Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra Rekindles Cuban Fire Suite
Oscar Peterson in Bronze
On June 30, a slightly larger-than-life bronze statue of legendary jazz pianist Oscar Petersonwas unveiled outside the National Arts Centre near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The sculpture, by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy, is of Peterson seated at the end of a piano bench, resting his left elbow on the instrument that made him an international star. Beside him on the bench is an empty space for passersby to rest. The project took shape about two years ago, when Abernethy discussed it with organizers of a Toronto memorial for the Montreal-born Peterson who was aged 82 when he died in 2007. During the sculpting process, Abernethy studied photos and biographies of Peterson and listened to his recordings for inspiration. "He's an icon," Abernethy said of Peterson. "He's a very broad thread in the Canadian weave."
More Honors for McPartland, Ashton
On June 8, British pianist Marian McPartlandwas inducted as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her Services to Jazz and to aspiring young musicians in the United States. McPartland was given her insignia by Sir Alan Collins, Her Majesty's Consul General for the U.S., at a ceremony in New York City. "I am exceedingly proud to have received this great honor bestowed on me by Queen Elizabeth," said McPartland. "I am truly grateful, and I wish the Queen a happy birthday." Among her guests at the ceremony were Todd Barkan, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Helen Merrill, Michael Feinstein and Elle Shearing who conveyed congratulations from her husband, pianist George Shearing. McPartland, who has had a long and distinguished career as a pianist, composer, writer and educator, is perhaps best known for "Piano Jazz," National Public Radio's longest-running cultural show, on the air since 1978 and heard by listeners around the world.
Also named an OBE in the Queen's birthday honors list for his services to music was Bill Ashton, founder and life president of Great Britain's National Youth Jazz Orchestra, which marks its 45th anniversary later this year. Ashton, a saxophonist in his own right, co-founded the Oxford University Big Band in 1960, and five years later founded the London Schools Jazz Orchestra, which quickly evolved into the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, several of whose alumni are among the country's foremost jazz musicians. To date, NYJO has recorded about 50 albums and has performed in countries around the world including the U.S. (twice), the USSR, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Bulgaria, Poland, Malta, Portugal, France, Germany, Sicily, Madeira and Spain. NYJO has appeared many times on television and played for the Royal Family, notably at the Royal Variety Performance and the Royal Celebration of Youth. In 1978, Ashton was awarded an MBE, marking the first time the word "Jazz" had ever appeared in the annual Honors List. Ashton has written more than 70 songs in whole or part, and has served on the committees for the International Year of the Child and the Association of British Jazz Musicians. He became Life President of NYJO in 2009 and continues as its Founding Musical Director.
More Fond Farewells
Stanley Kaufman, better known as Stanley Kay, one-time back-up drummer and manager for Buddy Richand one of the driving forces behind the superb all-female big band DIVA, died at home on June 21. He was 86 years old. After drumming for such headliners as Josephine Baker, Patti Paige and Frankie Laine, Kay stepped into management as creator and conductor of "Hines, Hines and Dad," continuing to manage dancer Maurice Hines and such stars as Michelle Lee and Paul Burke. Later, he became entertainment director for the New York Yankees, and in 1992 founded DIVA, a world-renowned ensemble led by drummer Sherrie Maricle.
Danny Bank, a jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist, died June 5 at age 79. The versatile Bank, who was much in demand by leaders of many groups, is best known for his association with Miles Davis and Gil Evans on the groundbreaking albums Miles Ahead, Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess. Earlier in his career, Bank played and recorded with Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey brothers, Artie Shaw, Paul Whiteman and others. Later, he recorded with Charlie Parker, Rex Stewart, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra Orchestra, Johnny Hodges, Urbie Green, Clifford Brown, Helen Merrill, Art Farmer, Wes Montgomery, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Smith, Chico O'Farrill, Betty Carter and Ray Charles as well as with big bands led by Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Stanley Turrentine.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin...'!