Jazz Big Band Recommendations?

Are there any other Big Band fanatics out there? I'm looking for some new stuff. Not the usual oldies (Basie, Ellington, etc.), but some good modern big bands that may not be that well known.
Off the top of my head:

Mingus Big Band and Mingus Orchestra
Thad Jones and Mel Lewis
Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin
Gil Evans

I tried one of the more recent Bill Holman albums that was well-reviewed, and was somewhat disappointed with the slightly aimless and generic-sounding feeling I got from both the tunes and the arrangements. Maybe the fact that the band was playing with an orchestra lent the project a stilted quality, but it just didn't swing, which is still essential IMO. Sorry that won't help much...
Last month they had a free 'big bad daddy voodo' presentation on Direct tv. I thought they were pretty hot---and I'm an old fart;whom remembers Glen Grey, TD, BG, Miller, and has a lot of that genera's music. They just do the 'big-band' on a smaller scale.
Check out the Dave Holland Big Band and the Jaco Pastorus Big Band. Not new, but worth looking for: Gil Evans' Monday Orchestra Live at Sweet Basil Vol.1 or Vol.2.

Although hardly unknown, I have to put my 2-cents in for The Buddy Rich Big Band (its many permutations of personel, notwithstanding). They left us with a wealth of material that is seeing daylight on CDs.

I could type away with the many titles but I recommend, if you haven't heard it already, "The Best Of Buddy Rich - The Pacific Years" (CDP72438 5 7568-2 5).

Among all the great tracks, track 8 has the "Channel 1 Suite" a tour-de-force of playing with perhaps the most virtuosic tenor sax solo by Don Menza, in the 2nd movement. This track, I believe, was originally from the album "Buddy Rich At Cesar's Palace"

The Thad Jones and Mel Lewis and Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin are also among my favorites. Although, the raw energy and supernatural drumming of Buddy Rich always leave me speechless (even though, ok, I'll say it, Mr. Rich does tend to hog the action sometimes.) But man, what a hog!
I know it's not exactly what you are looking for but, I have been playing the crap out of a new disk by Geoff Muldaur. It's called "Private Astronomy, A vision of the music of Bix Beiderbecke". Really, really great arrangements of Bix tunes (some of which were never recorded). Check it out it's a good one.
A couple to add to your list -

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra has a live album that is one of the all-time best. Great charts and great playing.

Maria Schneider has several albums that may catch your fancy.
I second the Dave Holland

Ginger Baker and DJQ20

Carla Bley Big Band, I don't think much of the new one "Looking for America" but the rest are good, "Goes to Church" and "Live" are a few favorites.

Joe Henderson Big Band
Some of this stuff may not fit everyones idea of what a big band is, but if there's more than 8 players and some jazz influences are apparent, it works for me. Anyway here are a few i'm hanging onto:

Maarten Altena/Quotl
Ken Schaphorst Big Band/Purple
Either Orchestra/Radium, More Beautiful Than Death
Vanguard Jazz Orch./Music of Jim McNeely
George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band/First Prize
Patrick Zimmereli/Octurn
Orange Then Blue/Hold the Elevator
Gil Evans Orch./Tribute to Gil (the Hendrix ones are fun too)
The Now Orchestra/WOWOW
The New York Composers Orch.(all)
Orkest de Volharding/Trajekten
Circulasione Totale Orch./Accent
Pierre Favre/European Chamber Ensemble
Anthony Davis/Episteme, Undine
Edward Vesala/Nordic Gallery
Orchestre National de Jazz/Charmmediterraneen
Paul Termos/Death Dance of Principles
Frank Zappa/Grand Wazoo
Per Henrik Wallin/Tiveden
Norbert Stein Pata Orch./Die wilden Pferde der armen Leute
Magali Souriau Orch./Birdland Sessions
Ardvark Orch./Steps Out
Clubfoot Orch./Metropolis (all are good)
Rene Rosnes/ and the Radio Danish Big Band
Umo Jazz Orch/Transit People
Absolute Ensemble/Absolution
Neufeld Occhipinti Jazz Orch./NOJO
The Bob Florence Limited Edition is one of the best big bands going. Several CDs are on the MAMA label. Bob has done most of the composing and arranging on these albums. Stan Kenton recordings remain very good examples the best in big band jazz performances. Enjoy!
Don't leave out Maynard Ferguson's big band stuff, guys. Its not as old as some nor as new as others, but his bands always kick hard. And old or not, no one swung harder than Basie's bands.
Ray Anderson big band record on Gramavision, it's out of print but still easy to find, and remember "don't mow your lawn".also the Italian Instable Orchestra.
Lots of good suggestions above, so let me throw out a few more that are in a bit different bag. I'm a BIG fan of tenor saxist David Murray, and he has done several terrific albums with his big band and also a sextet. His stuff is a bit "outside", and will stretch your ears a bit, but it's great music.

