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August 1, 2007

TT: Blasts from the past

I was recently informed that my liking for the music of the big-band era proves that I was very happy in my previous life and seek to recreate its pleasures in this one. I don't know about that, but I do know that the hours I've spent listening to and playing in big bands are among the happiest I've known. Though I love all kinds of music (O.K., make that "most kinds of music"), I find there to be something uniquely exciting about the sound of a big band in full cry, and I spend a not-inconsiderable percentage of my leisure hours seeking out that sound.

I got into an e-mail conversation the other day with a music-loving friend who is about to start a blog, and somehow or other we found ourselves chatting about our favorite big-band records. "I feel a list coming on," I told him, and sure enough, it came. I intended to make it a top-ten list, but I ended up with a dozen items and opted not to cut two of them for purely arbitrary reasons. What's in a number? So here are My Twelve Favorite Big-Band Recordings, As of This Minute, Subject to Change:

Down South Camp Meetin' (live version) (Benny Goodman, arr. Fletcher Henderson)

For Dancers Only (Jimmie Lunceford, arr. Sy Oliver)

Elegy (Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra, arr. Brookmeyer)

The Good Earth (Woody Herman First Herd, arr. Neal Hefti)

Hang Gliding (Maria Schneider, arr. Schneider)

I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (Duke Ellington, arr. Ellington)

The Jazz Connoisseur (Harry James, arr. Ernie Wilkins)

Lady Chatterley's Mother (Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, arr. Al Cohn)

The Maid With the Flaccid Air (Artie Shaw, arr. Eddie Sauter)

9:20 Special (Count Basie, arr. Buster Harding)

Pussy Willow (Tommy Dorsey, arr. Bill Finegan)

Robbin's Nest (Claude Thornhill, arr. Gil Evans)

Young Blood (Stan Kenton, arr. Gerry Mulligan)

If you're feeling frugal, all of these tracks except for "Hang Gliding" and "The Jazz Connoisseur" can also be downloaded individually from iTunes. (Check the amazon.com links first, though, to make sure you're purchasing the right version.)

Happy listening!

Posted August 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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