"Albert Ammons Centennial Concert" Sept. 22, 2007 at Chicago Temple


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The “Albert Ammons Centennial Concert" will celebrate the 100th birthday anniversary of the late legendary jazz and boogie-woogie pianist on Saturday, September 22, 2007, 4:00 PM, in the historic First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St. Chicago, IL 60602, www.chicagotemple.org/ 312-236-4548, with the support of Cleveland Steel Container Corporation. The downtown location is directly across the street from Daley Plaza and the Picasso sculpture.

Tickets are $25.00 at the door, in advance at PayPal or by check payable to the Albert Ammons Concert and mailed to the church. Proceeds will go to the Jazz Institute of Chicago - Jazz Links Program, an education program providing training and opportunities for students in public schools in Chicago.

This rare performance brings together several of the finest boogie-woogie music masters in the world. Franz Jackson, 94, tenor saxophonist played his first professional gig with Mr. Ammons at age 16 in 1929. Five pianists include Axel Zwingenberger of Hamburg, Germany; Erwin Helfer of Chicago; Carl “Sonny" Leyland of Los Angeles; Bob Seeley of Detroit; Butch Thompson of St. Paul; with jazz vocalist Lila Ammons, Albert's granddaughter, of Minneapolis. Also appearing will be his son, Bishop Edsel Albert Ammons, of Evanston, Illinois. Host is Mike Price, editor, author and critic-at-large, of Fort Worth, Texas.

The musical program will be divided into three parts:

“The Early Years" (1907-1920s)
“The Boogie Years" (1930s-1940s)
“Beyond Albert" (1950s to Today)

Classic selections include “Pineapple Rag," “Georgia Camp Meeting." “Boogie Stomp," “Chicago in Mind," “Honkey Tonk Train," “Foot Pedal Boogie," “Sixth Avenue Express," “Alligator Crawl," “Ain't Misbehavin," “Bedroom Blues" and the finale “Cavalcade of Boogie."

On December 23, 1938 at Carnegie Hall, a trio of jazz pianists, Albert Ammons, Meade “Lux" Lewis and Pete Johnson, introduced boogie-woogie music and sparked a national craze. The masters of the art form thrilled thousands of fans with their recordings, concerts, radio and nightclub appearances until Ammons' early death at age 42.

Albert Ammons grew up on Chicago's South Side where he learned to play piano by observing musicians in neighboring apartments. His blues career began at rent parties, playing with a style significantly influenced by local blues and jazz pianists Jimmy Blythe, Hersal Thomas, Alonzo and Jimmy Yancey and Clarence “Pinetop" Smith. In the late 1920s, it was Smith who popularized boogie woogie in name and style, encouraging young Ammons to “learn and play my music."

Ammons worked with several Chicago bands and dance orchestras. In 1935 he formed his own five-piece jazz band, the Rhythm Kings, and garnered rave reviews at the Club DeLisa, a popular South Side night spot.

In 1936 Ammons and his group cut four records for Decca, attracting promoter John Hammond. In late 1938, Hammond invited Ammons to New York with fellow Chicago pianist Meade “Lux" Lewis, Kansas City blues shouter Big Joe Turner and his pianist Pete Johnson. On December 23, they performed at Carnegie Hall with gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, clarinetist Sidney Bechet, stride pianist James P. Johnson, bluesman Big Bill Broonzy and the Count Basie Band.

This was the “Spirituals to Swing Concert," which is now legendary for introducing these musicians to a larger audience and launching them on national careers. As a reviewer exclaimed, “It was the boogie boys who stole the show!"

The Carnegie Hall debut led to more concert appearances, radio broadcasts and recording sessions for Ammons, Lewis, Turner and Johnson, “The Boogie Woogie Boys." Two Manhattan jazz clubs, Caf Society Downtown and Caf Society Uptown, opened in 1939-1940. The downtown Greenwich Village club was the first in New York to feature black and white musicians performing before integrated audiences.

