Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra’s An Afternoon in Gowanus, with Never-Before-Recorded Compositions and Arrangements Out October 27, 2017 on Jazzkey Records

Album Features All-Star Big Band Section Players Jerry Dodgion and Sam Burtis,
Alongside Rising Stars John Ellis, Jacob Garchik, Loren Stillman and Seneca Black
Produced by Drummer & Son, Ben Perowsky

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The Frank Perowsky Jazz Orchestra is a 16-piece ensemble with the finest and most sought after instrumentalists in NYC. The musicians are legendary in their own right, including Jerry Dodgion & Sam Burtis who have been working alongside Perowsky for more than forty years in bands such as Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd and Chico O’Farrill’s Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra. This ensemble spans generations, bringing a unique mixture of personalities, expressions and excitement to their sound.

Upon graduating from The Juilliard School as a clarinet major in 1958, Frank began his career in the big bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Les and Larry Elgart. He performed and/or recorded with Tito Rodriguez, Johnny Richards, Bill Watrous, Billy Taylor, Roland Hanna, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Nancy Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Michel Legrand, Stan Getz and Liza Minnelli. His arrangement of Bud Powell’s composition “Bouncin’ With Bud” was recorded by Buddy Rich on the “Class Of ‘78” album. Roland Hanna recorded Frank’s “Samba De La Noce” and Bill Watrous recorded Frank’s arrangement of Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart.”

“My dad will turn 83 this coming November”, says Ben “and we’ve never had the chance to document his fantastic big band arrangements. I decided to produce and play drums on this first recording.”

Perowsky landed in New York from his native Des Moines, Iowa in 1953, attending the Juilliard School studying classical clarinet with Daniel Bonade, a famous orchestral clarinetist with the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras. “I played in the orchestra under Jean Morel,” recalls Perowsky. “He was a great conductor and musician. As a teenager he was the percussionist on Stravinsky’s ‘Histoire du Soldat.’ Just sitting in the middle of that symphony orchestra was an experience”

At Juilliard, Perowsky met trombonist and composer Tom McIntosh and drummer Bobby Thomas in 1954. McIntosh had been in the army for 10 years. “Tom was in this band which eventually became the impetus for Truman to integrate the Armed Forces. I met him in a sight singing class.” This began a lifelong friendship. Sir Roland Hanna was also a  classmate at the time and later they all had a band that recorded and worked in the Catskills. On “An Afternoon in Gowanus” Perowsky records McIntosh’s classic, “The Cup Bearers.”

“For two years at Juilliard I had Henry Brandt for counterpoint and harmony. At the time, Juilliard didn’t have a jazz program but we made our own little program.” Perowsky, McIntosh and a few others organized a small group class with Brandt outside of the school. “Frank comes from an era before jazz was taught in school or institutionalized,” says his son. Musicians typically learned on the street and in the clubs.

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Perowsky says of the jazz scene in the 1950’s, “The best jazz was at Birdland. I heard Al Cohn, the Basie band, a lot of Bud Powell. I would get there early to sit in the peanut gallery right next to the piano for a buck seventy five. Bud was just as important to me as Bird and Diz. One of the great geniuses of jazz.” In fact, the saxophone soli on “Bouncin’ With Bud” on the record is based on two Powell solos, harmonized.

“I played on three records with Johnny Richards, a master orchestrator who worked with Victor Young, one of my biggest heroes. If I were playing with him now I’d be peppering him with questions about that experience. I can’t say that I learned how to write for big band from any one person. It’s from just being in the scene; from playing in those bands, just sitting in that symphony orchestra, it’s an amazing experience. When you’re sitting there and you got 15 bars out, are you just sitting there counting the bars or are you listening to whats going on?”

