Greg Henry Waters Newsletter February 2006

The Bill Whited Big Band is the topic of this Newsletter, February 2006. Bill has been a New York arranger, composer and band leader for 30 years or more here in New York City.

We live under the assumption here in this country if you work very hard, become educated, you will be successful and make a lot of money for yourself.  But in jazz I do not think this is true.  Because art is such a subjected thing it is not like a doctor where one passes a medical test and becomes a doctor.  In jazz there is so much racism where people think only African Americans play jazz.  What is an African American may I ask?  This is a stupid question I know, but interesting thought anyway.

Well let me tell you there are many many wonderful White Jazz Musicians as good as or better than a lot of African American Jazz Musicians.  But you bring up this subject to a black person and they will just repeat the same thing over and over again.  Even at local 802 at the musicians union the pictures in the rehearsal hall are all black musicians.  I ask, what is going on here what happen to people like, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, the first jazz educator and the first big band jazz art orchestral musician, ever hear his House of Glass, plus his music with Johnny Richards and their Latin American Big Band Jazz, Stan was one of the first jazz educators at North Texas too, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Billy May, Henry Mancini, Buddy Rich the most powerful big band drummer ever in jazz.  Anyway, it makes me sick that this is going on in jazz and no one says anything. I am sure Martin Luther King would not approve of what is going on in the Black Jazz Community and the attitudes and voices of them, but he is not here to tell his story now is he.

Well, I just got back from China last year and starting fresh in New York and checking out the scene and seeing what is going on and Bill Whited is (still) what is going on.  (Bill has been rehearsing his band and music for over 25 years). Bill is a very quiet and gentle man only interested in writing and composing good arrangements for his band in the style of big band jazz; including all the basic concepts that Bill Holman, Manny Album and Bill Potts created in their music.  Bill has a musical love affair with the popular standards of Kern, Rogers and all the others in this group. Bill writes gentle and smooth arrangement with always a sense of swing and he has some of New York’s best ‘white’ jazz musicians, like Bobby Porcelli, Alto Saxophone Soloist, John Ackert, Trumpet Soloist and Richard Perry, Tenor Saxophone Soloist.  You see the soloists are what enhances the big band jazz band exciting; for without an excellent jazz soloist not much is happening in a true big band jazz setting.

The big band is probably the greatest musical gift the musicians have given to our country.  The bands came out of brass bands, concert bands and dance hall bands.  And all these bands and music came from Europe not Africa I might ad. It took about 40 or 50 years to come up with the basic combination of Trumpets, Trombones, Saxophones and Rhythm Section, (Piano, Guitar, String Bass) and Trap Set.    Please do not get me wrong, I am not trying to take anything away from the African American Jazz Musician.  I only bring this up because this is what is happening in 2006 in our community. For me they are being so hateful towards the white jazz musician.  I do not know why, even Bill Evans was so miss treated in Mile’s band when he was there.  This has been going on for a long time.

Race is not a part of musical art in any form.

Well, Bill Whited is one of those quiet people who will not yell out I deserve to be known and respected.  He just rehearses his band and has a lot of the top New York musicians in it.  They come and rehearse out of the respect for the music and Bill.  What I really respect about Bill is that he is not asking anymore to compose for him and arrange, it is not a ghost band like we have.  Bill’s Band is not a ghost band it is the real thing with the real leader there.  Well, for me it is so sad that some people like Bill do not get a chance to be heard and respected like he should.  This is all I am saying.

I asked Bill, what is your band?  What is important to you in your band?  He said, “Just want to swing and have fun.”  Now do you hear I want to be famous, I am great, or I have the best band in the world?  No you do not!  You just hear, “I want to play the best swinging big band music I can.”

Bill writes the traditional format of 3 to 5 minute gems as I call them.  You know, I first had a classical background and then later because an experienced jazz musician when I hit about thirty and culminated when I came to New York.  (Bill Evans could play all the Beethoven Sonatas by the way.) So I always think in terms of a 10 to 20 minute compositions and is the standard of a classical music, but if one adds up all the 3 to 5 minutes pieces you can get up to four hours of music or more so what is one really to think?  So, my point is that when I was listening to Bill’s arrangements a few days ago it was really hard to grasps everything all at once, the style, the timber, the swing, the solos, the background figures, the feel, timber or sound of the complete band, the swing feel and rhythm section complimenting the figures and rhythms in the arrangement.  I wanted to hear the arrangement twice so I could better listen to the music and understand the nuances of the arrangement.

You see I believe to hear a real piece of music you have to listen to it more than one time and get to know it.  This is what payola is on the pop stations.  If they can get the public to hear a song over and over again the public will want to buy it.  So the record companies pay off the radio stations to play the new releases.  Big Band Jazz or any other form of music is the same one has to listen to it a few times before one gets the true essence of the music.

Well, the big bands are being kept alive at this site;  They have maybe 30 new albums there you can buy.

Big Band Jazz the most important new orchestral form of music in our nation. Well, we look forward to hearing Bill’s Band on a CD.  He certainly deserves the attention more than so many others. Help support Big Band Jazz the most important musical organization form that the USA musicians has created.

Sincerely, Greg Henry Waters

The topics of this Newsletter came up during the two hour rehearsal at local 802 rehearsal hall.  It comes about from the conversations with the musicians and friends I met there the first Wednesday of February.  I really hate to be negative.  But with what all is going on in the world today it is a wonder that it is not more amazing.  We all live in our own time capsule and now the music of our present day popular musicians have no meaning for me because there isn’t any harmony or melody or orchestration it is just speaking out words and making a beat.  I know now that I am getting older even my music is not the popular music of today but is set in a specific time period of harmony, rhythm and orchestration. Jazz is living in some kind of time capsule with for me a world of complete illusion of what is art and what is music.  I am only repeating what others are saying.  I hope I have risen above common humanity and am maybe a visionary that can sort out the hurt, greed, ego driven music, racism that Dr. King tried so hard to relieve.  Even Gandhi  lost his battle for his people for they did not listen to him either.

If you listen to the radio classical or jazz music it is all music of the past nothing real of our time just copies of what the past was.  “We live in a time of wars and computers not a time of musical art.” Greg Henry Waters

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