Willem Brueker Kollectif, a Dutch big band, is lots of fun. Their stuff is also a bit "outside", but they also swing like hell. Not to everyone's taste, but if you are an adventurous listener then you should definitely give them a listen.

The Buddy Rich Big Band had some excellent recordings, and one of my favorites is titled "Buddy Rich Big Band 'Live' WHAM!" and issued on CD by a small company called Label M (CD #495717). The solos are on this release are outstanding, and the guys all blow their asses off in these live sessions.

You might also enjoy the few recordings that Dizzy Gillespie did with various incarnations of his big bands, starting in the late 1940's. Some years ago, when I was teaching a course in jazz appreciation, I showed a videotape in class that featured the Dizzy Gillespie Dream Band in concert at the Lincoln Center in New York (early 1980's). I think this band did at least one commercial release, and maybe several. It's worth searching for their recordings.

During the mid-to-late 1950's, there were some excellent "West Coast" bands working in LA. The bands, such as the one led by Shorty Rogers, featured some of the greatest jazz musicians active on the west coast scene (such as Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Shelly Manne, Conte Candoli, Russ Freeman, Gerry Mulligan, Curtis Counce, etc.), and ranged from "cool" to relatively "hot". The west coast scene had a bit different sound and texture than the east coast bands of the time, with a somewhat lighter texture and swing. I have a fair amount of west coast stuff in my collection, and always enjoy hearing it again. (If you haven't listened to Art Pepper's recording called "Art Pepper + Eleven", you should add it to your collection.)

Carla Bley and her big band have done some of the most adventurous work in this genre, yet her big band work is not widely known beyond the circle of serious jazz fans. IMO, she deserves a much wider audience.

Another favorite of mine is the Sun Ra Arkestra. His work is among the most eclectic in the big band genre, but anyone who is serious about big band work needs to own at least several of Sun Ra's recordings.

"Black Dahlia", by the Bob Belden band, is an excellent big band album released several years ago. It received a LOT of critical jazz acclaim (Downbeat 5-star rating, and chosen as one of the jazz recordings of the year by several jazz publications). It's one of the recordings that I go back to repeatedly when I want something that not only has real content, but is also wonderfully atmospheric.

Hope some of these ideas stimulate your interest.
Certainly the queen of big bands is Carla Bley.
Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra
Keith Tippett 50-piece band,
Jasun Martz big band,
Dave Grusin,
and of course with no exception to Frank Zappa in particular the album "The Best Band You've Never Heard in Your Life".
Thanks, folks. This is exactly what I was looking for. Lots of great recommendations here.

VVrinc, I agree with you on Buddy Rich. There are lots of good drummers. Buddy was incredible.
Check out -

Bob Mintzer music and
G. Goodwin and his Big Phat Band

Happy to know you appreciate Rich. He wasn't only a great drummer he had an uncanny ability to choose personel that emulated his "full-steam-ahead" style. I have found that many big bands have great soloists but not that succesful ensemble work. Of course, the ultimate "ensemble" guy was Stan Kenton and his many bands. All the greats that later went on to front their own bands and groups played for Kenton. He, like Rich, also handpicked the excellent composers and arrangers that wrote for them.

If Kenton has not been in your collection, please give him a listen. The "Cuban Fire" and "Adventures in Jazz" albums were ground-breaking events in music.

