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Loren Schoenberg -- Reviews

NY Times picks Loren's 1989 album as album of the week

New York Sun reviews performance on The Benny Carter Centennial Project

New York Sun reviews K.T. Sullivan & Mark Nadler

Stephen Holden, New York Times

Mike Joyce, Washington Post, reviews Duke Ellington Celebration

Don Rose, The Jazz Institute of Chicago, reviews The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz

Mike Joyce, Washington Post reviews live performance

Ben Ratliff, NY Times

Russ Fortmeyer, Kansas State Collegian

Peter Watrous, The NY Times


Clive Davis, London Times

Chip DeFaa, The Daily News

Will Friedwald, Village Voice

Peter Watrous, reviewing Cat Club show, NY Times

Francis Davis, reviewing Manhatttan Work Song as one of the best albums of 1994, Village Voice

Chip DeFaa, The Daily News

George Kanzler, Newark Star-Ledger

Jazzwise (UK)

John Bowers, www.allaboutjazz.com

Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner

John Wilson, NY Times

Mike Joyce, Washington Post:

Live Performance
"Though his name is synonymous with the big band era, Benny Goodman knew that great swing often comes in small packages -- the cozy jazz ensemble settings so conducive to intimacy, interplay and improvisation. Seven musicians drawn from the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra explored this aspect of the clarinetist's legacy at Carmichael Auditorium on Saturday night, and did so with verve, precision and wit.

Clarinetist Dan Block gracefully handled the principal role, producing a rich and fluid tone amid the similarly evocative contributions of his band mates: pianist Loren Schoenberg (best known as a reedman), trumpeter Randy Sandke, tenor saxophonist Scott Silbert, vibist Chuck Redd, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kenneth Kimery.

The size of the ensemble kept shifting -- from duo to septet -- and so did the musical moods, which embraced everything from sheer exuberance (a rambunctious reprise of "The Sheik of Araby") to pure balladry (a solemn "The Man I Love"). Swing-era classics and delightful obscurities were a part of the mix, as well as a couple of excursions that documented Goodman's flirtation with bebop.

Schoenberg, who worked closely with Goodman, provided a running commentary, and the amusing anecdotes and historical perspective made the evening all the more enjoyable.

This was the first concert in the Smithsonian's Jazz Appreciation Month celebration, a multifaceted series of events involving music, film, exhibits and poetry."    

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Ben Ratliff, NY Times:

"Jazz at Lincoln Center had quite a task on its hands when it presented Woody Herman's music on Thursday night at Alice Tully Hall. Loren Schoenberg, the saxophonist and composer and occasional member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, organized the concert and put a tremendous amount of research into it, mining the hits as well as playing some pieces that probably hadn't been performed in more than 50 years. Famous or obscure, the question is academic: much of this music is unknown now, and the orchestra played it as if it were familiar territory.

The meat of the program, sensibly and inevitably, was the music of Herman's first and second Herds, the bands that included Phillips, Harris, Zoot Sims and Stan Getz, among others. Just as inevitably, you left the theater abuzz with the brilliance of Ralph Burns's writing.

There were small-group pieces like the nifty bebop tune "Igor" and Jimmy Giuffre's "Four Brothers," arranged for three tenor saxophones and baritone saxophone. There were medium-size pieces like "Lady McGowan's Dream," built for close dancing, threaded with Burns's beautiful, flowing and intersecting lines. And there were longer works like Burns's genteelly modest "Red Hills and Green Barns," which had never been performed before, as well as his "Summer Sequence," a minisuite from 1946.

The final movement of "Summer Sequence" was adapted into "Early Autumn," which gave Stan Getz his first popular performance on record, and which was also part of Thursday's program. (For "Summer Sequence" Mr. Schoenberg acquired a complete score in Burns's hand, enabling the band to play the complete work; it was typical of the concert's perfectionist ethic.)

Pete Candoli, a trumpeter from Herman's bands of the 1940s, sat in the trumpet section without performing a solo; Bobby Short appeared to sing "I've Got the World on a String," turning on like a klieg light; and the tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano made a guest appearance, filling the Getz roles on "Summer Sequence" and "Early Autumn." His "Early Autumn" solo was pretty and sighing but discontinuous, and it didn't hint at the wonders of the original; such was Getz's achievement.

More impressive was the undulating chordal movement of the gentle, impassioned piece in performance, with a full brass and reeds section of three trombones, five trumpets and five saxophones. That was the overall feeling of the show. Much of Herman's music has even escaped the jazz repertory movement in its passage to the archives, and it's a rare treat to hear such music played with purpose."   

