Marshall Brown - conductor, arranger; Mike Abene - piano; Andy Marsala - alto saxophone; Larry Morton - alto saxophone; Ronnie Cuber - baritone saxophone; Danny Megna - tenor saxophone; Al Abreu - tenor saxophone; Harry Hall - trumpet; Gerry Joachim - trumpet; Nat Pavone - trumpet; Bill Vaccaro - trumpet; Astley Fennell -trombone; Eddy Green - trombone; Chip Hoehler - trombone; Benny Jacobs-El - trombone; Jerry Friedman - guitar; Eddie Gomez - bass; Larry Rosen - drums; Special guest: Cannonball Adderley - alto sax
Music educator and conductor Marshall Brown began scouting high school talent for the Newport Youth Band when George Wein instituted the program in 1958. His crop of recruits from 1960 was especially exceptional and included such future stars as pianist Mike Abene (currently the musical director and arranger for the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany), baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber (a former member of the George Benson Quartet and frequent collaborator with Michael and Randy Brecker as well as with drumming great Steve Gadd), bassist Eddie Gomez (a former sideman to jazz piano great Bill Evans, a frequent collaborator with Chick Corea as well as a charter member of the band Steps Ahead and a leader in his own right), trumpeter Jimmy Owens (a sideman to the likes of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band), and drummer Larry Rosen (co-founder of GRP Records).
These talented teens open their Saturday afternoon set with the midtempo swinger "Cerulean Blue," a Brown original named for the program's emcee Dom Cerulli. Following a relaxed, Basie-esque piano intro from Mike Abene, the big band lays into a mellow groove, providing an inviting platform for a series of potent solos by Harry Hall on trumpet, Andy Marsala on alto sax, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax, and Benny Jacobs-El on trombone. They next tackle the aptly-named "Fast Company," a bristling big band chart by noted Count Basie Orchestra arranger Ernie Wilkins. A classic Basie flag-waver with powerful shout choruses from the horns, this uptempo burner features hot solo contributions by Marsala and Hall.
Larry Wilcox's arrangement of the poignant Jimmy Van Heusen ballad "Darn That Dream" is a beautiful showcase for Marsala's burnished tone and Phil Woods-inspired melodic improvisations on alto sax. Changing pace, they jump into "Lullaby of Newport," a fiery original that highlights the band's incredibly tight chemistry at breakneck tempos. Hall, Marsala, Jacobs-El, and bari burner Cuber are all featured on this barn-burner. Trombonist Jacobs-El is then featured on a jaunty Larry Wilcox arrangement of the Harold Arlen tune "Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Fifteen-year-old tenor saxophonist Danny Megna is then featured on the dreamy Ernie Wilkins ballad "Sassy," a piece reminiscent of Basie's equally mellow "Lil' Darlin'." Hall adds some nice muted trumpet on this elegant offering, and Abene also contributes a moving, meaningful piano solo.
They next tackle John Laporta's "A Pair Of Aces," a challenging piece full of intricate lines, rhythmic breaks, and a myriad of chord changes, all executed with an irrepressible sense of swing at an incendiary tempo. Marsala turns in a torrid alto sax solo here, and Cuber follows with a bad-ass bari solo of blowtorch intensity. The two then engage in some heated exchanges as the piece builds to a frantic crescendo, providing plenty of sparks along the way. Another Ernie Wilkins composition, the soulful stroll "Just for Kicks," is played with uncanny maturity and seasoning by this remarkably accomplished ensemble of high school students. Soloists Hall and Jacobs-El shine on this relaxed offering.
Shifting moods, they leap into the runaway romp "Party Line," which peaks with an exhilarating alto sax battle between Marsala and special guest, Cannonball Adderley. The great Marsala then burns his way through a rousing uptempo rendition of "Just Like Being in Love," which also features some spirited solos from trombonist Jacobs-El and bari ace Cuber. Trombonist Jacobs-El is next featured on another Ernie Wilkins original, the earthy and aptly named "Bluer Than Blue." Abene's roadhouse piano work and Jerry Friedman's Freddie Green styled rhythm guitar playing set the tone for this exceedingly slow blues number. They close out the set in dynamic fashion with Don Sebesky's "The Swinger," an uptempo offering that features outstanding solos from Jacobs-El, Marsala, and Hall.
It's hard to imagine 15 and 16-year-olds swinging so hard while demonstrating such impressive solo facility and group discipline. But under the direction of Marshall Brown, this edition of the Newport Youth Band took Freebody Park by storm at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival. (Milkowski)