Blue Skies, Smilin' at Me...
Not all the news is good, and it was saddening to learn of the sudden death at age sixty-six of Steve Marcus, an outstanding saxophonist who played in big bands led by Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich, among others. Marcus, who was born in the Bronx in 1939 and attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, was currently touring with "Steve Smith and Buddy's Buddies, a quintet that paid tribute to the music of Buddy Rich. After leaving Kenton's orchestra when it was temporarily disbanded in 1963, Marcus performed with Gary Burton, the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, Herbie Mann and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House (1971-73) and led an early fusion group, The Count's Rock Band. He joined drummer Rich's supercharged big band in 1975 and remained a member and star soloist until Buddy's death in 1987. Marcus recorded only rarely under his own name, but if you can find a copy of his album Smile (Red Baron JK53751), with pianist John Hicks, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Marvin "Smitty Smith, it will give you an idea of what a marvelous player he was, on tenor or alto sax.
Columbia College Honors Bill Russo
As a part of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble's performance on Saturday, October 8, the Music Department at Columbia College, where the late composer / arranger / conductor William Russo taught for many years, will announce a new scholarship named in his honor. The concert, "An Evening with Cedar Walton and Corky Siegel, will include a tribute to Russo, who gained fame with the Stan Kenton Orchestra before founding the Columbia College Music Department and serving as its chairman for almost forty years. Blues harmonica master Siegel will perform the solo "Corky from the Chicago Suite No. 2, a piece written especially for him by Russo, while the CJE will perform works by Russo under the direction of its new artistic director, trumpeter Jon Faddis. Russo is fondly remembered by fans of the Stan Kenton Orchestra for such superb compositions as "Solitaire, "Halls of Brass, "Portrait of a Count, "Frank Speaking, "My Lady, "Invention for Guitar and Trumpet, "A Theme of Four Values," "Blues Before and After," "Egdon Heath and "23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West, as well as for memorable arrangements of such standards as "Lover Man, "Sophisticated Lady, "Over the Rainbow, "Fascinatin' Rhythm, "If I Should Lose You, "I've Got You Under My Skin, "You and the Night and the Music, "April in Paris, "Crazy Rhythm, "How High the Moon, "Autumn in New York and many others.
On the Horizon...
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will hold its first Jazz festival Oct 14-15 at the Berkshire Music Hall in the city's downtown area. Friday evening's headliner is the Black Eagles Jazz Band, a trad group that has performed at Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow and other regional venues but is making its first appearance in Pittsfield. The Black Eagles have performed throughout the U.S. and in Europe, have been featured in broadcasts for PBS and NPR, and have appeared on the PBS-TV programs "Roaring Through the '20s and "This Old House. On Saturday evening, the New England Jazz Ensemble returns to Pittsfield to perform and record its fourth CD. Sharing the stage with the NEJE are vocalist Joyce Breach and the Keith Ingham Duo.
On November 5, East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania will host Jazz Jubilee 2005, a day-long tribute to those twin titans of the tenor sax, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims (the university is home to the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection). The program includes a noon panel discussion and afternoon and evening concerts. The panelists for "Remembering Al and Zoot are Ira Gitler, Dan Morgenstern, Bill Crow, Stanley Kay and Steve Gilmore. Headlining the afternoon concert are vocalist Bob Dorough; the Jazz Jubilee All-Stars featuring bassist Crow, trombonists Urbie Green and Eddie Bert and others; pianist Jack Reilly with bassist Gilmore, saxophonist Dave Liebman and drummer Bill Goodwin; and drummer Sherrie Maricle and Five Play. Al Cohn's son, guitarist Joe Cohn, will perform in the evening, as will vocalist Dave Frishberg, saxophonist Phil Woods and the Festival Orchestra, and a "tenor conclave finale with special guests. The panel discussion is free, the concerts $25 each (or both for $45). For information, phone 570-422-3828, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Jarreau, George Duke, Earl Klugh and Ravi Coltrane will be among the headliners December 1-3 at the second annual Cayman Jazz Fest in the Cayman Islands. Others scheduled to perform include smooth Jazz saxophonist Najee, gospel vocalist Yolanda Adams, the groups Intransit and Hi Tide, the Pandemonium Steel Band, and soul diva KayKay. The three Cayman Islands are 480 miles south of Miami in the western Caribbean. The Jazz Fest is produced in cooperation with BET Jazz.