Big Band in the Sky
Frank Morgan Memorial Celebration The Jazz Bakery Los Angeles (Culver City), CA January 5, 2008 2:00-5:30 P.M.
A memorial celebration is always a bittersweet affair. There is an inescapable sadness over the passing of a friend, but there is also joy in remembering the spirit of the departed who will remain forever in our hearts. On Saturday, January 5th at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City, the great altoist Frank Morgan was eulogized by many of his friends and fans.
Saxophonist Azar Lawrence opened the event with an inspired display ...Read More
Specs Powell, 85, percussionist, pianist, vibraphonist. New York, NY, June 5, 1922--San Marcos (San Diego), CA, September 15, 2007.
Gordon Specs Powell, who beat a distinguished path from a drum stool, started by doubling on piano in his own Swing era combo, and later became one of the first black musicians hired by a national radio network.
CBS took the drummer on in 1943 for the Ed Sullivan Show, where he backed Billie Holiday and other stars, continuing in later broadcasts with the Mildred Bailey (CBS) Orchestra.
He died September 15, at 85, of complications from heart and ...Read More
George Melly, 80, jazz and blues singer, author, raconteur. Liverpool, England, August 17, 1926--London, England, July 5, 2007.The Oscar Wilde of jazz? George Melly, an eccentric Englishman of many careers whose singing style invoked his idol, the blues singer Bessie Smith, died in London after a stretch of emphysema and dementia. He was 80.Melly was an exponent of the British brand of trad jazz, a blend of Dixieland, music hall styles and blues. Clad in African robes and sitting in a wheelchair, he gave his last concert a week before his death, and finished ...Read More
Max Roach, 83, drummer, bandleader, composer, educator. Newland, NC, January 10, 1924--New York, NY, August 15, 2007.
Max Roach, widely deemed the most innovative percussionist in contemporary jazz and a composer who leaped the boundaries of four-four time and standard instrument combinations, died August 15 in a New York hospice. He was 83 and had suffered for several years with dementia.
Roach built on the innovations of Kenny Clarke, elaborating the style, bringing more complex cross-rhythms into play, and employing greater textural variety," notes The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.
The drummer had fast hands and could keep several ...Read More
Pat Pace was the musical pride of Akron, Ohio, a classical and jazz pianist, accordionist, composer and teacher who made only two commercial recordings, decades ago, both released on obscure labels (one of them maybe his own). For the last 20 or so years, Pace had given up gigging and was living the quiet life, teaching younger pianists. I am grateful to Andrew Homzy of Montreal for e-mailing two articles from the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal. In his Final Coda for Legend of Pat Pace (Jan. 10), columnist David Giffels tells of the second-generation Italian-American prodigy who took all music ...Read More
Romano Mussolini has joined the big band above. My scout, Jerry Gordon, forwarded a Reuters obit from Steve Barbone--a name that may ring a bell. I am a jazz clarinetist based in Philadelphia, doing around 250 gigs a year," Barbone replied to my e-mail. In 1999, I played at the Pee Wee Russell Memorial Stomp as a sideman in Ed Polcer's Band, with Joe Ascione, Daryl Hannah, Tom Artin, Ed and a bassist." Steve, who leads The Barbone Street Jazz Band, went to Italy in 1962 to visit the Italian branch of my family, meet and hear my cousin play ...Read More
New Orleans struck up the band one Sunday this fall for the first jazz funeral in the music's birthplace since Hurricane Katrina opened the levees and laid waste to the Crescent City. The brass band ... toted donated instruments, reported Shaila Dewan in The New York Times. The procession leaders wore salvaged bits of their traditional funeral finery. Just after 2 p.m. ... the strains of 'Just a Closer Walk With Thee' streamed past the heaps of stinking garbage and fallen roofs like milk and honey and sweet Abita beer, a flash of grandeur and ritual that hearkened to a ...Read More
What was it like to record with Fats Waller? Fat's guitarist, Al Casey, called it a light- hearted business. In the studio, the record people would give him all those pop tunes the other artists refused. Fats would look through the music. 'OK,' he'd say. 'We'll try this one.' Then we'd make the record. Just like that. Sometimes we cut seven or eight numbers in three hours. Casey was 14 when Fats signed him to record. 'He insisted that I go back to school to complete my education. But in June 1933, three weeks after graduating, I was in the ...Read More
Around 1980, Hanne and I were at an art gallery in Copenhagen to hear The Great Dane with the never-ending name." We stood four feet from Niels-Henningrsted Pedersen (Kenny Drew may have been on keyboard) as he took a long solo. My jaw dropped. That's impossible," I whispered. That's not a guitar. You can't play it that fast." But he did -- and the line he spun with four fingers sparkled with just the right notes and plinks of harmonics. He played melody and laid down chords. Since then, we heard NHOP live several times -- twice alone, spanning a ...Read More
This obituary column has run for nearly two years in Jersey Jazz, journal of the New Jersey Jazz Society. Thanks to Michael Ricci's invitation, and with my JJ editor Paul White's blessings, I am pleased to share it with AAJ readers. Concerning my sources: I subscribe to The New York Times news alert service, which e-mails me when key words like jazz, swing, big band vocalist turn up in a Times obituary. For some reason, the service never let me know when Artie Shaw moved up," but my oldest New Jersey pal, Don Robertson, did. Don is editor emeritus of ...Read More
I saw Warren Vaché (Sr.) at recent Jersey JazzFests, but I don't think we met. Sorry about that. If I didn't live in Denmark, I would have joined the well-wishers at Shanghai Jazz, Nov. 28. What a productive life! The obituary below is formal, in the style of this space. It may offer little new, but was written with care and is dedicated to Warren's wife, Madeline, and his sons Warren Jr. and Allan.
Warren Vaché, Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 27, 1914 - Rahway, NJ, Feb. 4, 2005.
Warren Vaché, a co-founder of the New Jersey Jazz Society and for 19 ...Read More