In January 1939, record producer Alfred Lion featured Ammons and Lewis on the new jazz label Blue Note's first recording. Their twin pianos performed coast-to-coast and they were featured with singer Lena Horne in the film short, Boogie Woogie Dream.

Returning home to Chicago in 1946, Ammons played at the Bee Hive and other clubs and recorded for Mercury Records. In January 1949, Ammons played for President Harry Truman's inauguration at the White House, and in the same month jammed with the Lionel Hampton band for Decca Records. Later that year Ammons was sidelined with illness and died at home on December 2.

Christopher Page, author of Boogie Woogie Stomp - Albert Ammons and His Music, noted that of all the boogie players in the 1940s, Ammons may well have pushed the music to its greatest limits, harmonically and rhythmically, making a significant contribution to the American Jazz scene and paving the way for lesser known Black jazz musicians.

Meade “Lux" Lewis continued recording until 1962, and died in an automobile accident in Minneapolis on June 7, 1964. Pete Johnson moved to Buffalo, NY in 1950, and continued to tour and record with Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner and Jazz at the Philharmonic. He died on March 23, 1967 at Meyer Hospital in Buffalo.


Franz Jackson, Tenor Saxophone

Franz Jackson, 94, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist/vocalist, is one of the last living musicians to have learned Chicago jazz from its originators. He played with such jazz luminaries as Albert Ammons, Carroll Dickerson, Jimmy Noone, Walter Barnes, Roy Eldridge, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway and James P. Johnson. He replaced icon Ben Webster in Henderson's and Eldridge's bands and also won attention for big band compositions and arrangements for Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway and Jack Teagarden. Between tenures in Chicago, Jackson lived in New York and Sweden, performing, composing, arranging and directing bands. In Chicago, 1957, he formed his the Original Jazz All-Stars, recorded seven albums on his own label, Pinnacle Recordings, and toured the world. He now resides in Dowagiac, Michigan. http://www.franzjackson.com/bio.html

Axel Zwingenberger, Piano

Axel Zwingenberger was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1955, and enjoyed eleven years of conventional piano training. In 1973 he listened to authentic boogie-woogie piano for the first time on vintage shellacs by Albert Ammons, Meade “Lux" Lewis and Pete Johnson. He soon joined piano playing partners Hans-Georg Mller, Vince Weber and Martin Pyrker, and word about the four friends began to spread. In 1974, the First International Blues-and-Boogie Woogie Festival of the West German Radio Station in Cologne was followed by Hans Maitners annual festival Stars of Boogie Woogie in Vienna. Axel has recorded with American music stars like Big Joe Turner, Lionel Hampton, Mama Yancey, Sippie Wallace, Champion Jack Dupree, Jay McShann and many others. www.boogie-woogie.com/fakten/index_e_fakten.html

Erwin Helfer, Piano

Erwin Helfer, a Chicago boogie-woogie innovator and master, has been playing and performing for over forty years. For many years, Erwin accompanied Mama Yancey, the wife of Chicago blues piano patriarch Jimmy “Papa" Yancey, and later recorded one album with her. He was also mentored and influenced by Cripple Clarence Lofton, Speckled Red, and Sunnyland Slim. During the 60s and 70s, Erwin released two piano duet albums with his performing and recording partner of ten years, Jimmy Walker. His most recent European tours include Berlin Jazz Festival and Debrecen Jazz Festival, the oldest Jazz Festival in Hungary. www.erwinhelferpiano.com

Carl “Sonny" Leyland, Piano

As a youth in Southampton, England, Carl “Sonny" Leyland was inspired by a friend's attempt at playing Jimmy Dorsey's “Boogie Woogie." He immersed himself in the driving sounds created by Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, Jimmy Yancey and Cripple Clarence Lofton. At age 15 Leyland began performing with local favorites, the Bob Pearce Blues Band, and within a few years was featured as a soloist at many European festivals, including the prestigious Les Nuits de Jazz et Boogie in Paris. In 1988 Leyland settled in New Orleans, where he headed his own trio. After spending several years there, Leyland moved west to Southern California. Currently, Leyland can be seen as a solo performer & leader of the Carl “Sonny" Leyland Trio. http://www.carlsonnyleyland.com/

