Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Big Bands Are Back!

Actually, they never left. Big bands abound in the greater Los Angeles area, and elsewhere around the country, including my friend Jim's wonderful Nashville Jazz Orchestra. Now working big bands, that's another issue. And for the ones that work, the pay is another issue--sign of the times, I guess. But musicians love to play, and at least in SoCal there is no shortage of opportunities.

Big bands rehearse regularly and prolifically at the musicians union facility in Hollywood, several different ones each day. And many additional bands rehearse at various places all over Southern California (or "The Southland," as the news hounds call it, not to be confused with "The South"). Many of them are excellent, but most perform in public sporadically, if at all. But some are excellent, and have leaders who are hard working and persistent, and get the band booked at one of the very few venues to showcase such an ensemble.

One such is Steve Huffsteter, with whose band I performed tonight at Typhoon, an Asian-style restaurant located at Santa Monica Airport. Glenn Miller it ain't, and it isn't even your typical big band in the traditional sense. With songs like "3 1/2" (not content to write in 7/8, Steve composed a funk tune with three-and-a-half beats in each measure), "Hispania" (conjures up pictures of El Cid) and "Melancholia" (says Steve, "...the only big band tune named for a disease" and perhaps appropriately featuring one of the trombonists), the entire library is very eclectic, and, perhaps strangely, contains a lot of waltzes, but definitely not in the style one might be accustomed to hearing from a big band. One such is the very bombastic "A Waltz And Battery," heard here on YouTube, courtesy of AIX Records.

Great band, great sounds, great time. And the food is good too! Steve tries to give everyone a chance to blow, and he picks some wonderful players to do so. Typhoon podcasts all the performances (www.typhoon.biz), so it's worth checking out. And check out the other tracks on YouTube of the Steve Huffsteter Big Band from the AIX video. Or better yet, buy the DVD, which was recorded in 5.1 surround sound. You'll be amazed!

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