Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coda: Dr. Billy Taylor

JJazz pianist, composer, educator and broadcaster Dr. Billy Taylor passed away on December 28, 2010 at the age of 89. He died from heart failure after several months of heart problems. Dr. Taylor's recording career covered more than six decades; he composed more than 350 songs and for theatre, dance and symphony orchestras. He began his professional career with Ben Webster's Quartet on 52nd Street ad was the house pianist at Birdland, the legendary jazz club where he performed with such celebrated masters as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Dr. Taylor earned his Masters and Doctorate in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts and held a Duke Ellington Fellowship at Yale University. He was granted 23 honorary doctoral degrees and was the recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, the National Medal of Arts, the Tiffany Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine and was elected to the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education. Dr. Taylor was one of only three jazz musicians appointed to the National Council of the Arts. He was the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is survived by his wife Theodora and by his daughter Kim Taylor-Thompson; his son Duane predeceased him.

2010 was a year in which many icons of jazz passed away. We are diminished by their loss and enriched by the legacy of jazz music they have bequeathed to us. Each jazz musician and listener carries that legacy with them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Last Jazz Workshop of 2010

Due to the holidays, 12/18/10 was the last jazz workshop of 2010. I wasn't there but roving reporter Peter kept the notes and did us up proud for the last jam. Thanks, Peter!

In attendance: Gene (drums), Wes (tenor sax), Russ (trombone), Peter (bari sax), Bill (ukulele), Adam (guitar- 1st timer), Jeff (guitar- another 1st timer), and Vicki, Matt, Annie (vocals).

The set list included Body & Soul, Have You Met Miss Jones, Stella by Starlight, Blue Bossa, Invitation, The Christmas Song, I Should Care, Merry Christmas, Baby, What Is This Thing Called Love?, All the Things You Are (twice - once instrumental, once vocal), Tennessee Waltz, I Thought About You
The Night Before Christmas (recited with Up On The Housetop played in the background), Moonlight Serenade, The Very Thought of You, The Folks Who Live on the Hill, Spanish Eyes, Take the "A" Train, Dream, How About You?, Touch of Your Lips, Blue Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

There it is, the last Jazz Workshop of 2010 which brings to a close 34 years of Workshop history. The 35th year is 2011 and the first Workshop session will be on 1/8/10! May everyone have a happy holiday, whichever holiday you celebrate. Be safe, be warm, be with your loved ones if you can.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Catch Me (Up)

I've missed posting the past few Jazz Workshop reports; life has been very busy at our house between the holidays and other things. So here's the catch up note.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving (if the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday then the day after that must be Blue Saturday) saw eleven folks come out to the park to play jazz. This included Russ (trombone), Rich (trumpet), Sam (trumpet- actually a Morrison trumpet synth controller), Wes (tenor sax), Max (bass), Gene (drums), Bill (tenor ukulele), Tim (guitar) and vocalists Annie, Cheryl and Matt.

The set list included "Four," "A Foggy Day," "Along Came Betty," "Turnaround," "The Jody Grind," "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," ""Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," "Christmastime Is Here," "Sleigh Ride," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Blue Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Midnight Sun," "C'est Si Bon," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "Don't Explain," and "The Grinch." Most of these were in preparation for the Santa Breakfast on 12/11/10.

OK, the next Saturday was 12/4/10, at which the usual suspects included Gene (drums), Russ ('bone), Peter (bari sax), Wes (tenor sax), Ira (alto sax), Bill (uke), Tim (guitar), Paul (piano) and vocalists Matt, Vicki, Cheryl and Annie. The intensive focus was on preparing for the Santa Breakfast including working out the arrangements. The song list was much shorter as a result; the instrumental portion of the workshop got through "Beautiful Love," "Milano," "Minority" and "Peri's Scope." With the vocalists we played "Sleigh Ride," "Christmastime Is Here," "The Night Before Christmas," "Jingle Bells," "Frosty The Snowman," "The Grinch," "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," "Linus and Lucy," "The Christmas Song," "Mele Kalimaka," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and maybe one or two others.

The Santa Breakfast is a non-denominational holiday celebration at McRae Park held a couple of weeks before Christmas. This year the weather threw a monkey wrench into things by having a blizzard on that day and the park proactively cancelled the event.

The next scheduled jazz workshop is on Saturday 12/18/10; there will be no workshops on 12/25/10 and 1/1/11.