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Russ Fortmeyer, Kansas State Collegian:

"McCain Auditorium lit up with toe-tapping bedazzlement when the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performed classic, big-band jazz Friday night. Due to illness, Gunther Schuller was unable to conduct. Loren Schoenberg filled in for Schuller, and what a job he did. Schoenberg was loose and relaxed, offering a hip stage presence to parallel the music. He joked, he sang (rather excusably, in Jimmie Lunceford's "Margie,") and he informed the audience about the immense history behind each band or piece of music Rounding out the great songs of the evening was the Casa Loma Orchestra's "Casa Loma Stomp," which Schoenberg described as "a memorable tune you will be humming like root-toot-tooty-toot." All during the song, audience members filled in with a "root-toot-tooty-toot" where appropriate."    

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Peter Watrous, The NY Times:

"...it turns out that the playing of older works in concert settings does not prevent new music from being made. This was proved this week by two exceptional shows, one by Loren Schoenberg, who was re-creating Benny Goodman's hugely influential small group recordings of the late '30s and early '40s at Michael's Pub, and the other by Wynton Marsalis at the Village Vanguard...Mr. Schoenberg stuck to the arrangements but let the solo sections flower."

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Clive Davis, London Times:

"...after an hour of intense dialogues, it was a relief to walk outside into the sunshine and discover Loren Schoenberg deftly coaxing a pick-up trio through 'Gone With The Wind'.."    

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Chip DeFaa, The Daily News:

"Schoenberg himself is overdue for major-club exposure...as a sax soloist, Schoenberg is an appealing storyteller, which is rarer than it should be. His solos were concise, surprising and interesting. He's outgrown the reputation he once had for being a Lester Young clone."    

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Will Friedwald, Village Voice:

"Navigating by the stars of Goodman, Ellington and Prez, this elegantly-swinging ensemble never sounds better than when they're inspiring dancers and visa-versa."    

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Peter Watrous, The NY Times:

Loren Schoenberg Plays Catchy Ellington Sound

"Loren Schoenberg's big-band show at the Cat Club on Sunday night, a joint production of the Duke Ellington Society and the New York Swing Dance Society, should be judged on how well those on the packed dance floor moved. The drummer Mel Lewis — helped along by the sturdy walking lines of Peter Washington on bass — propelled the band, throwing in rhythmic kicks to make things more lively. Dancers were writhing and swinging on the fast tunes, and swaying gracefully on the ballads.

"Mr. Schoenberg, a tenor saxophonist, leads a fine, big-toned band sprinkled with some of New York's better jazz musicians — Dick Katz playing piano, Jon Faddis on trumpet, Mr. Lewis on drums and Danny Banks on baritone saxophone. The purpose of the concert was to play tunes by Duke Ellington — dancing at these occasions is a given - and for his second set, Mr. Schoenberg, who's put in his time as an Ellington scholar, brought out some rarely heard compositions from Mr. Ellington's late-50s band, including selections from Mr. Ellington's albums 'Bal Masque' and 'Nutcracker Suite.'

"These are brilliant pieces, and the band, which has been together for the last five years, did the excerpts justice. Mr. Schoenberg's interpretation of the selections stretched them out, giving the band and the dancers time to relax in a groove. The relaxation was contagious, and when Mr. Faddis playfully opened his solo on 'The Peanut Vender' (from 'Bal Masque') by quoting 'Salt Peanuts,' the audience cheered him on.

"But rare items from the 50s weren't the only things on Mr. Schoenberg's mind. The band played an intimate version of ''Warm Valley'' that had dancers dancing close to one another. On 'It Don't Mean a Thing,' Barbara Lea sang, then left to allow wave after wave of riffs to inspire the dancers. Mr. Schoenberg started swapping four-bar solos with Doug Lawrence, a tenor saxophonist. Adding a coarse edge to his tone, Mr. Schoenberg bobbled a few notes rhythmically, pushing the dancers even harder, giving a good idea of what solos were for in the first place."    

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Francis Davis, reviewing Manhatttan Work Song as one of the best albums of 1994, Village Voice:

"This is one repertory band whose tempos never rush or lag, probably because it plays for dancers."  

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Chip DeFaa, The Daily News:

"I liked his rendition of 'Body and Soul' (Bobby Short), enhanced by Loren Schoenberg's gently billowing tenor sax work.."    

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George Kanzler, Newark Star-Ledger:

"On this album, the material ranges from vintage Ellington ("Moon Over Cuba" and "Jig Walk") to new arrangements - including the arresting fantasia James Chirillo has created from the title song - to surprisingly off-beat, refreshingly different arrangements of pop tunes culled from big band history. Among them are Bill Finegan's original, pastel take on "The Blue Room", and Eddie Sauter's imaginative "The Fable Of The Rose." Chirillo also contributes a wonderful big band orchestration of an Astor Piazolla tango, "Pulcacion No.1." And for a textbook example on how to build from a loose, small group feel with superior solos to swinging big band choruses, don't miss "That Old Feeling."   