Best wishes.
VVrinc, I'm a big fan of Kenton, too. I was introduced to Kenton's music in the mid '70s when I was playing in my high school's jazz ensemble. I'll check out Cuban Fire, I don't have that one. Another band I like, that carries on Kenton's use of complex harmonies, is Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. If you can find it, a direct-to-disc recording of theirs simply called Big Band Jazz (1977) is still one of their best, IMO, though "Our 25th Year" (1993) is very good also. They also made a recording with Mel Torme called Velvet and Brass that is excellent.

Two more tips for you if you are interested in the new directions big band music is taking.

The UMO Jazz Orchestra (Naxos Jazz 86010-2)
Tolvan Big Band (Naxos Jazz 86025-2)

The first, a Finnish group. The second, from Denmark. Both polinated from American models and influences but absolutely worth-listening for excellent performances and compositions/arrangements.

The new Jaco Big Band tribute album is pretty good. I also enjoyed the Claude Bolling Big Band album.

if you're still interested, the Basie band is still growing strong. The have a couple of new CDs on mama jazz recordings [mamajazz.org]. On mama jazz, also look for Bob Florence and Gerald Wilson. They both do big band stuff. Also, Qincy Jones did a big band thing a few years ago called Basie and Beyond....I think that's the title. Go to reference recordings home page and look for Big Band Basie. I have more if you need them.
Gerald Wilson, Sun Ra, Italian Instabile Orchestra, Mike Westbrook, NOW Orchestra, Vienna Art Orchestra, Asian American Orchestra.
Just to follow up, I bought several CDs based on the recommendations given here. There's lots of good stuff, but if I had to pick one outstanding find it would be the Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. I bought "Swinging for the Fences" and "XXL". Both are great. Goodwin's style is uniquely his own but reminds me of Rob McConnell, Les Hooper, Tommy Newsom, and Louis Bellson in spots. It is of the more straight-ahead variety than avant-garde. If you haven't heard of these guys I urge you to check them out.
Nighthawk, thanks for the input. I also went out and bought the same two discs that you bought. Wow what a kickin group. Lots of styles, and lots of appearances from greats.

Michael Wolff
I just ordered Big Phat Band off Ebay a few days ago. Sounds like I'm in for a big surprise. Have any of you guys tried any of the CDs I mentioned earlier?
Nighthawk, if you like Big Band stuff, you must have a pretty good system huh?
boy, did you guys hit my sweet spot with is thread.

Here's the webpage for one of the best kept secrets in Big Band Jazz: http://www.knoxjazz.org/. CDs available.

Also, I've been doing a lot of traveling lately to Paducah, KY. You won't believe this but the Basie band was there in March....and Maynard Ferguson was there just a few weeks ago.....in Paducah Kentucky! BTW, I think Maynard also has a new Big Band CD out.
Blurock, thanks for the tip on the KJO. Which CD of theirs would you recommend? By the way, have you ever heard of the Chris McDonald Orchestra from Nashville, TN? I'm not sure if it is a regular band, or just a bunch of Nashville studio musicians that meet for an occassional recording. In any case, they have a couple of outstanding releases on Green Hill Music with real generic titles like Big Band Classics and Big Band Favorites. At first glance you might think they are Musak type CDs but once you start listening that will be quickly dismissed. All of the charts ARE old standards but Chris has a really fresh arranging style and the band is really tight. In addition, they are superbly recorded. I use the Big Band Favorites CD for auditioning equipment, it is so well done. It is the best sounding CD recording of a big band I have. (I think the best sounding record would probably be the direct to disc version of Harry James' "King James Version" on Sheffield. Just incredible.)
George: If you liked Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, then be sure to also check out the Cherry Poppin' Daddys and Brian Setzer, in all his various incarnations. You may also dig the Squirrel Nut Zippers, though I would call them small band swing.

Also in the category of "it's not big band, but it's more than 8 musicians with some jazz influences", I continue to be blown away by the Kansas City All-Stars on the soundtrack to the movie "Kansas City" - which I have not seen, though I really should. I saw the KC All-Stars headline a Verve jazz fest, with Charlie Hayden and Joe Henderson Trio opening up, and they absolutely blew me away.

