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Dr. Dianne Reeves, Students Play Blue Note, David Azarian Benefit

AAJ Staff By

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Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves will receive an honorary doctor of music degree at Berklee College of Music's 2003 Commencement on Saturday, May 10, along with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. Both Reeves and Tyler will address the more than 600 graduates and approximately 3,000 invited guests.

On Commencement eve, as is the Berklee tradition, students will present a tribute concert, performing tunes closely associated with the honorees' storied careers. The 2003 Commencement Concert is closed to the public, but will be broadcast live on the Internet, and can be viewed at : , beginning at 7:15 p.m. EST.

At age 16, Reeves put her talents on display when she sang with her Denver high school band at a National Association of Jazz Educators convention in Chicago. Clark Terry H'88 (signifies Berklee honorary doctorate), the first in a long line of Reeves' illustrious mentors, heard her, and asked her to sing with his all-star group. Other mentors have included Sergio Mendes, Harry Belafonte, and the late Joe Williams H'88.

Dr. Herb Wong signed Reeves to his Palo Alto label, where he recorded her first two albums. In 1987, she became the first vocalist signed to the newly reborn Blue Note label, for which she has since recorded numerous albums, including those that have brought her two Grammy statuettes. This past December, Reeves entered Right Track Studios in New York with legendary producer Arif Mardin '61, H'85 to record her new album, A Little Moonlight, an intimate collection of ten standards, which will be released in August.

For the fifth year in a row, a group of Berklee's top student instrumentalists will play at one of the world’s premier jazz clubs, the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York's Greenwich Village. Directed by Berklee Associate Professor Dave Santoro, who performs regularly with Jerry Bergonzi and Dick Oatts, The Berklee Scholarship Jazz Ensemble includes Mayuko Katakura '04 (piano), Takuji Yamada '04 (alto sax), Michael Birnbryer '05 (tenor sax), Paul Vinton '04 (guitar), Demian Caboud '03 (bass), and Yoshifumi Nihonmatsu '03 (drums).

The Berklee Scholarship Jazz Ensemble will perform mainstream jazz, as well as compositions by Wayne Shorter from his Art Blakey years, on Monday, May 12, at 8:00 and 10:30 p.m. For ticket information, contact the Blue Note at 212-475-8592, or visit their website at .

There will be a reception at the Blue Note that night for Berklee alumni and guests beginning at 6:30 p.m. To register for the alumni event, please contact Adrian Ross at : .

There will be a fundraising event on June 18 at the Regattabar in Cambridge for the family of David Azarian, Assistant Professor of Piano who was killed in an automobile accident near Boston on March 30th, while changing a tire at the side of the road. David often played at the Regattabar, and owner Fenton Hollander has graciously volunteered the night to raise money for David's family. Featured will be Joe Lovano, who performed with David several times at the club, as well as Gary Burton, and other Berklee personnel. The goal is to raise $10,000 in the two shows that night.

Originally from Armenia, David grew up a musician in the Soviet classical conservatory system. Willis Conover's jazz radio broadcasts on the Voice of America fed his burgeoning love of jazz. He once said, "When you are in a jail, that music makes you wonder what kind of country produced it. I tell you, Conover was America's best weapon to destroy socialism and Communism."

David came to the United States in 1989 to play a series of concerts, and extended his stay to do several benefits for Armenian earthquake relief and made the U.S. his home. An excellent pianist, David received many glowing reviews of his CDs from the first rank of international jazz journalists. The week prior to his death, he had performed with his electric band, including John Baboian, Jamey Haddad, John Lockwood, and guest Joe Lovano, all fellow Berklee professors, at the Regattabar, one of the country's premier jazz venues.

Donations in David's memory, to support his two youngest children, can be made to the Amaras Arts Alliance, Inc., for the David Azarian Family Fund, c/o Watertown Savings Bank, P.O. Box 230 Watertown, MA 02471.


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