Jazz festivals and jazz parties with a proliferation of star soloists sometimes get everyone who’s available to take a few choruses on a standard composition, which can result in brilliant interludes or dull displays. The results are not the same as a working jazz ensemble, but they do often create splendid surprises.
Here is a seventeen-minute exploration of the Duke Ellington-Bubber Miley 1932 evergreen that took place at the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 15, 1977, nominally under clarinetist Barney Bigard’s leadership, which really translates here as his being the first horn soloist. The others are John Lewis, piano; Slam Stewart, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; Clark Terry, Jimmy Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpets; Vic Dickenson, Kai Winding, trombones; Eddie Daniels, tenor saxophone. (To my ears, Daniels seems a visitor from another world.) A “string of solos,” yes, but, oh! what solos:
In the summer of 1972, Red Balaban led one of his often-eloquent bands at Your Father’s Mustache (once Nick’s, now an empty space for rent) with Bobby Hackett as the guest star — and I recall Joe Muranyi, Dick Rath, Chuck Folds, Marquis Foster. Barney Bigard was in the house, and Bobby invited him up (Muranyi graciously sat the set out except for a two-clarinet HONEYSUCKLE ROSE). The bell of Barney’s clarinet was perhaps three feet from my face, and his sound — on ROSE ROOM, MOOD INDIGO, and two or three others — was warm and luminous. Yes, he looked exactly like my tenth-grade English teacher, but Mr. Kavanagh had no such glissandos.
There will be more to come from the Nice Jazz Festival. And in case you missed my most recent extravagant offering — ninety-seven minutes of bliss — you can immerse yourself here. MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) used to say it had “more stars than there are in heaven,” and you will find them in that post: George Barnes, Benny Carter, Bobby Hackett, Illinois Jacquet, Ruby Braff, Wingy Manone, Dick Sudhalter, Spiegle Willcox, Michael Moore, Pee Wee Erwin, Eddie Hubble . . . along with Barney, Vic, and others.
May your happiness increase!