Bob Seeley, Piano

Bob Seeley is an all-around pianist whose interest and repertoire span piano music from the entire 20th century. The 77-year old Seeley is an indomitable soul who has played Carnegie Hall several times and most of the major venues throughout Europe. His most conspicuous influence was Meade Lux Lewis. Bob first met the maestro during a Detroit gig in the late 1940s and a long-standing friendship developed. Lewis influenced Seeley's piano styling and has resulted in a very rhythmical form of boogie-woogie. Seeley has released five CDs and is working on number six with Boogie Bob Baldori. http://www.boogiebob.com/

Butch Thompson, Piano

In a career spanning 40 years, pianist Butch Thompson has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride, and classic jazz piano. He performs with symphony orchestras, among them recently the Hartford Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cairo (Egypt) Symphony. Widely known for his 12-year stint (1974-1986) as house pianist and bandleader on public radio's A Prairie Home Companion, he continues as a frequent guest on that show. During the early 90s, Thompson began an association with the off-Broadway show Jelly Roll! The Music and the Man, which won an Obie, Lucille Lortell and Outer Critics Circle awards as best off-Broadway musical of 1995. In addition to his career as a performer, Butch writes articles and reviews on jazz and produces his own weekly radio show, Jazz Originals, on KBEM-FM radio in Minneapolis. www.butchthompson.com

Lila Ammons, Vocalist

Lila Ammons' roots in jazz are legendary as the granddaughter of charismatic boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and niece of tenor titan Gene (Jug) Ammons. Studying classical voice in New York, Ammons spent twelve years singing in opera, recitals and oratorios in the US and Europe, as well as doing commercial and film work. She has been moving steadily into jazz, as well as relocating to Minneapolis-St. Paul, where with a wide vocal and interpretive range, Lila Ammons has appeared at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, the Artists' Quarter, Bellanotte, Rossi's Blue Star Room, the Dakota County Jazz Cafe, the Minneapolis Hot Summer and Winter Jazz Festivals, along with the Chicago Blues Festival (2007). Ammons teaches private voice lessons and is in the midst of her first recording. www.jazzpolice.com/content/view/4904/115

Bishop Edsel Ammons, Special Guest

Bishop Edsel Albert Ammons is the oldest of two [and the only living] child of Albert Clifton Ammons. Born February 17, 1924 in Chicago, Bishop Ammons is the father of Lila Ammons and of four other children: Edsel, Jr., Carol, Kenneth, and Carlton. He was educated at Chicago area schools and colleges receiving degrees from Roosevelt University, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from Chicago Theological Seminary. After serving as a congregational pastor in the Chicago Area of the Methodist Church, he was appointed Director of Urban Work for the Rockford District. Subsequently, he moved to the Staff of the Annual Conference where he remained until joining the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. Following distinguished service in congregational ministry and higher education, Edsel Ammons was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church in July 1976. For sixteen years, he served as bishop of the Church for the state of Michigan and the western fifty-five counties of the state of Ohio. He retired in 1992 and returned to post-retirement service at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. Bishop Ammons' other activities included President of the General Board of Discipleship, Chairperson of Departments of Health and Welfare and Missionary Personnel of Global Ministries, and since 1979, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary. Bishop Ammons is married to Helen Fannings Ammons.

Michael Price, Host

Price is associate editor of the Fort Worth Business Press and critic-at-large of the daily Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. As a journalist and critic, Price has traced the roots of American music for Texas Jazz, Billboard, Variety and the New York Times News Service. His published commentaries include The Guitar in Jazz (University of Nebraska Press); Hollywood and the Piano (the Van Cliburn Foundation); and Dance of the Peckerwoods: The Badlands of Texas Music (Music Mentor Books of England), containing an account of a Texas-based campaign to preserve the boogie-woogie heritage. His most recent book on the jazz culture is Mantan the Funnyman: The Life and Times of Mantan Moreland (Midnight Marquee Press 2007).

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