Sometimes the most commendable events in music are triggered by the least desirable circumstances. Such an occasion was an all-star tribute to the late bassist Monty Budwig, held Sunday afternoon on the Chaplin stage at the A&M; Studios.
Budwig, who died March 9 of cancer, would have been proud to observe not only the huge turnout, but also the parade of artists who contributed their talent. Produced by Betty Berry, the show ran smoothly, from the opening set by her husband, Bill Berry, to the closing number by Supersax.
Tony Bennett flew in from New York for the occasion. Backed simply by a rhythm section with Ross Tompkins at the piano, he was in loose, easy form in a brief set of standards. Rosemary Clooney also benefited from an intimate setting that enabled her to contribute a relaxed, unpretentious performance.
Berry's big band dug deep into Duke Ellington's "Harlem Airshaft," with a reading that was uncanny in its fidelity to the original. His Ellington-oriented set was notable for the alto sax of Marshal Royal, the pepper-shaking trombone of Buster Cooper and the chance-taking tenor of Herman Riley, who clearly doesn't believe in safe sax.
The surprise of the day was Arlette McCoy Budwig, the bassist's widow. Replacing Pete Jolly with the Lighthouse All-Stars, she played "Night Blossom," offering impressive evidence of her talents as pianist, composer and arranger.
Frank Collett's piano trio set was notable for a blues dedicated to Budwig, highlighting the supple bass of John Gianelli. Terry Gibbs added a couple of damn-the-torpedoes vibes solos to this set.
A jam session produced no startling innovations, but when an ad hoc band includes Stacy Rowles on fluegelhorn, Teddy Edwins on tenor sax and Mundell Lowe on guitar, what you get, as expected, is sterling performances of such warhorses as "Body and Soul."
In sum, this was a rare display of good vibes, good music and good will.--LEONARD FEATHER