Alvin Batiste: Legendary Pioneer of Jazz


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NEW ORLEANS - Alvin Batiste's body will lie in state for public viewing at the historic Gallier Hall, 545 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70113 on Friday, May 11, 2007 from 12:00 noon to 7:00 pm, followed by a musical tribute where several New Orleans musicians will perform in memory of the man they called “Bat."

Funeral service will be held at Gallier Hall, on Saturday, May 12, 2007 with public visitation from 9:00 am - 10:30 am. Final service begins at 11:00 am, to be followed by a musical procession immediately after the services. Arrangements by Duplain W. Rhodes Funeral Home, 1728 North Claiborne Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116 (Phone: 504- 943-3422).

About Alvin Batiste

A music master, composer, arranger, educator and performer - Alvin Batiste defies description. Batiste, a native of New Orleans, was born on November 7, 1932 and transitioned on May 6, 2007 at 2:30 am.

He is simply “Batiste" - one of the most distinctive and virtuosic of modern jazz clarinet players, and his name alone has become synonymous with taking the music to the next level and the next generation, a 'Music Pioneer' who has contributed to every genre.

His Columbia album billed him as a “Legendary Pioneer of Jazz." Alvin Batiste is an avant-garde player who does not fit easily into any classification. Under-recorded throughout his career, Batiste was a childhood friend of Ed Blackwell and spent time in Los Angeles in 1956 playing with Ornette Coleman.

Batiste was born in New Orleans in 1932, and is among the rare artists who have created a modern approach to improvising on the clarinet. “My dad played the clarinet," Alvin explains, “and was a boyhood friend of the great Edmond Hall as well as a fan of Benny Goodman. I wasn't that interested in learning the instrument when he bought one for me, until I heard Charlie Parker's recording of 'Now's the Time' at a friend's house. You could only find records like that in one or two stores in New Orleans at the time, and my reaction was, 'What was that?' I started practicing seriously at that point."

Batiste and renowned saxophonist Edward 'Kidd" Jordan would develop a friendship that spans fifty-five years. They met as young musicians at Southern University in Baton Rouge in 1952, played together in the University's concert & marching bands as well as the Collegian and The Dukes of Rhythm, both unauthorized jazz bands which were not allowed on the campus, pledge in the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and later would marry a pair of sisters; Alvin to Edith Chatters and Kidd to Edvidge Chatters. Alvin introduced Jordan to Edvidge following a Stan Kenton Big Band show at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans in which Alvin and Kidd had waited for more than an hour hoping for a chance to meet band members Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Parker abided and immediately dubbed the two young musicians his friends.

Batiste would later share tenure with Jordan at the Louis “Satchmo" Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, established in 1995 to honor the legacy of a beloved international ambassador and one of New Orleans ' greatest native sons. The Camp was designed to perpetuate the rich jazz tradition by teaching young people the art form in the city where it was created.

Other members of The Dukes of Rhythm included Don Dillon, Edward Sanders, Curtis Godchaux, Berk Robison, Ed “Lil Daddy" Duplessis, Ludwig Freeman, Dewey Lewis, Ed Sawyer, Bernard Beaco and other classmates.

“Bat" was also influenced during his early years by his teachers T. LeRoy Davis, Huel Perkins, John Banks, Henry Thompson (Omar Sharif) and Berk Robinson, the latter an advance student who had mastered all of Charlie Parker's tunes.

Batiste first received international attention after he appeared on two Julian Cannonball Adderly recordings. Batiste had just completed the musical score to Vu-Dou Macbeth an Operatic choreo-drama by librettist Lenwood O'Sloan. Batiste performed throughout American Inner city school districts using the principles in his book entitled: The Root Progression System: The Fundamentals of African American Music.

Throughout his musical career, Batiste has performed with the Ray Charles Orchestra, Larry Darnell, Joe Jones, Smiley Lewis, Joe Robichaux, Guitar Slim, Marlon Jordan and George Williams. He also played with the American Jazz Quintet. Batiste recorded with the AFO Records ("All For One"), a New Orleans based record company formed in 1961 by Harold Battiste which is credited with creating a rhythmic new jazz feel. This New Orleans modern jazz developed by Alvin Batiste, Harold Battiste, pianist Ellis Marsalis, drummer Ed Blackwell and other local musicians was highly influenced by its New York counterpart; “bebop" yet maintained strong southern characteristics.

