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Forest Whitaker as Satchmo

Fradley Garner By

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Asia's Queen of Jazz they call Annie Brazil. The singer from Okinawa started at age 6 in stage shows, performed at 12 for American troops in Pamopanga, frontlined a nightclub act at 15, and at 20 landed a bigger contract on the Pacific island. That's when Ms. Brazil caught impresario George Wein's ear; he invited her to sing at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival. Wider fame followed—appearances with Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, The Bee Gees, others. Brazil, based in New Jersey since 1990, lives in Hackettstown with her vocalist daughter Rachel Ann Wolfe, Rachel's husband and her four grandsons. Rachel, a BMG (Sony) recording artist, said: "At age 75, my Mom is the only Filipina who continues to have a following in a regular jazz joint in New York. I am not saying I can be like her, but she heeded the call of music and stuck to it through good times and hard times. In that sense, I like what I have become." Both mother and daughter also gig at Merk's Bar Bistro in Manilla.

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, "the hellacious big band once co-captained by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis," has seen its first live recording, Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard, well up on the charts since its release this spring. All tracks on the two-CD set, recorded in February, were to have been posted on their MySpace page by this fall. The venerable Greenwich Village club is the Monday night home of the 16-piece band, whose new album is dedicated to their late bassist, Dennis Irwin. "The VJO performs this testament to intergenerational goodwill with relaxation and warmth," writes Ted Gioia. "The section work is a joy to hear, and top solo honors go to trombonist John Mosca."

WBGO offers orchestra seats to station members who want to catch a night of live jazz with triple-Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves and heralded pianist-composer McCoy Tyner on Friday, December 19, 8 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, One Center St. in Newark. "After the show," the hosts invite you to "join us downstairs at Theatre Square Grill for a dessert reception, where you can hang out with another great lady, Midday Jazz's Rhonda Hamilton" and other WBGO staffers. Tickets are $75 and include the dessert reception. Call 973-624-8880, Ext. 24.

Whitaker played Bird in the 1988 film—and now the Oscar-winning (but not for "Bird") actor Forest Whitaker is taking on Satchmo in an estate-sanctioned bio-feature about Louis Armstrong. Whitaker is directing as well as starring in What a Wonderful World, the title of Pops' best-known song. The trumpeter and singer "left a monumental mark on our lives and our culture," said Whitaker. "He lived an amazing life and, through his art, shifted the way music was played and would be heard after him." The 47-year-old actor will need to "work on his smile (it needs to be HUGE) and gravelly Satchmo impression," wrote a blogger on OrlandoSentinal.com. "The real Armstrong's been dead for 40 years, but his voice is still one of the most identifiable in all of American pop culture." Whitaker, an enormously popular actor, has directed three films, none critically acclaimed. Legende studios began shooting this summer in Louisiana (New Orleans is where Armstrong got his start). The French company did the 2007 Oscar-winning Edith Piaf epic, La Vie en Rose.

Blind Boys Of Alabama and Preservation Hall Jazz Band are hitting the road in "Down by the Riverside," a co-billed tour that's taking the historic New Orleans institutions as far north as the Lebanon, New Hampshire Opera House on March 26, 2009, Boston Symphony Hall, March 27, and the State Theatre in Ithaca, New York, March 28. Formed in 1939, the Blind Boys have won four Grammy Awards in recent years and appeared on nationwide TV. Preservation Hall Jazz Band, founded 1961, won the 2006 National Medal of Arts, the country's highest honor. This December and the following two months may still be open for bookings, should venues in the Metropolitan New York-New Jersey area be interested. (See Web Hit below.)

Web Hit-Of-The-Month:
How did the Blind Boys of Alabama get their start, and what is this male gospel group all about? Jimmy Carter (no, not the Georgia prexy) and others explain in a clip from their new album. Check 'em out

Thanks to Joan McGinnis of Mission Viejo, CA, for Web research assistance.


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