Tag Archives: Junius Courtney Big Band

Pat Mullan, recommended music gigs in Berkeley

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The Berkeley Public Library might seem like unpromising territory to develop a thriving practice as a jazz trombonist, concert presenter, and all-around East Bay mover and shaker, but Pat Mullan is an expert at creating spaces for the culture she loves. She spent a quarter century ensconced at the downtown branch, where she found numerous ways to bring jazz into the stacks. But since retiring seven years ago, Mullan has poured her energy into the hard swinging 19-piece Junius Courtney Big Band, which performs a program focusing on the music of Thelonious Monk tonight at Yoshi’s with powerhouse guest vocalist Zoe Ellis (Berkeley High class of ‘88). On Friday, Mullan brings her unusual trombone quartet Trombonga to the Westside Café on Ninth Street.

When she first started playing with the Courtney Big Band in the early 1980s the ensemble had faded from view after decades as an East Bay institution under the leadership of its namesake New Orleans-born Berkeley-based trumpeter. She quickly arranged for the band to perform at the library, and started calling around for other gigs. Her dogged efforts have kept the ensemble together, working regularly with biannual showcase concerts at Yoshi’s. … Continue reading »

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Junius Courtney Big Band: 50 years of swinging

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The Junius Courtney Big Band was born in Berkeley, and it’s entirely fitting that the irrepressibly swinging 19-piece ensemble kicks off a series of events celebrating its 50th anniversary with a dance party Friday at Freight & Salvage, a venue that has hosted the band regularly for the past decade.

While the band’s namesake founder, an ebullient trumpeter and vocalist, passed away in 2003, his son, drummer Nat Courtney, has kept the JCBB rolling, the most visible legacy of a family with deep Berkeley ties. Propelled by the dogged efforts of trombonist Pat Mullan, who spent many years working as a librarian in downtown branch of the Berkeley Public Library, the orchestra is built around a core of long-time members, including trumpeter and music director George Spencer and bassist Terry Hilliard, a Bay Area jazz stalwart who provided the clave groove on Cal Tjader’s Latin jazz classic “Soul Sauce.” Trumpeter Frank Fisher and pianist Roberta Mandel both started performing with Junius Courtney in the 1960s. … Continue reading »

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Junius Courtney Big Band: Spirited in the right ways

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When an ensemble keeps performing after the death of its namesake leader, it’s known as a ghost band. Though descriptive rather than pejorative, the term often carries a whiff of the dismissive, as if a musical legacy should be interred with its creator (things work differently in the world of dance, where no one seems interested in tossing dirt on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater).

The Junius Courtney Big Band might be a ghost orchestra, but it’s spirited … Continue reading »

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