Batiste made three albums with Clarinet Summit in the 1980s (a quartet also including John Carter, David Murray, and Jimmy Hamilton). Batiste recorded an album, Bayou Magic, in 1988 as a leader for India Navigation and made the 1993 Columbia album Late. Songs, Words and Messages, Connections appeared in 1999. Batiste also performed on the Marlon Jordan featuring Stephanie Jordan 2005 CD release which was a production of the Jordan-Chatters-Batiste family.

His most current CD made available on April 10. 2007; Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste is with Bradford Marsalis and other notable Jazz musicians, (Alvin Batiste - Clarinet, Edward Perkins - Vocals, Branford Marsalis - Saxophones, Russell Malone - Guitar, Lawrence Fields - Piano, Ricardo Rodriguez - Bass and Herlin Riley - Drums). Few musicians are more deserving of honors than Alvin Batiste, he has been a central figure in shaping modern music for the past half century, and the ten tracks on Alvin Batiste provide a too-rare glimpse of a giant who has spent far too much of his career out of the limelight.

The cut titled “Edith" is in honor of Alvin's wife; she also contributed lyrics to “My Life is a Tree" and served as music librarian during the sessions. Their son Maynard wrote the lyrics to “Ever Loving Star," while the celebratory “Bumps" got its title from their grandson's nickname. “I've always enjoyed the comfort and support of family," Batiste noted. “I guess it's a spiritual thing. Edith is one of 16 children, each of whom played something. We came up in high school together, when she was also playing clarinet. I included 'I Wonder Where Our Love has Gone' because that was one of the very romantic tunes we danced to when we were courting."

Alvin and Edith, a noted poet in her own right had planned to release 'Soulmates' in June 2007.

Batiste was a member of the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, Traditional Martinist Order (TMO), Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity, John Hays Society, and United States Army Reserve (1951 - 1955).

Receiving numerous awards and honors during his career that has spanned more than five decades, His work has won him Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the National Association of Jazz Educators' National Humanitarian Award, the International Association of Jazz Educator's Lifetime Achievement Award, Offbeat Magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award for Arts Education, the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society's Education Award and Southern University's Distinguished Service Award. Batiste is also holder of the Louisiana Governor's 2005 Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education."

His students are presently very prominent in the world of music today as celebrated jazz musicians, composers, recording artists and educators. A limited list includes Randy Jackson (American Idol), Antonio York, Roland Guerin, Troy Davis, Donald Edwards, George Fontenette, Herman Jackson, Henry Butler, Branford Marsalis, Kent Jordan, Marlon Jordan, Donald Harrison, Jr., Chris Severan, Willie Singleton, Herlin Riley, Reginald Veal, Yolanda Robertson Windsay, Ernest Jackson, Margeret Valet, Jonathan Bloom, Coco York, Wes Anderson, Ed Perkins, Julius Farmer, Dennis Nelson, Kirk Ford, Al Rodriguez, Charlie Singleton, Monty Seward, Betsy Braud, Micheal Ward, Raymond Harris, John Gray, Quamon Fowler, Maurice Brown, Woddie Douglas, and many more.

He also provided spiritual and musical guidance to performing musicians in the immediate family including, Jonathan Bloom, Marc Chatters, Thelma Chatters, Cynthia Dolliole, Carolina Dolliole, Elton Heron, Reina Heron Soraparu, Kent Jordan, Marlon Jordan, Rachel Jordan, and Stephanie Jordan.

Batiste holds a Master's degree of Music in clarinet performance and composition from Louisiana State University and a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Southern University (both in Baton Rouge, Louisiana). A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans, Batiste began his professional career as a teacher at McDonough #35 High School in New Orleans, 1955- 65.

He returned to Southern University in 1969 to create the Jazz Institute. Batiste's Jazz Institute at Southern University has welcomed such artists as Cannonball Adderley, James Black, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, George Duke, Quincy Jones, Edward “Kidd" Jordan, Ellis Marsalis, Sonny Stitt, Clark Terry, Max Roach, Jimmy Owens, and a host of other jazz luminaries. The program continues today and has musically supported such artists as Branford Marsalis, and others. Batiste continued to perform with his group, the Jazztronauts.

Batiste most current position was that of lead teacher in jazz instrumental music at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA). He also has served as artist-in-residence for the New Orleans Public School system, and developed a multi-ethnic music curriculum.

Most notably, while transitioning from Booker T. Washington High School to Southern University, Batiste auditioned and was accepted to perform a guest soloist with the New Orleans Philharmonic playing Mozart's Concerto, the first time that a Black student ever had such an honor. It also earned Batiste the nickname, “Mozot." Years later, the Philharmonic debuted his North American Idio- syncrasies for Jazz Players. He was also commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts to compose a concerto for African instruments and orchestra.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
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