Great thread!

About KJO: There's a tune they wrote called "Angst". They always play it at all their concerts here in Knoxville. I would have to say, it's their signature tune. I don't think thier latest CD has it on it though..... I would start out with their latest [The Music of Donald Brown], which came out a few months ago. If you like it, then you can go back in time. All their stuff is pretty good.

I think the Nashville Orchestra is much like the Knoxville Orchestra.....just a bunch of guys with day jobs [some in music...some not] who love to play. It's amazing to me that these groups stay together. Most of them play virtually for free.

I'll look into your recommendations. BTW, I find Big Band Basie [Reference Recordings] to be excellent for tuning in a system.
I agree 100% about KS All-stars. I wouldn't worry to mach about the movie though. It was good but the soundtrack was much better.

For those loving Big Band music, you may also want to look at big bands from South of the border. I saw Bueno Vista Social Club here last year at the Tennessee Theater. The name of their big band is called the Afro-Cuban All Stars and they have several CDs out and their singer is TERRIFIC!. All I can say is when I saw them, they had people here ...in Knoxville, TN...literally dancing in the isles. If you know anything about Knoxville, then you know how special that is.
I heard the Afro-Cuban All Stars on the radio recently (NPR, I think), and I agree. They are well worth a listen!

heard a piece of this on NPR Jazz last night. Pretty good stuff.

If you ever go to New Orleans, there is a not-well-kept-secret that the place to hear the best jazz in town is Preservation Hall. They bring in great sounding no-name bands to maintain the heritage of old fashioned jazz. The room is small and rustic to provide an enjoyable, and intimate experience. Preservation Hall records these presentations and sells the CDs at there website. To give you an idea of their popularity, lines circle around the block on weekends, but only the front of the line gets in because of the small size of the room.
Maybe I missed it, but in all of these great suggestions nobody mentioned the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band or CBBB as often referred by. This was a band several years ahead of their time and many of their recordings have been reissued in CD format. "Now Hear Our Meanin'", "Handle With Care", "Jazz is Universal". Mostly European players who matched their American counterparts.

Also check out the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
Right on, Redwoodgarden! Preservation Hall is a must visit for any trip to New Orleans. I have several of their CDs, which although somewhat noisy, I find to be very well recorded from an imaging/soundstage perspective.
Great suggesion about Clayton/Hamilton. BTW, I just got in a DVD of the Mike Vax Big Band at Morningside College. Apparently, it's a recording they made at a jazz festival in 1995. I think it's a bunch of guys that used to play with Kenton. Haven't watch it yet.

And here's another one I pulled from the NPR jazz program. This groups been around for awhile. http://www.vanguardjazzorchestra.com/. They do some top flight stuff and they have a new release that you can purchase from their website.
I "third" the Dave Holland big band.
Hey Nighthawk,

I have a great jazz/big band recommendation for you! His name is Matt Dusk and he's a 24-year-old budding star from Canada. YOu might have caught him on FOX's "The Casino" this past week... he plays the hotel's lounge singer. Anyway if you didn't get a chance to see him on the show, you missed out! His voice is phenomenal... like a young Frank Sinatra! Check out his site at www.mattdusk.com and tell me waht you think. =)
I recommend the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band. The Mosaic set is out of print, but individual CDs are still available. These are the charts that Basie did not want to
touch because they were too complex.
Lavay Smith,,wow
For something comtemporary, Dave Berger and the Sultans of Swing. In the mode of Duke. See sultansofswing.com
Saw the Dave Holland Big Band last month at Birdland, 10 horns on stage! in addition to vibes, drums ( the utterly amazing Nate Smith), and obviously a pretty good bass player :^) They blew the roof off.
Mario Bauza's "Tanga Suite". This will take you back to the height of the Mambo craze in the late 50s early 60s when there was considerable overlap in the personnel of the best jazz and mambo bands. This is a fabulous recording from the early 90s. I always bring it in my periodic explorations of what's new and wonderful on the audio scene.