I'm a hardcore Nelson fan, so I would recommend his big band stuff on "Sound Pieces" in addition to that JFK album.
The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra is another great one to check out. "Consummation" is a good album to start with.
Toshiko Akiyoshi's band was fantastic, as well. Most of those CDs are imports, but some are available on iTunes or Amazon MP3, etc.
On the contemporary side:
•Chris Walden Big Band – "Ticino" (w/Michael Brecker), "Home of My Heart"
•Darcy James Argue's Secret Society - "Infernal Machines"
•Maria Schneider – I recommend starting with "Evanescence," as quite a few people don't dig her newer stuff... like "Sky Blue." One can only take so many 10-minute+ tracks on one CD!
And if you like odd time signatures, instrumentation, and overall sound: The Don Ellis Orchestra. The three albums I'd recommend are "Don Ellis Live At Fillmore", "Tears of Joy", and "Electric Bath."
I like GRP's All Star Big Band. Also, for something more "modern" I like Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. If you like latin jazz...Michel Camilo's One More Once album. Not sure if that one can be classified as big band, but definitely has a superb horn section.
+1 for Stan Kenton, just rediscovered his 1976 album with great ballads arrangements and expanded instrumentation (5sx, 5 tb, 5 tp!).
Note that the heir of the Jones/Lewis is the Village Vanguard Orchestra, well worth checking out!
Now if you want to explore the pre-Buddy Rich era, the list is endless, but some bands sound quite differently depending on the arranger at that time...
Anything Bob Florence. Bill Watrous, Tom Kubis, Louie Bellson and geez, nobody mentioned Duke Ellington, Basie, Woody Herman's Thundering Herd? Wow! I really like Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, they were in this area last year - Hunting Wabbits what a chart! The GRP band is great. I grew up with Kenton records. Had all his Artistry in Rhythm stuff. In that same vein, going back to the old days - Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman did some interesting things. There are so many . . . Saw Akyoshi/Tabackin a couple times, great stuff. How about some of the college bands? If the OP is interested in big band stuff (like me) there were and are dozens of great ones. Sadly the economy of running one - travel, etc. is prohibitively expensive. Try Google for more. And don't forget YouTube. I just took a look at YouTube. Typed in "big band jazz" and came up with tons of hits.
First and foremost: Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
If you don't like the more popular recordings keep looking as there are some great tracks out there that is a little different than the traditional swing. For example, when I went to a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concert a few years back, they played a song called "Lady of the Lavender Mist," one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard (in jazz) and immediately looked up the original. It sounds different than say "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" regardless of style.
More modern stuff, I would check out Roy Hargrove's Big Band, Charles Tolliver's Big Band, and the Mingus Big Band. Some really great recordings of all three are out there.
I have a great DVD of Louis Bellson's Big Band with Michael and Randy Brecker as well as Herb Geller, but the only YouTube stuff I see just shows the drum solos... Bummer. The Buddy Rich Big Band vid from the North Sea Jazz Festival has some awesome Steve Marcus solos on tenor and sop.
How could we be so remiss??? Go to amazon.com and check out Andy Farber's CD "This Could Be The Start Of Something Big". Then dig around with the search in this forum and find Andy's posts... Chances are if you buy a CD and tell Andy he'll send you a chart in .pdf. He has his own big band and writes many of his own charts.
Rather a shamless plug, eh? I'm not really a shill for Andy, but you're looking for big band stuff and here's a bunch of living guys still doing the genre.
A forum community dedicated to saxophone players and enthusiasts originally founded by Harri Rautiainen. Come join the discussion about collections, care, displays, models, styles, reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!