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Jazzwise (UK):

"This exceptional album has an intriguing mix of styles and demands to be listened to in its entirety - there are no "representative" tracks. The opening number, "That Old Feeling", gives an impression of a Gerry Mulligan arrangement - it's actually by Mark Lopeman, an associate of the saxophonist. But then "Blue Room" figures in an arrangement played by Tommy Dorsey, and there are recreations of rare Ellington numbers "Moon Over Cuba" and "Jig Walk". Bob Graettinger's "Iguana" is more straight-ahead than his famous work for Kenton. Mixed in with this repertory jazz are small group performances, some with singer Barbara Lea, whose voice is in the region of latter-day Lee Wiley or Rosemary Clooney. Featured soloists include altoist Steve Wilson, and veterans Eddie Bert (trombone) and Danny Bank (clarinet). The whole show is pulled together by 40-year-old Loren Schoenberg, who also plays tenor sax. A potpourri perhaps, but an immensely enjoyable one."   

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John Bowers, www.allaboutjazz.com:

"One of the things that makes Loren Schoenberg's orchestra such a pleasure to hear is the leader's almost encyclopedic knowledge of music - not only Jazz, but music in general - and his willingness to embrace so many styles and genres to frame a musical image that not only charms but surprises as well. On Out of This World, Schoenberg shifts gears more often than a truck driver in West Virginia, but every move he makes meshes perfectly with the others to produce a colorful and cohesive listening experience. The orchestra, which is nearing its 20th anniversary, traverses far-flung territory from swing to contemporary, sampling the wares of such disparate composer/arrangers as Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Billy Strayhorn, Astor Piazzolla, Eddie Sauter, Bill Finegan, Sammy Fain, Harold Arlen, Bob Graettinger, Jerome Kern, Benny Carter, Bill Holman and Sigmund Romberg. The songs vary from the well-known ("That Old Feeling," "Love Walked In," "Out of This World") to the barely known (Ellington's "Moon Over Cuba" and "Jig Walk," Piazzolla's "Pulsacion #1," Kern's "Sure Thing," Graettinger's "Iguana," Carter's "Shufflebug Shuffle") and striking originals by members of the orchestra (Mark Lopeman's "VFW," Eddie Bert's "Around Town"). Schoenberg's acumen is reflected in his wonderful choice of material for the band's vocalist, Barbara Lea - Strayhorn's "Bittersweet" (lyrics by Roger Schore), Kern/Ira Gershwin's seldom-encountered "Sure Thing," and most enchanting of all, Romberg/Dorothy Fields' precious gem, "Close as Pages in a Book," from a long-forgotten Broadway musical (circa 1945), Lea's singing the verse to this ardent love song is as mouth-watering as icing on a cake.

"The names Sauter and Finegan, of course, are linked in many minds because of their groundbreaking big band of more than 40 years ago. Sauter is represented here by his arrangement of another obscure tune, "The Fable of the Rose," Finegan by his version of Rodgers and Hart's "Blue Room." Guitarist James Chirillo scored Arlen/Johnny Mercer's "Out of This World" and Piazzolla's tango, "Pulsacion #1," while Lopeman arranged the walking opener, Fain/Lew Brown's "That Old Feeling," which manifests a definite Zoot Sims/Bob Brookmeyer feeling with Schoenberg sitting in for Zoot, valve trombonist Mike Christianson for Brookmeyer. While there are few extended solos (the orchestra is top banana), altos Jon Gordon ("VFW," Bill Holman's arrangement of "Lover Man") and Steve Wilson ("Pulsacion #1"), clarinetist Scott Robinson ("Fable of the Rose") and tenor Doug Lawrence ("Around Town") are given room to stretch, and each one is exemplary. Other earnest soloists include Schoenberg, Christianson, Chirillo, trumpeters Tony Kadkeck and John Eckert, trombonists Bert and Bobby Pring, bassist Dennis Irwin and pianist Dick Katz. "Close as Pages in a Book" is performed by a smaller group, as is an easygong version of "Love Walked In." But big band or small, Schoenberg has the right idea, and Out of This World is, in the best sense of that phrase, a fairly accurate description of much of the music on this marvelous TCB release."   

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Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner:

"Here's an orchestral performance by some of the best studio professionals on the New York scene, led by tenor saxist Schoenberg, who also heads Bobby Short's band both on the road and at the CafĂ© Carlyle. In all that he does, whether on his radio shows, playing the sax, writing arrangements, selecting sidemen or leading/conducting his own orchestra, which plays regularly around New York, Schoenberg is a perfectionist. This is a quite a package of music - beautifully written, played and recorded. TCB is a Swiss record label known as the "Montreux Jazz Label". It has national distribution in the United States."    

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