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The 21st Anniversary of The Blue Note – arguably the best known jazz club anywhere (there are sister clubs in Japan and Las Vegas and a new one on Milano) was celebrated last month and the usual all-star lineup provided a gala jazz evening. Indeed it seems only yesterday the club hosted a similar party during its 1st anniversary week featuring legendary trombonist Kai Winding as the headliner. I guess I’ve been at this music activity longer than I had thought.
The producers invited the press and various jazz celebs to a sumptuous champagne feast followed by gourmet dinners, imaginative gift packets and a warm party atmosphere. Such evenings are rare for jazz writers. The producers sincerely showed their appreciation to all for the achievement of their club empire – certainly the most successful in the history of the music.
Jon Faddis hosted the press show and soon an interesting rhythm section ascended the stage to provide support for the parade of jazz stars that joined the jam. Pianist Helen Sung, a young Asian newcomer, was of particular interest as she comped and soloed through the night. Memorable moments included Carrie Smith belting the blues and Billy Taylor offering up a remarkable theme and variations performance of “Body and Soul” (I hope someone had a tape recorder working.) Legendary hornmen including Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Lew Tabackin, Claudio Roditi, Frank Wess, and Jimmy Owens played choruses upon choruses. Altoist David Glasser was in rare form. Special congratulations were in order for Bob Cranshaw celebrating his 70th birthday.
2003 will commence in fine fashion at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center when young phenom Peter Cincotti appears on January 11. The center, in the heart of Newark, has been stepping up it production schedule and promises special jazz excitement in the months ahead for Gotham suburbanites. Cincotti’s quartet will include bassist Peter Washington, drummer Kenny Washington and saxophonist Scott Kreitzer. Information can be obtained at www.nipac.org.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.