A PARISIAN MOOD is groovy, hardly gloomy:
Then, a beautifully realized nod to Buck’s colleague Lester with LADY BE GOOD, explained carefully by Professor Barrett:
I dream of a world where working bands of this sleek swing persuasion could work as themselves. We’re so fortunate that the ABQ can reassemble . . . too bad it seems to be only once a year.
May your happiness increase.