The Goodwill Theatre celebrates the opening weekend of the 2014-2015 season with a concert by the Music Unlimited Little Big Band as they salute Maynard Ferguson and Thelonious Monk, on Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 2 PM. The Jazz Concert Series at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage is sponsored by NYSEG.
Al Hamme’s Music Unlimited Little Big Band will present the original arrangements of the music from the band of Maynard Ferguson and the pen of Thelonious Monk.
When he debuted with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in 1950, Maynard Ferguson could play higher than any other trumpet player in jazz; and he was accurate! Somehow he kept most of that range throughout his career and since the 1970s has been one of the most famous musicians in jazz.
Ferguson moved to the United States in 1949. He gained experience playing with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet. In 1950, with the formation of Stan Kenton’s Innovations Orchestra, Ferguson became a star, playing ridiculous high notes with ease. In 1953, he left Kenton to work in the studios of Los Angeles and three years later led the all-star “Birdland Dreamband.” In 1957, he put together a regular big band that lasted until 1965.
After economics forced him to give up the impressive band, Ferguson had a few years in which he was only semi-active in music, spending time in India and eventually forming a new band in England. After moving back to the U.S., Ferguson in 1974 drifted quickly into commercialism.
After again cutting back on his huge orchestra in the early ’80s, Ferguson recorded some bop in a 1983 session, led a funk band called “High Voltage” during 1987-1988, and then returned to jazz with his “Big Bop Nouveau Band,” a medium-sized outfit with which he toured the world up until his death from kidney and liver failure on August 23, 2006.
Thelonious Monk grew up in New York, started playing piano when he was around five, and had his first job touring as an accompanist to an evangelist. He was inspired by the Harlem stride pianists and vestiges of that idiom can be heard in his later unaccompanied solos. However, when he was playing in the house band of Minton’s Playhouse during 1940-1943, Monk was searching for his own individual style. Private recordings from the period find him sometimes resembling Teddy Wilson but starting to use more advanced rhythms and harmonies. He worked with Lucky Millinder a bit in 1942 and was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra briefly in 1944 but it was when he became Coleman Hawkins’ regular pianist that Monk was initially noticed. He cut a few titles with Hawkins (his recording debut) and, although some of Hawkins’ fans complained about the eccentric pianist, the veteran tenor could sense the pianist’s greatness.
The 1945-1954 period was very difficult for Thelonious Monk. Because he left a lot of space in his rhythmic solos and had an unusual technique, many people thought that he was an inferior pianist. His compositions were so advanced that the lazier bebop players assumed that he was crazy. And Thelonious Monk’s name, appearance (he liked funny hats), and personality (an occasionally uncommunicative introvert) helped to brand him as some kind of nut. Fortunately, Alfred Lion of Blue Note believed in him and recorded Monk extensively during 1947-1948 and 1951-1952. He also recorded for Prestige during 1952-1954, had a solo set for Vogue in 1954 during a visit to Paris, and appeared on a Verve date with Bird and Diz. But work was very sporadic during this era and Monk had to struggle to make ends meet.
His fortunes slowly began to improve. In 1955, he signed with Riverside and producer Orrin Keepnews persuaded him to record an album of Duke Ellington tunes and one of standards so his music would appear to be more accessible to the average jazz fan. In 1956 came the classic Brilliant Corners album, but it was the following year when the situation permanently changed. Monk was booked into the Five Spot for a long engagement and he used a quartet that featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Finally, the critics and then the jazz public recognized Thelonious Monk’s greatness during this important gig.
The fact that he was unique was a disadvantage a few years earlier when all modern jazz pianists were expected to sound like Bud Powell (who was ironically a close friend), but by 1957 the jazz public was looking for a new approach. Suddenly, Monk was a celebrity and his status would not change for the remainder of his career. In 1958, his quartet featured the tenor of Johnny Griffin, in 1959 he appeared with an orchestra at Town Hall, in 1962 he signed with Columbia and two years later was on the cover of Time. A second orchestra concert in 1963 was even better than the first and Monk toured constantly throughout the 960s with his quartet which featured the reliable tenor of Charlie Rouse. He played with the Giants of Jazz during 1971-1972, but then in 1973 suddenly retired. Monk was suffering from mental illness and, other than a few special appearances during the mid-’70s, he lived the rest of his life in seclusion.
Members of the Music Unlimited Little Big Band include: Nick Driscoll, Tom Hamilton, Al Hamme, and Jim Buckley on Saxophone; Pat Carney, Jeff Stockham, Steve Carney, and Corky Klinko on Trumpet; Andrew Williams and John Cooley on Trombone; Bill Carter on piano; Tony Marino on bass and Tom Whaley on drums.
“We are thrilled with our programming for our seventh season at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage,” said Naima Kradjian, CEO. “This opening jazz concert is a wonderful tribute to two phenomenal jazz artists and features musicians who are outstanding in their own right.”
Tickets for Music Unlimited Salutes Maynard Ferguson and Thelonious Monk are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students. The Firehouse also offers a 20% discount to Veterans and teachers, however, discounts cannot be combined. Tickets can be purchased online at: www.goodwilltheatre.net or by calling the Box Office at (607) 772-2404, ext. 301.
The Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, located at 46-48 Willow Street in Johnson City, accepts cash, checks and all major credit cards. Doors open approximately one hour before show time. General Seating is based on a first-come; first-served policy. Refreshments will be available for sale.
The Schorr Family Firehouse Stage is the first performance venue of the Goodwill Theatre Performing Arts Complex & Professional Training Facility. It is located on the corner of Corliss Avenue and Willow Street in Johnson City.
Patrons are advised to enter the facility through the parking lot on Corliss Avenue. Parking is available in a small lot at the theatre, and a new lot along the side of the building, on-street, and in various Village municipal lots within two blocks of the theatre.
For more information contact the Goodwill Theatre Box Office at (607) 772-2404, ext. 301, or visit the Theatre online at www.goodwilltheatre.net, or facebook.com/SchorrFamilyFirehouseStage.