The One O’Clock Lab Band’s director from 1959-1981, Leon Breeden, solos with the band on a live performance.
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This is a song from the very first annual lab band record at North Texas, Lab’67. The band sight read an an original composition in the studio. Leon Breeden felt that music students were harmed by playing only a few pieces of music each year to take to contest. He thought this 48 years ago, and he was, and is in the minority of music educators to think this way. Considering he was in charge of the top stage band in the country, you would think more educators would have listened to him. One of the major reasons I made the One O’Clock Lab band my first semester up there was that I could read music well. It didn’t matter how many first divisions my high school band had been awarded. It was all about me, and my skills. I was prepared for college, and too many students aren’t, who come from very good band programs. Leon Breeden may have been right 48 years ago.
A rare interview with the founder of the Jazz Studies program at UNT in 1947, Dr. Gene Hall, and Leon Breeden who followed him in 1959. These were the first two directors of the program, which was the first in the country to offer jazz courses for credit. Dr. Hall mentions how the term “stage band” got started. You could not use the word “jazz” in those days in a college setting.
Leon Breeden always knew how to play tunes for the crowd, and since they were going to Russia the next month he chose this big band medley. This is the type of composition that Mr. Breeden would have us sight read on a concert without telling the crowd we were sight-reading. We weren’t sight reading on this performance, but we did it on other performances. He probably didn’t want to take any chances since we were on TV that night. The band hated playing these tunes because we all did it on dance gigs every weekend. However, it was great publicity for the band and we knew it was important to play these tunes.
One things that always impressed me about this band as how well the woodwind players doubled on flute, clarinet, and sax. I know that the lead alto player, Roger Dismore, started out as a clarinet player in junior high school and learned saxophone later. That’s a good way to do it. Also, he started out in the Eight O’Clock Lab band his freshman year at school, and worked his way up to the One.
This was our opening tune on May 15, 1975 at KERA TV in Dallas, TX. It is a Thad Jones composition called “61st & Rich It”. Flugelhorn solo is by Clay Jenkins who is now the jazz instructor at the Eastman School of Music. Jim Milne on piano, and Marc Johnson on bass.
This is probably my favorite piece we did while I was in the One O’Clock Lab Band. Pat Williams did the composition and is one of my favorite writers. Mike Davis is on the trumpet solo, and Pete Brewer is on flute and tenor sax solos. Marc Johnson is on bass and may be the best bassist ever in the One.
This was recorded at the North Side Coliseum in Ft. Worth in early December of 1975, on a Friday night. There were other groups on the concert, but I don’t remember who they were. The recording isn’t great because the sound man had us peaking out on the recording meters. He didn’t know we could play with so much power! I tried to adjust the levels a little bit myself here at home, but it’s still distorted at times.
The night was very special for me, although I was not impressed with where we had to play. My parents and Susan were there to hear me play on my only trip with the band back to my hometown. My dad used to take me to hear the One O’Clock play in Fort Worth when I was in junior high school. I remember meeting Leon Breeden after one of the concerts, and he told me that the sky was the limit when he heard I was a trumpet player. To be back in Fort Worth playing in that band with Leon Breeden conducting was a great feeling for me. I had come a long way from that junior high kid talking to Leon Breeden, and the odds of a kid from Ft. Worth making the nation’s best college jazz band were remote. Only about 5 of the members of the band were from Texas.
There is another reason I like this recording. Most of the lab band albums that have been issued annually since 1967 have been studio recordings. Most people never hear live recordings of the band, and live recordings are always more exciting. You can hear an energy in this band that you don’t hear in the studio. There is no substitute for playing in front of a live audience. The great players raise their game when the lights go on, and this band was full of great players.
Chuck Schmidt’s lead trumpet playing is amazing. This piece has the hardest lead trumpet lines I have ever heard. Most professionals could not play this piece as well, and Chuck was just a student. We all knew he would do well after he left school, and he played lead trumpet with Buddy Rich for over a year in 1977-78. Also, his power was incredible, and this live recording picks up on that.
By the way, we only played this piece a few times before that night. It came together more each time we played it, however. It could have been a train wreck for any other college band. You have to remind yourself that you are listening to school kids play this music. I’m glad the tape survived for almost 40 years.
This was our final number of the night. We had a two hour rehearsal in the afternoon, then a two hour concert ending with this tune with three encores. It was outside, hot, and it had been a long day. I don’t know how Chuck Schmidt, our lead trumpet, did all of this by that time. My lip was gone at that point, unless we had a break. Chuck was an amazing trumpet player, and we all knew he would make it in the music business. He played lead trumpet with Buddy Rich’s band for over a year, and Buddy always thought that was his best band during that time.
Here’s another tune from the 1976 KERA TV show. My friend, Mark Taylor, did this composition while we were both students at North Texas. He is a fantastic writer, and was also writing for the Stan Kenton Orchestra while at North Texas.
Mark’s dad was a jazz DJ, and when he died Mark donated his dad’s record collection to our jazz museum. It is our largest donation consisting of over 2,200 records and other jazz memorabilia. His dad had been good friends with Stan Kenton and had every Stan Kenton album ever made. It was a great start for our museum to acquire these items and I will always appreciate his friendship.
We recorded this composition on Lab ’76. Lab ’76 was nominated for a Grammy, only the second time a college band had been nominated. Lab ’75 was the first Grammy nomination for a college band.
The alto sax solo is by Dan Higgins, who is the top woodwind player in Los Angeles today, and has been in that spot for many years.