Little Big Band Music
August 26, 2006 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Big band music is like the speed metal of jazz. But I'm more into the stripped down sound of "normal" jazz bands, that would have maybe one trumpet, one clarinet, etc... Could anyone recommend some intense big band music that's crammed into a "little band" format?
posted by parallax7d to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five.
posted by gwint at 8:48 AM on August 26, 2006

My first thought was Benny Goodman Sextet featuring Charlie Christian but as important as that album is, It's not really a big band sound. Maybe something like Maynard Furguson's Spinning Wheel?
posted by furtive at 8:52 AM on August 26, 2006

Duke Ellington's Small Groups
posted by Thorzdad at 9:12 AM on August 26, 2006

I am interested in your correlation between big band jazz and speed metal. I would put the speed metal similarity to smaller groups. I would say Coltrane, maybe from his Giant Steps recording, or Oscar Peterson, or the Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker sessions. Perhaps Sun Ra’s big band stuff may apply to my ear.
posted by thenextword at 9:39 AM on August 26, 2006

If you're talking about worked-out music for small groups (i.e. 'chamber jazz'), have a look at Dave Douglas, Uri Caine, John Zorn, and (if I remember rightly) The Bad Plus. One of the most interesting composers around today is Wynton Marsalis, for big and small ensembles, never mind the bullshit that surrounds him as a public figure (and his lack of hipster cachet). In This House, On This Morning should hit the spot for you - it's Ellingtonian long-form jazz for septet, as I recall), and if it does, by all means head over to Charles Mingus (try Ah Um and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady for a sense of his range). Mingus live will crush your mind.

I second Ellington, by the way.

And how abuot the following albums?
  • Africa/Brass sessions by Coltrane.
  • The Miles/Gil Evans Porgy and Bess and Milestones.
  • A collection of Raymond Scott tunes, the name of which escapes me, but it has 'Turkish Twilights' in its title.
  • Brubeck's Time Out, which has a chamber jazz feel to it.
Good luck - I'd love to know whether this stuff is to your liking!
posted by waxbanks at 10:07 AM on August 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I realize that yuo are not in fact talking about the music I'm talking about, exactly. But they're neighbours in any case. Mea partially culpa!
posted by waxbanks at 10:08 AM on August 26, 2006

Like thenextword, I'm not sure I understand your analogy. To me, Basie is the definitive big band sound.

But I'm thinking you might enjoy something like this Arturo Sandoval disik.
posted by sgass at 10:17 AM on August 26, 2006

Wait, what do you want? Because if I give you what you want, or what I think you want, I'm going to ignore your whole "Big Band=Speed Metal" thing.
Big Band music can be classed as such for two different reasons— either the composition of the music or the composition of the band, neither of which has to do with the speed or technical difficulty of the music, really.
Are you conflating all Big Band music with "Swing Swing Swing"? Because there are more than a few ballads played in that era or by large ensembles. Do you want bands that are really like speed metal in small ensembles? Honestly, it's kinda like saying that House is the Speed Metal of techno.

Ok. I'll try to give you places to look, and they'll either be what you like or won't, but if you clarify I can give you more help. If what you want is intense, you may look to the subgenre "skronk jazz." In it, you'll find folks like Peter Brotzman (especially his Machine Gun), and Ken Vandermark. If you want jazz from a smaller group that's like speed metal, check out his work with the Flying Luttenbachers, who became a speed metal (math metal, really) group after he left. Vandermark's work tends to be very clean in tone, and very steeped in the tradition of jazz while simultaneously being very aggresive. The DKV trio is another place to look (also with Vandermark), along with Gerald Cleaver's Veil of Names, or Roscoe Mitchell's solo stuff (avoid the latest album if you want skronk, though it's good if you want relaxing bluesy stuff).

If what you really want is a more open take on Big Band music, you can start with the Mingus Big Band, move through Sun Ra's Orchestra (Space is the Place), and listen to Africa Brass by Coltrane. Get Om/Ascention too, for more intense large ensemble stuff.

And let me know what you really wanted when you asked this question, and I can recommend more.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2006

I'm partial to Ray Anthony, myself.
posted by polexxia at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2006

(Like others, I'm not really sure what you're asking. Another group that you might be interested in, though, is the Either/Orchestra — they're a medium-sized group doing a more modern sort of "arranged" jazz, but they definitely tip their hat to the Big Band tradition.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:47 PM on August 26, 2006

Check out some Betty Carter albums like:

- The Audience With Betty Carter (live)
- The Modern Sound of Betty Carter

Good luck!
posted by GrooveStix at 1:19 PM on August 26, 2006

Benny Goodman has recorded a bunch of smaller ensemble work.
posted by plinth at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2006

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