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Patrick Williams "Aurora" Big-Band Jazz the New-Fashioned Way

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Patrick Williams Patrick Williams is best known as the composer for 1970s and '80s TV hits including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show," “The Bob Newhart Show," “The Streets of San Francisco" and “Lou Grant."

But even with four Emmys and an Oscar nomination for his TV and film music, and a rare Pulitzer Prize nom for his classical-jazz fusion “An American Concerto," Williams has his heart in big-band jazz. He's been eager to write and record another all-star big-band album like “Threshold," which won him his first Grammy in 1974.

He wanted to do it his way, with the best musicians available, in the legendary Capitol Records Studio A, and to have equally legendary engineer Al Schmitt mix it the old-fashioned way—"on the fly," as the musicians played it live.

He got his wish via ArtistShare, a Web-based company that encourages fan funding for (mostly jazz) projects, among them albums by Maria Schneider and Billy Childs.

Williams' new 58-minute, all-original jazz CD, “Aurora," debuts this week on iTunes (physical product will be available next week), in time for this year's Grammy Awards consideration. It was largely funded by film producer Sidney Kimmel, who made the project possible and gets his name on the cover.

Williams, 71, says the traditional-label business model that made albums like “Threshold" 30-plus years ago no longer exists. “For them to invest the kind of money to do the kind of album I wanted to do, I don't think would be realistic," he says. The 24-piece band includes four French horns and adds such top jazz soloists as trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, saxophonist Tom Scott, flutist Hubert Laws and clarinetist Eddie Daniels.

It may be a classic big-band sound finding a modern new delivery system, but, says Williams, “the sound of this band is not dated at all. This doesn't sound like Glenn Miller, believe me."

For more than a decade, Dr. Ira Padnos has been taking those old records off the shelf and making them come to life.

The guiding force behind the Ponderosa Stomp, an annual music and film seminar-festival taking place in New Orleans Sept. 24-25, Padnos uses his collection of LPs and 45s from the 1950s and '60s to guide his selections to celebrate the forgotten pioneers of rock 'n' roll. This year he has booked guitarist Duane Eddy, the Trashmen, East L.A. legends Thee Midniters, singer Sugar Pie DeSanto, LaLa Brooks, Ronnie Spector and New Orleans legend Dave Bartholomew.

“We don't feel like this is an oldies show," says Padnos, who goes by the name Dr. Ike when he's away from LSU Hospital in New Orleans, where he works as an anesthesiologist. “We run it revue style, make sure we have a sympathetic backing band and (ask musicians) to keep true to their (original) sound. We want the musicians to show the influence they had." .


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