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Thread: Best Quintets, Sextets and Big Bands

  1. #1
    AAJ's Barrel Roller xricci's Avatar
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    Best Quintets, Sextets and Big Bands

    I just published George Harris's piece...

    Best Quintets, Sextets and Big Bands

    If you have a favorite quintet, sextet and/or big band, feel free to post them here.

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    Best quintet ever is the mid sixties Miles Davis Quintet. Nobody can touch these guys.

    As far as sextets, that's a bit harder. Possibly the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet?

    My favorite big band ever is Basie's from the late 1930s, followed by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.

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    As far as sextets go, I didn't mention the Miles Davis one because they weren't together for more than a few months. But if this can be counted, then the Kind of Blue band is at the top.

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    It will come as no suprise to some on this board that my favorite Big Band was the Herman First Herd. It is impossible to find a more exciting Band in Jazz history - But I think for the long haul the greatest were both Ellington and Basie. By that I mean, edition after edition of those band were consistently superb.

    As for sextets I favor the 1945 Dizzie group with Charlie Parker that did "Groovin' High" and the Quintet that cut "Shaw 'Nuff"

    Other small groups I liked were Miles, Shaws Gramercy Fives, and Goodman.
    Keep the Blue Flame Burning

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    The first quintet that comes to mind if the famous Roach/Brown Quintet from the mid 1950s. Then there were Miles fifties quintet with Philly Joe, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Coltrane and then the sextet with Cannonball, Wynton Kelly or Bill Evans, Coltrane again, Chambers and Jimmy Cobb.

    Another great quintet is Wynton's, with Kenny Kirkland, his big brother Branford, Tain Watts and Robert Hurst.

    Branford has had nice quartets. I like the one with the Kirkland, Hurst & Watts rhythm section and I like his current band, which includes Joey Calderazzo, Eric Revis & Tain.

    There were many great Blakey quintets. Where to you begin? Those bands with Timmons, Walton, Hubbard, Shorter, Morgan et al. And his sextet with Curtis Fuller on 'bone is also pretty good. That late 1970s sextet with a Bobby Watson, David Schnitter & Valery Ponomarev front line and a Blakey, James Williams, Dennis Irwin rhythm section is one of my favorites. And near and dear to my hear is Blakey's early-to-mid 1980s sextet that I saw perform with the Terence Blanchard, Duck Harrison, Jean Toussant front-line and the Mulgrew Miller, Lonnie Plaxico, Blakey rhythm section.

    Coltrane's quartet with McCoy, Elvin and Garrison is a great one.

    I love Tony Williams late eighties/early nineties quintet with all those ex-Messengers Bill Pierce, Wallace Roney & Mulgrew Miller with Ira Coleman on bass.

    And Bobby Watson's Horizon is one of the great -- and underrated/underrecognized bands -- that still plays togehter. Watson and trumpeter Terell Stafford kill and that Ed Simon, Essiett Essiett, Victor Lewis rhythm section is of the finger poppin' variety.

    Roy Hargrove has had some great quintets. I loved that band that included Sherman Irby on alto, Roy on trumpet with the Larry Willis, Gerald Cannon, Willie Jones III rhythm section. And Roy's current quintet with Ronnie Mathews, Jones, Dwayne Burno and Justin Robinson isn't exactly chopped liver either.

    One For All is one of the better sextets. The Steve Davis, Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi rhythm section is about as good as you can get and back them with a David Hazeltine, Joe Farnsworth, bass player of your choice and you will hear some kick ass jazz.

    Cedar Walton's Eastern Rebellion bands were pretty good. I think Sam Jones was the bass player and Billy Higgins was the drummer. Sax players in that band included George Coleman and Bob Berg.

    And how about George Coleman's quartet with Harold Mabern on piano and Jamil Nassir on bass with a rotating cast of drummers. George's new quartet with Joe Farnsworth on drums, John Webber on bass and Mabes on piano is one I try not to miss when they gig in NYC.

    And I loved Johnny Griffin's band with Michael Weiss, John Webber and Kenny Washington. And that band Grif co-led with Lockjaw Davis is also a great one.

    So many. I could be here all day.

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    Talking

    What about current incarnation of the Dave Holland Quintet (Holland-bass, Steve Nelson-vibes, Robin Eubanks-trombone, Chris Potter-saxes, and Nate Smith/Billy Kilson-drums)?

    They have recorded some truly landmark albums over the last 4-5 years and never fail to be entertaining and captivating in live performances.