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Ben sees his father as an endless repository of jazz stories: “Often he’ll come out with some nugget from his past: a random jam session with Philly Joe Jones or Eric Dolphy, seeing Charlie Parker at Birdland with Bud Powell, Mingus and Max Roach, being a fly on the wall at Sonny Rollins’s Bridge sessions. Often when I run into musicians of his age or younger, they ask about him and immediately tell me that he was the first musician they met in NY. People like Jon Faddis, Alex Foster and on and on.”

Frank Perowsky was always working. “The Plaza had a band, the Waldorf had a band, the Americana had a band. “You would play for dancing and then you play the act. I got to work with greats like Toots Thielemans, Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee, among others.” Perowsky also played in numerous Broadway pit orchestras. His reed playing appeared on multiple cast recordings, most notably “The Wiz.” He also recorded a 1966 date on Atlantic Records with the pianist, and fellow Juilliard graduate Valerie Capers, as well as a string of dates with singer Tito Rodriguez, trombonist Bill Watrous. “My dad is too modest. I remember when I was growing up, he had bands with Rufus Reid, Chuck Loeb, Chip Jackson, Dave Samuels, Richard Williams, John McNeil and Billy Hart, among others. They would play at places like Mikell’s and the Jazz Forum.”

Perowsky says, “I’m just thrilled to still be making music with my own band along with my son, Ben, on drums. Ben has put together a great group of musicians and we hope to be playing together for a long time.”

More About Frank Perowsky –

Frank Perowsky is a New York City based saxophonist and clarinetist who throughout his career has toured or performed with such artists as Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Nancy Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Michel Legrand and Stan Getz. Upon graduating from The Juilliard School as a clarinet major in 1958, Frank began his career in the big bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Les and Larry Elgart playing the jazz tenor chair. He has since performed and/or recorded with Tito Rodriguez, Johnny Richards, Bill Watrous, Billy Taylor, Roland Hanna, and Chico O’Farrill. He recorded and toured with Liza Minnelli for more than 35 years. Frank began composing and arranging in his teens. His arrangement of Bud Powell’s composition “Bouncin’ With Bud” was recorded by Buddy Rich on the “Class Of ‘78” album. Roland Hanna recorded Frank’s “Samba De La Noce” and Bill Watrous recorded Frank’s arrangement of Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart,”  In 1997 Frank founded his own record label Jazzkey Music which has a catalogue of five CDs.

Album Personnel:

Saxes: Jerry Dodgion, Loren Stillman, John Ellis, Bob Franceschini, Roger Rosenberg

Trumpets: Seneca Black, Chris Rogers, Antoine Drye, Waldron Ricks

Trombones: Sam Burtis, Jacob Garchik, Brian Drye, Joe Randazzo

Rhythm Section: Piano: David Berkman; Bass: Aidan O’Donnell; Drums: Ben Perowsky;

Vocal: Ira Hawkins

Track Listing: 

1. Big Apple Circus (Frank Perowsky) (Soloists: David Berkman, piano; Loren Stillman, alto sax) 4:18

2. Bouncin’ With Bud (Bud Powell) (Soloists: Frank Perowsky, tenor sax; Jacob Garchik, trombone) 5:23

3. Spang-A-Lang (Frank Perowsky) (Soloists: John Ellis, tenor sax; Brian Drye, trombone) 5:56

4. The Cup Bearers (Tom McIntosh) (Soloists: David Berkman – piano; Frank Perowsky – tenor sax) 7:37

5. Down For The Count (Frank Perowsky) (Vocal by Ira Hawkins) 2:46

6. Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me (Duke Ellington) (Soloists: Antoine Drye, trumpet, Frank Perowsky, clarinet) 5:14

7. Two Bass Hit (John Lewis) (Soloists: Ben Perowsky, drums; Bob Franceschini, tenor sax; Chris Rogers, trumpet) 4:45

8. Paris Dreams (Frank Perowsky) (Soloist: Sam Burtis – trombone)

9. Talkin’ About JC (Larry Young) (soloists: Waldron Ricks, trumpet; Roger Rosenberg, baritone sax) 5:16

All music arranged by Frank Perowsky

Produced by Ben Perowsky

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