A Far-Out Concert Among the Stars

Jim Santella By

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Various Artists
In Geosynchronous Orbit
April 1, 2005

The International Space Station provided a suitable setting for the world's first jazz concert in space this morning. Weightlessness wasn't a problem for the artists, as they floated their melodies around the station's auditorium chamber with spontaneous kicks and rebounds. The music reverberated from the dull metal walls with an uplifting quality.

Recorded for a future airing on CBS-TV during prime time later this season, the concert was shown via closed-circuit television to a select group of media personnel and veteran journalists who had gathered together in NASA's Media Resource Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for the affair. Refreshments included freeze-dried ice cream squeezed from little plastic tubes and powdered Tang that was mixed with cool water and sipped through an airtight straw.

The artists had transported to the International Space Station last week after an intensive conditioning program that brought their minds and bodies into alignment with the concert hall's ambience and climate. Their brief stay on the station meant long hours of jamming with like-minded artists, some of whom had never had the chance to work with the others before this event.

Trumpeter Clark Terry led off the program with his "Spacemen," which featured his little big band of tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, alto saxophonist Phil Woods, baritone saxophonist Haywood Henry, trumpeter Virgil Jones, trombonist Britt Woodman, pianist John Campbell, bassist Marcus McLaurine, and drummer Butch Ballard. Together, they created a fire that threatened to set off smoke alarms throughout the platform. As Terry alternated between flugelhorn and muted trumpet with left and right hands, he floated above the band in surprise. Not deterred one bit by this change in scenery, he continued to do his thing; however, Terry was later heard off-stage mumbling to himself about, "Why in the world would my waa-ma-po-dee spo-dee-bo-dee agent go and book me on this go-do-muff-ler hippity thack-a-whack-a-doo shaceship.

Violinist Billy Bang later performed his "Space Walk" with his trio. Guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg added heavenly phrases that seemed to glide around the room along with the trio's leader.

Pianist Ben Sidram performed "Space Cowboy" with co-composer and guitarist Steve Miller, bassist Billy Peterson, drummer Gordon Knudtson, and alto saxophonist Phil Woods. Woods preferred to sit during the number, anchoring himself to the plush captain's chair with Velcro straps.

New Orleans vocalist Aaron Neville sang Fred Caliste's "Space Man" with a little help from his family. They had decided to combine this concert tour with a sight-seeing vacation. Neville said that he and his family enjoyed the view of Earth's Equator, but they were too far away to see their homes. Cyril Neville added, however, that he thought he had seen the moon over Miami, though, while returning to the stage from the break room.

Free jazz alto saxophonist Julius Hemphill performed his "In Space" in a duet with cellist Abdul Wadud. Both artists, with their feet anchored firmly on the floor, proceeded to amplify their spontaneous bursts of music with syncopated rhythms that needed no punctuation.

Trumpeter Eddie Henderson performed his "Time and Space" with his sextet that included soprano saxophonist Hadley Caliman, trombonist Julian Priester, pianist Patrice Rushen, bassist Paul Jackson and drummer Woody "Son Ship" Theus. Then, Rickie Lee Jones closed the performance with her "Deep Space," accompanied by guitarist Steve Lukather, trumpeter Jerry Hey, bassist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd, and conguero Lenny Castro.

After the performance, the artists gathered for a black & white Great Day in Space photograph that will be made available to the first one hundred CD owners. The concert will be made available on CD after it airs on television later this season.

April fools!


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