Charlie Shoemake Brings Education Home; Band Leader Bill Holman Up for Grammy
As they have once a year for 15 years, be-bop-bent vibist-improvisation teacher Charlie Shoemake and his wife, singer Sandi Shoemake, last Sunday turned the living room and den of their Sherman Oaks ranch-style home into a makeshift jazz club.
Shoemake, who appeared with George Shearing for seven years and who estimates that he has taught 1,500 students since he opened his home-based studio in 1972, spotlighted some of his top past and present students in energized performances that ran through the afternoon into early evening, and drew more than 100 listeners.
Among the student wailers, who ranged from novice to professional level, were pianist Art Gilbert, an associate justice for the State Court of Appeal, who acquitted himself nicely on “I Thought About You,” and trumpeter Kye Palmer, a senior computer engineering major at Cal Poly Pomona, who crackled with brilliance on “Have You Met Miss Jones?” The steaming concluding set found trombonist Andy Martin, pianist Randy Cannon and tenorman Benn Clatworthy, all former Shoemake initiates who are now working pros, creating showers of sparks as they ripped through “Blue Bossa” and “There Is No Greater Love.”
Drummer Larance Marable--a veteran who played with Charlie Parker and currently appears with Shoemake’s quartet and Charlie Haden’s Quartet West--and bassist John Giannelli, who has served stints with Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, were the affair’s supporting rhythm duo. Both said there were many rewards for the afternoon’s efforts.
“These kids were great,” Marable said. Giannelli found that “when the musicians give 100% enthusiasm, as they did here, it really makes it fun to play.”
Shoemake--who played on the sound track to “Bird” and whose latest LP, “Stand-Up Guys” (Chase Music Group), with local tenor giant Harold Land in the front line, is due out in two weeks--thought the get-together “was one of the better ones. I’m just trying to get (the students) to play well and enjoy the music,” he said. “It’s hard getting work, and I hope something happens for them, but the main thing is to enjoy the music.”
GRAMMY UPDATE: Composer-arranger-tenor saxophonist-bandleader Bill Holman, who was one of those in the audience at the Shoemake bash, has been nominated for a Grammy for best big band performance for his recent JVC debut, “The Bill Holman Band.” One of a handful of Angelenos nominated for 1989 Grammies in several jazz categories (Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, John Patitucci, David Benoit, Tom Scott, Chick Corea and the Yellowjackets are others), Holman won a 1988 Grammy for best instrumental arrangement for a version of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” which was recorded by Doc Severinsen’s “Tonight Show” Orchestra.
Holman--who first gained attention for his stellar writing for Stan Kenton in the ‘50s and then for Gerry Mulligan, Terry Gibbs and Woody Herman in the ‘60s--welcomed the nomination, saying, “It could draw the attention of a lot of people who otherwise might not have known about the band.”
Orange County native Holman faces plenty of stiff competition from the other nominations, which include “Tribute to Count Basie,” Gene Harris Big Band (Concord); “Jacquet’s Got It!” Illinois Jacquet Big Band (Atlantic); “Bud & Bird,” Gil Evans Orchestra (Intersound); and “Ebony,” Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd (RCA/Victor).
“Illinois’ record has been very popular out here,” Holman said, “but I figure Gene Harris is going to be the one to beat.”
Having led his current unit since 1975, Holman believes in keeping his troops in shape. Each week he gathers such regulars as reedmen Bob Cooper, Lanny Morgan and Bob Militello, trumpeters Frank Szabo and Carl Saunders and trombonist Bob Enevoldsen for rehearsals at the Musicians’ Union on Vine Street in Hollywood, whether the band has an engagement or not.
“The only time we take a break is for the holidays, or when I’m out of town,” he said.
The composer is now “fishing around for ideas, actually just getting started” on a long original piece for altoist Phil Woods, to be performed with the West German (Radio) Network big band. In April, Holman makes his eighth trip in as many years--all at the behest of WGN--to Cologne, West Germany, where he’ll conduct the Woods work, as well as arrangements of several standards, for a live radio broadcast. “This is the kind of commission that keeps me going,” Holman said. “It’s a good chunk of employment that takes up about a quarter of the year, plus it’s a chance to work with Phil.” (Woods opens at Catalina Bar & Grill on Tuesday).
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: “Michel Camilo” (Portrait), an exceptional debut release of mostly trio outings from the pianist who wrote “Why Not?” a Grammy winner in 1983 when sung by the Manhattan Transfer, and who gained renown touring with Paquito D’Rivera. “Suite Sandrine, Part One” finds Camilo, a modernist in the Herbie Hancock vein, roaring but with grace, and “Blue Bossa” is a flavorful duet with Monga Santamaria. . . . “Blue to the ‘Bone” (Milestone) is quite satisfying meat-and-potato blues-and-standards fare from organist Jimmy McGriff. Trombonist Al Grey’s plunger work lights up “Ain’t That Funk for You?” a make-you-smile shuffle, while guitarist Melvin Sparks gleams on the oh-so-slow “Hangin’ In.” McGriff and his longtime sidekick, altoist Hank Crawford, roll into Marla’s Memory Lane this Friday and Saturday. . . . “Great Moments in Jazz” (Atlantic) gathers some of that label’s ace jazz hits, like Shorty Rogers’ “Martians Go Home,” Charles Mingus’ “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” and the Manhattan Transfer’s “Birdland.” The cuts are so nicely sequenced, you might imagine a disc jockey like Chuck Niles or Jim Gosa (both from KKGO-FM) was right there in your living room, playing the tunes for you.