Jazz Music is global, with a big G! Since James Reese Europe commanded the attention of the 'Great War's" survivors, American Jazz Music has surrounded the globe, enhancing cultures and providing alternatives to everyday life. During the 30's Big Band Music ruled the world. Every cosmopolitan city around the globe had a few 'swing bands' that followed (by recordings) the progress of American groups. This attention led to the invitation to American Jazz Artists to leave the shores of the US and travel abroad. Buck Clayton and many others played in Shanghai, Duke Ellington toured England, Benny Carter was invited to London by the BBC in 1936, and Coleman Hawkins worked the main spots in Europe with different bands. There were gigs at the poshest hotels in Havana, Paris, Colonge, Helsinki, Moscow, Reo de Janeiro, Tokyo, Mexico City, Stockholm, Vienna and Bombay. Jazz Music was hot around the globe !!!
During the height of 'swing', established bandleaders and composers sought out a more symphonic approach. Duke Ellington, is credited with being the first Jazz composer to break away from the traditional forms of the day. Artie Shaw, Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman and the ultimate symphonic band, the Stan Kenton Orchestra were influenced by this trend and began to incorporate this 'concert' approach into dance gigs. By the early fifties, Big Band Jazz had two choices; one was to continue to provide music for dancing and probably go stale or the second choice took Big Bands down a very adventuresome path. To some ears, the bebop sound was not conducive to the Big Band and R&B and pop music would rule the commercial airwaves.
By the late 1950s, a new movement emerged, led by Stan Kenton that 'resurrected' the Big Band. Jazz Education brought Big Bands to American public schools and colleges, and legitimized the study of Jazz Music as an art form. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra inspired legions of local 'rehearsal' band (although Thad and Mel were not a rehearsal band). During the 1970s, Jamey Aebersold and others began introducing structured study of combo styles into an already established Big Band curriculum, and by the 1980s, Big Bands were vehicles for group and individual expression.
In Europe during the fifties, Ted Heath hired Tadd Dameron and Bill Russo to write arrangements for his London-based Big Band, and soon bands such as Erwin Lehn's Orchestra in Stuttgart (who had Miles Davis as a guest in 1957), or Kurt Edelhagen's band in Cologne and Harry Arnold in Sweden would bring over a guest composer/arranger/soloist to keep their musicians current, and eventually artists such as Eddie Sauter, Bill Finnegan, Slide Hampton, Quincy Jones and Manny Albam would be commissioned to write music for the local 'radio/'TV' orchestras. In the mid-eighties, Mel Lewis was instrumental in bringing Bob Brookmeyer to the WDR Big Band in Cologne, which had for years been recording only 'classic' swing-era arrangements to be broadcast on the radio. The collaboration proved to be influential, and there are many 'state supported' big bands in Europe that regularly commission works by American Jazz artists.
You will even find a Big Band in Lulea (pronounced lou-lee-oh), Sweden, which is just below the Arctic Circle. It's called the Norrbotten Big Band, and the music director is an American Jazz Artist named Tim Hagans. Tim is also one of the world's finest trumpet players, and is one of my closest musical compadres as well as a great friend. But even close friends hold back things from you. One day, he put headphones over my ears and I heard the sounds of a Big Band. "Thad" I mused. "Is this something Thad wrote in Europe" I naively asked. Tim beamed and said "It's mine". I was shocked. He had been holding out on me. He was a Big Band composer/arranger, and I had only taken advantage of his trumpet solo skills in my short-lived Big Band. Having heard more of his 'ensemble' writing, I am now a prime supporter of Tim's composing and arranging art.
When Tim left Stan Kenton to join Woody Herman, the seeds of his arranging story began. His trumpet style was just beginning to form, and Stan liked 'progressive' players. But Woody had just lost a beloved soloist, so fate intervened, and Tim found himself in search of a place to be a musician. He eventually ended up in Scandinavia, first with the Ernie Wilkins Big Band and then with Thad Jones' 'in exile' Orchestra. Being around those two giants of the Big Band sound rubbed off in the best of ways. Tim, like Thad and Ernie, wants to hear sounds instead of voicings. He wants the solosist to have a part in the dynamics of the composition. He abuses the trombone section just like Thad does, and he understands the importance of form. And one of the great perks of writing for yourself in this context is that you get the best solo spots.
But you'll hear something else added to the ensemble mix. It is the influence of Miles Davis, both as a trumpet player and as a composer. "Anticipating Sweden" has that 'Miles thing' in the beginning of the chart. Tim's not afraid of using colors and lush orchestration in the ensemble passage of "Discovering Norrbotten" and "Passing Giants" (an absolutely beautiful song), and blaring and burning brass in "Future North" (just north of Thad). The trombone section's opening passages on "Nogaloo" display the confidence of both the band members and the writer.
Modern Jazz dominates the mood of "Mention The Extension", an arrangement that embraces the 'quintet' style of Big Band writing. The trumpet section is superb in a creatively composed 'soli'. Waking Iris" is a virtuoso arrangement, that demands the utmost musicianship from the ensemble. Tim turns over the solo spot to Dan Johansson, who must be in heaven with this background behind him. "Twist And Out" has 'heavy burn' written all over it. After an opening salvo that defies explanation, Tim and Mats go at it until they eventually find the 'straight life'. The madness of the coda is a perfect ending to a great arrangement. "Missed The Ballgame Blues" reflects the loss of innocence that comes from missing a ballgame, the hotdogs not consumed, the 'seventh inning stretch', and maybe a classic memory, The writing is not as easy as ABC.
Mats Garburg's flute is incredible, soaring above the ensemble or in his solo feature "Discovering Norrbotten", he burns on "Mention The Extension" and "Twist And Out". Hakan Brostrom leads a very versatile woodwind section, and his soprano lead and soprano soloing are top-notch. Both Bo Strandberg and P-O Svanstrom lead their respective sections with musicianship and integrity. And hats off to Jukkis Uotila, one of the finest drummers in jazz, and both Hans Delander's keyboard work and Christian Spering's bass playing. A marvelous rhythm section.
Underneath all of this sound is TIM HAGANS, a Man with three daughters, a wife who wants to take him to a Foghat concert, a sense of humor that could only come from Ohio, a trumpet style that can destroy any pretender, a Man who possesses a dedication to the art of being a musician, not a politician. It's about being a decent, caring human being.
Bob Belden - July '98