Rare Serving of Big-Band Fun

LACMA books Frank Vardaros' old-school jazz orchestra to close its concert series
Big Band

The more performers in an act, the more ways the paycheck gets divided. It's a simple truth that many concertgoers never consider—and one of the big reasons musical ensembles with big rosters are rare these days.

But back in the 1930s and '40s Big Band Jazz ruled the musical roost in America. The standard number of players in each ensemble was 17, exactly what bandleader/trumpeter Frank Vardaros will bring together for his orchestra Friday November 28 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

'Jazz at LACMA' is in its 33rd year, but just returned in 2013 to an informal policy of booking at least one big band in the annual April-November series, says Marty Glickman, LACMA director of music programs.

"It's a more pricey adventure than a trio," he says, referring to budget restraints that interrupted the policy in recent years. After booking a big band to play a Johnny Mandel tribute last year, says Glickman, "L.A. is filled with some of the world's greatest jazz musicians, so we try to book...bands that people haven't heard yet."

Big Band

Vardaros came to L.A. in 2012 after 14 years of leading a big band at Ryles Jazz Club in Boston. He describes his current orchestra as "Maynard Ferguson meeting Count Basie meeting Buddy Rich."

"That's really the spirit of the band. It's a combination of road warriors and L.A. studio aces," says Vardaros, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn and conducts.

"It's the best big band I've ever led. I'm very excited about doing it," he says of LACMA show, which starts at 6 p.m. in the museum's central court. "I've been to a few of their shows, and they're always well attended and enthusiastic."

For more information about the show and 'Jazz at LACMA,' click here. For more on Vardaros' band, click here.