Bill Kirchner started this big band discussion on March 20 with a list of recordings recommended to his advanced composing and arranging students in New York. He drew some praise and some scattered fire from Rifftides readers, most of which appears in the exhibit two below this one. Mr. Kirchner requested the right of reply. The Rifftides staff is happy to grant it.
All interesting comments, some of which require nothing additional from me, though some do. First, a general comment: my list was compiled so that students could obtain some great recordings at reasonable prices. (Most of the CDs on the list can be had for under $10. That leaves out some collector’s items.)
To Ted O’Reilly and Barak: the Stan Getz Change of Scenes album I mentioned (with the Clarke-Boland Big Band) contains what is by far the most adventurous and stimulating writing I’ve ever heard by Francy Boland. As for Gerald Wilson, his album that I would have included, Moment of Truth, is listed on Amazon.com for $95-way beyond the budgets of most students.
To Ed Leimbacher: call me pertinacious, but I’ve never found Neal Hefti’s writing on The Atomic Basie, good and memorable as it is, as compelling as that by Frank Foster, Thad Jones, Frank Wess, Ernie Wilkins, and Billy Byers on the three albums I mentioned. As for the Verve Jazz Masters 36 and 48, they are anthologies (the only ones currently available, to my knowledge) of Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band and Oliver Nelson big band music, respectively. (Full disclosure: I did liner notes for both CDs and picked the selections for the former.)
To John Shade and Mark Stryker: I wish I could be more enthusiastic about Toshiko Akiyoshi’s writing, but with occasional exceptions (I included “Sumie” in the now-out-of-print Smithsonian Big Band Renaissance boxed set), I cannot. The late Rayburn Wright, one of the greatest composing-arranging teachers, once described her writing to me as follows: “It makes sense horizontally but not vertically.” Her bands were consistently excellent, though.
To Richard Mathias: Gary McFarland is one of my biggest influences as a composer-arranger. Alas, Profiles is one of those too numerous McFarland recordings that has never made it to CD (and which in any case contains only about half of the music from that 1966 concert). The October Suite (which, thank God, was finally reissued on CD a few years ago and is still available) is one of my desert-island records. Steve Kuhn graciously allowed me to xerox the scores, which I use in my teaching.
To Jim Brown: I merely said that Bill Holman’s charts on the Kenton Contemporary Concepts album represent his very best work, and a great introduction to it for students. But I wouldn’t presume to say that he has done nothing as good since the early ’60s; I don’t believe that for a moment.
To Mark Stryker: Slide Hampton IS on the list-sort of. There are several splendid charts by him on the Joe Henderson Big Band album I listed. And like you, I’ve enjoyed Braxton’s Creative Orchestra Music 1976 –though in that vein I prefer Muhal Richard Abrams’ writing to Braxton’s.
To Dave Frishberg: You’re a world-class musician who deserves much respect. The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker is a nice record that I enjoy on occasion. But to me, it has little of the musical and emotional depth of The Far East Suite, …and His Mother Called Him Bill, and countless other Ellington albums. P.S. : I “get” Mingus. And Coltrane. Does that make me a bad person in your eyes?