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88 YEARS, 88 KEYS, 88 VIDEOS is the tally for Dr. Billy Taylor, renowned master of the 88 ivories, composer, broadcaster and teacher whose 88th birthday was celebrated this summer by posting 88 videos on his Web site and by his trio concert at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. Billy was artist-in-residence. He worked with students in the jazz program, critiquing ensembles and conducting a master class. All 88 videos, selected by archivist and producer Bret Primack, document the career of the horn-rimmed Olympian whose first gig was with Ben Webster at Three Deuces, in 1944. Watch Primack's 30-minute, 2006 documentary, "Billy Taylor, American Hero."
BUCKINGHAM PALACE a significant jazz site? Jolly right, and after hosting occasional command performances by jazz bands and stars for 90 years, and even housing some recent knighthoods, why not? The palace is one of a dozen more obvious venues like Ronnie Scott's club in Soho and the London Hippodrome, entered in an online election run by the Brecon (England) Jazz Festival. The years 1919-1932 were specified for the palace. Nick LaRocca's Original Dixieland Jazz Band played there in 1919 for King George V and French Marshall Philippe Petain. Swingers who later performed for King George included Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong, who reputedly dedicated one number to His Majesty with the words, "This one's for you, Rex."
Herbie Hancock has been named creative chair for jazz by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The pianist and composer takes over the two-year position in 2010 from Christian McBride, reports The Washington Post. His duties include "overseeing the programming for the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, helping to hire musicians and mentoring young artists." Hancock wants to present projects uniting different cultures and artistic genres.
AFRICA WITH STRINGS is the latest project of Cameroon-born, Cologne, Germany conservatory-trained Terrence Ngassa. The young trumpeter's septet was joined to a string quartet for his original compositions. "The premiere is September 10 in Cologne," Ngassa tells me in an e-mail, "and we're taking it on tour in 2010." In 2007, he recorded a double album, Ngassalogy, Vol. 1 (Bess Records, Cologne) and Vol. 2 (Konnex Records, Berlin). In grade school back in Yaounde, Terrence recalled playing Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." "It was thrilling, because some classmates would swing and dance on their desks."
WHAT IS JAZZ? TUNE TO BILLY! Billy Taylor's videos have garnered nearly a million and a half views on YouTube. Check out What is Jazz? where his trio demonstrates the music's vital components, including rhythm, improvisation and chord progressions. There is also a Cue Sheet for Students.
Thanks to Joan McGinnis of Mission Viejo, CA for Web research assistance.