    Also, extending this quintet with additional musicians a la The Dave Holland Big Band is a great listen as well.

    LWayne

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    Quintets and Sextets

    The Cannonball/Nat Adderly bands certainly qualify for a top ten (maybe five?) list. The rhythm sections with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes were soooo tight and tough, the pianists (Timmons, Victor Feldman and especially Zawinul) were monsters. Cannon remains under-rated - one of the top three or four alto players of all time and Nat could pretty much keep up. Too bad about their later work, but what didn't suck in the late 60s/early 70s "jazz" scene? Besides Miles, of course, who only sucked intermittently.

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    No TJ/ML?

    I find it amazing that the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis band didn't even place in the big band category ... both in terms of greatness and influence. Great writing, great soloing, great rhythm section, and chair-for-chair the most distinctive and personal sound since Duke. The Solid State recordings are absolutely essential listening. Even today, the Vanguard Band has an enormous influence, with Brookmeyer (how about his NAO?), McNeely, Werner and others at the forefront. Can any present band on the east coast or Europe claim it is untouched by Thad & Mel?

    And... TJ/ML was begat by Basie and the Gerry Mulligan CJB - where are they? What an important (if short-lived) group, bringing together Lewis, Brookmeyer, Holman, Gil, Phil Woods... all in one band! Not to slight the other bands that made the list, but the CJB was the Mount Rushmore of Big Band jazz.

    I have to agree with Duke & Basie being 1 and 2, for overall greatness, consistancy, innovation, artistry, and sheer jazz power over the long haul. Even their lesser albums have the mark of genius. But beyond them, I think there were some overlooked classics.

  9. #9
    Compose /Arranger / Jazz Prod. Phil Kelly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rscarbro
    I find it amazing that the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis band didn't even place in the big band category ... both in terms of greatness and influence. Great writing, great soloing, great rhythm section, and chair-for-chair the most distinctive and personal sound since Duke. The Solid State recordings are absolutely essential listening. Even today, the Vanguard Band has an enormous influence, with Brookmeyer (how about his NAO?), McNeely, Werner and others at the forefront. Can any present band on the east coast or Europe claim it is untouched by Thad & Mel?

    And... TJ/ML was begat by Basie and the Gerry Mulligan CJB - where are they? What an important (if short-lived) group, bringing together Lewis, Brookmeyer, Holman, Gil, Phil Woods... all in one band! Not to slight the other bands that made the list, but the CJB was the Mount Rushmore of Big Band jazz.

    I have to agree with Duke & Basie being 1 and 2, for overall greatness, consistancy, innovation, artistry, and sheer jazz power over the long haul. Even their lesser albums have the mark of genius. But beyond them, I think there were some overlooked classics.
    I want to add a big second to all the above:

    AS great as the Ellington legacy is, I think as a group jazz fans, writers, tend to elevate the Ellington band a bit beyond its actual quality as an ensemble ..

    whereas, the Basie band managed to maintain consistency troughout its 50 some years ..

    and omitting the Mulligan CJB in favor of Sun Ra was really off the wall ..

    awaiting flames
    Swing ..or I'll kill you ( Bill Potts )
    RIP

  10. #10
    trumpet tpt1's Avatar
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    Quintet: Miles' Quintet with Coltrane, Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers.

    Sextet: Miles with Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Coltrane, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers.

    Favorite big band recording is Clark Terry's Big B-A-D Band Live at the Wichita Jazz Festival (1974) -- at least that's the one I have listened to most over the years.

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    quintet: Miles with Trane, Garland, Chambers, Philly J.J., and his "second" quintet with Shorter, Hancock, Carter, Williams.
    sextet: Jazz Messengers with Hubbard, Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman.
    Big Band: Thad Jones/Mel Lewis . Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland

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    The Benny Goodman Trio/Quartet/Big Band from 1937-1938 (the "Carnegie Hall" band). There are some killer radio shows from 1937 available for free mp3 download at www.radiolovers.com.

  13. #13
    Be Bop Lives! Dennis_M's Avatar
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    I would have to go with the Miles Davis quintet with Coltrane, Chambers, et al., and the Dizzy/Bird sextet of the mid-40’s. As for big bands, I do think longevity counts. I prefer Basie over Ellington. Ellington’s music was perhaps more intellectual, and definitely more diverse, but Basie’s music swings. But I’ll make a controversial third pick: Stan Kenton. He was out there a long time, and like it or not, he was an innovator, and had many great musicians playing for him.

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