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Did Les Lieber Play Jazz at Noon for the Last Time?

DANIEL Kassell By

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Les Lieber and Friends
Jazz at Noon
The Players
New York, NY
June 3, 2011
At age 99,Les Lieber was feted with lots of applause at The Players in New York City's Gramercy Park, because of a May 5, 2011 feature article by Corey Kilgannon in the New York Times, featuring the alto saxophonist opening "Stardust" a capella, in the soundscape and style of his youth (about 1932).

Swinging electric guitarist Bill Wurtzel, an advertising creative director and jazz professional, held the band together so the businessmen that play here only one hour a week could feel the melody chords. Later Lieber—a Paul Whiteman alum, followed with a solo on penny whistle—a rare jazz instrument, but one he's practiced for 90 years.

Guest trombonist Bill Allred featured today with the remaining aging regulars—tenor saxophonists Ed Finkel (82) and George De Leon (80), bassist Hide Tanaka and drummer Steve Solow (65)—a recent replacement for cardio surgeon Bob Litwack MD. Jon Handpicks, the scatting lyricist and frequent guest who called them "non-working musicians."

Missing were Mike Cantor, rhythm guitarist and Gershwin era vocalist, although he may be here next week. Deceased alumni Sam Parkins, an RCA producer and 1930's clarinet stylist, or Jim Gribbon, a freelance graphic artist and swinging trumpeter can still be heard if one remembers a solo.

Vibraphonist Warren Chaisson was one of the first guests, and the last at Jazz at Noon, June 10th, 2011, ending the oldest continuous jazz session that began in October, 1965. Optimistically, Lieber announced a return to a regular Friday schedule in the fall.

Will Jazz at Noon return to The Players in Gramercy Park? Les Lieber will be 100, so let's hope to celebrate on that birthday in 2012. Stay tuned.

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