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Authentic Swing. Repertoire and Reputation. Charts and Chops.



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ANDY GILBERT, jazz journalist with the San Jose Mercury, West County Times, Boston Globe, Seattle Times, LA Times, etc. SAYS:

“With a treasure trove of vivid, well-crafted arrangements and a veteran cast of players who know how to tell a rousing story in eight bars, the Junius Courtney Big Band is an invaluable Bay Area institution. Billy Strayhorn would certainly be pleased with the latest project, which treats his gems with respect and intelligence. Most importantly, the band swings with power and concision, delivering its zesty charts with a confident swagger. And when the band features the supremely stylish Denise Perrier, a savvy singer equally at home crooning ballads or belting the blues, it s an act capable of cutting far better known orchestras. 
Look out!”

July, 2009

DATEBOOK/ “The Pink Pages”
Sunday, March 30, 2008


The late trumpeter Junius Courtney arrived in the Bay Area from New Orleans in 1945 and founded his powerhouse big band in 1963. Now, with his son Nat on drums, the band soldiers on with several of Junius' peers - including singer Denise Perrier and pianist Roberta Mandel - who typify an era in local history when swing was, if not king, at least a lot more alive. This afternoon, the band performs "The Billy Strayhorn Session," a musical theater piece with Perrier playing Lena Horne, Nat Courtney as Duke Ellington, pianist and musical director George Spencer playing Strayhorn and saxophonist Andres Soto as Johnny Hodges. $15. 3 p.m. Anna's Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley. (510) 841-5299, www.annasjazzisland.com, www.juniuscourtneybigband.com.

This was the single featured music listing in the Pink Pages for Sunday, March 30.


MARCH 30, 2008

Junius Courtney Big Band - Rather than say goodbye when their beloved trumpeter and bandleader Junius Courtney died at the age of 85, the twenty members of his EastBay band have kept his spirit alive through a busy schedule of dances and benefits. Now led by his son drummer Nat Courtney and featuring vocalist Denise Perrier, the Junius Courtney Big Band plays regularly around the EastBay, directed by trumpeter George Spencer. The band will swing hard through Basie, Ellington, more modern Thad Jones charts, and band originals in a Sunday afternoon gig at intimate Anna's Jazz Island (2120 Allston Wy., Berkeley), where its previous visit sold out. 3 p.m., $15. AnnasJazzIsland.com or 510-841-JAZZ.  $15. Sun., March 30, 3-6 p.m.  Anna's Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-841-5299, AnnasJazzIsland.com.  -- By Larry Kelp

Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007

RECOMMENDED GIGS: The great pianist Marcus Roberts, a player who seamlessly draws on the entire history of jazz, plays at Herbst Theater ... The 19-piece Junius Courtney Big Band, now led by Nat Courtney, son of the band's late founder, plays at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage on Friday, 8 p.m., with the classy jazz and blues singer Denise Perrier ... Berkeley-raised tenor saxophonist Howard Wiley opens a two-night run at Jazz at Pearl's on Friday,..

Andrew Gilbert's Jazz Talk column runs every other week in TimeOut Weekend. Contact him at jazzscribe@aol.com.


Critics’ Choice
Saturday, August 19, 2006


Swinging Legacy
By Jason Victor Serinus

Prepare for a blast. The eighteen-piece Junius Courtney Big Band, with guest vocalist Denise Perrier, promises to raise the roof at La Peña and get people up and dancing. Now led by drummer Nat Courtney, the band’s 8 p.m. performance continues a tradition that extends back forty years.

According to Pat Mullan, who has played trombone in the band for twelve years, New Orleans native Courtney founded the band by pulling together several of his smaller, color-barrier-shattering Bay Area combos. Decades later, the band’s repertoire extends far beyond such 1940s classics as “In the Mood.” Performances offer a unique mix of Count Basie, Thad Jones, Duke Ellington, Latin jazz, original compositions, and special arrangements created by either Junius or the band’s late trumpet player, Jerry Counoyer. “Jerry’s arrangements, which he wrote by ear without access to a piano, are completely outrageous,” Mullan says. “They’re very intricate and sophisticated, and are characterized by a thick, bassy sound, extreme dynamics, and a lot of swing. They help us create a giant wall of sound, like a huge engine, that stops people in their tracks.”

A few years back, singer Denise Perrier heard the band and asked to come on board. Usually either touring in Russia, Japan, or Australia, or undertaking occasional theatrical roles or cabaret dates in the Big Apple, Perrier has collaborated with such legends as Louis Armstrong, Ruth Brown, and Etta James. The woman has the pipes and the spirit to set the house on fire. Most of Courtney’s original cohorts have since retired or passed. In their place has come a slew of music teacher-instrumentalists who rehearse with the band between teaching gigs. These folks are not only adept at traditional swing, they’re sufficiently accomplished in Latin jazz to have recently played as featured guests with Pete Escovedo. They also excel in original tunes by band members Frank Fisher and Alan Close, as well as the intricate post-Blue-Note sound of Thad Jones’ rhythmically complex arrangements. Info:LaPena.org

Date/Time: Sat., Aug. 19, 8 p.m. Price: $12, $14
La Peña Cultural Center 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 510-849-2568 http://LaPena.org