Jazz Jottings July 2016

Molly Ryan and Dan Levinson welcomed a daughter – Aven Yetive Levinson – into their family on June 3. According to Dan, Aven is a Gaelic name and is pronounced like “Raven.” Yetive (ye-TEEV) was the name of Molly’s great grandmother. They are given to understand that there has not been anyone born in the United States by that name since 1921. Congratulations!

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The National Endowment for the Arts has announced four musicians and one advocate as the 2017 NEA Masters Fellows, the nation’s highest honor in jazz, recognizing their lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions to the advancement of the genre. Each will receive a $25,000 award and be honored at a tribute concert on April 3, 2017 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

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The 2017 NEA Jazz Masters are vocalist-producer Dee Dee Bridgewater, keyboardist-composer-arranger Dick Hyman, bassist-composer-bandleader Dave Holland, organist-composer Dr. Lonnie Smith and journalist-author-historian Ira Gitler.

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It seems that hardly a month goes by when some new honor or accomplishment involving Bria Skonberg comes to our attention. Following seven months of negotiations, she has signed with SONY Records, and her first album with this new affiliation will be released in September via SONY’s Masterworks/Portrait Division. (Read: Bria Skonberg: Three Albums Compared) She is also included in a list of 25 musicians in the July issue of Downbeat Magazine identified as shaping the direction of jazz in the decades to come. Pretty heady stuff!

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Eddie Erickson will be honored as the 2017 Jazz Legend at the San Diego Jazz Party Feb. 24-26 at the Hilton San Diego/Del Mar. Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi have been added to the lineup of 21 all-star musicians appearing at this 29th annual event.

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Dave Robinson reminds jazz educators that he has funding that will enable him to visit high schools and colleges and put on a workshop that will explain his traditional jazz curriculum and how to implement it. More than 10,000 kits have been distributed nationwide to date. The curriculum promotes the teaching of New Orleans-derived styles and acquaints students with the music of Armstrong, Morton, Bechet, Beiderbecke, Lu Watters, Condon and many more proponents of traditional jazz.

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Familiar names among the Jazz Journalists Assn. 2016 winners for excellence in jazz and jazz journalism are Wycliffe Gordon, trombonist-of-the-year, and Anat Cohen, who took top honors among the clarinet and multi-reed players, along with Scott Robinson who was recognized as the player-of-unusual-instruments in jazz. Among the nominated finalists were Bucky Pizzarelli, Lifetime Achievement Award, and clarinetist Ken Peplowski.

The Lifetime Achievement Award as voted by JJA members went to Henry Threadgill, composer, reeds-and-winds soloist and ensemble leader, who won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Composer-orchestra leader Maria Schneider captured Musician of the Year and four other awards, including Best Album of 2015 for The Thompson Fields. Saxophonist Kamasi Washington was hailed as Up-and-Coming-Musician of the Year.

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Adrian Cunningham tells us musicians get asked some crazy questions: “Are you any good?” – “Can you make enough money to pay the rent?” – etc Known for his quirky sense of humor, he decided to do Man-on-the-Street interviews and ask those same questions of 9-to-5 Wall Street workers in New York City. The results are posted on Adrian’s Facebook page, which has gotten considerable play.

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Will and Peter Anderson, along with guitarist Adam Moezina, recently completed a 32-day, cross-country tour where they covered 8,900 miles and traveled as far west as Phoenix, Arizona from their home base in New York City. “We had a blast meeting so many enthusiastic jazz fans all over the country,” was their comment after 30 concerts in 28 cities. They are planning a West Coast tour in October, and a Florida tour next year in February along with another cross-country jaunt in April 2017.

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Jazz Jottings July 2016It was 25 years ago that a group of musicians from the United States and Canada came together to form CanUS, originally a quartet that combined vocals and instrumentals to become a popular draw on the traditional jazz circuit. While there have been a few personnel changes over the years, CanUS led by pianist Toni Blodgett can currently be heard twice a month on Sundays at Hermann’s Jazz Club on the picturesque island of Victoria, British Columbia.

Now a sextet, the band stopped touring in 2006. The current lineup has Toni Blodgett on piano and vocals, Doug Rhodes on alto and soprano sax, Joey Smith on bass and vocals, Don Leppard on drums, and newcomers Mike Broadley on trumpet and vocals and Tom Ackerman on sax and clarinet.

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Jazz Jottings July 2016Very little gets by the eagle eye of Ed Polcer, the old Princetonian. He was quick to point out that my reference to jazz violinist Jonathan Russell as a “wunderkind” in last month’s column was incorrect. Derived from the German meaning “wonder child,” it is defined as “a child prodigy, one who succeeds in a competitive or highly difficult field or profession at an early age, usually under the age of 10.” Jonathan is now 21 and is still a wonder!

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According to jazz blogger Marc Myers, Elliot Lawrence and Ray Anthony are probably the last two bandleaders from the Big Band era still living.

Born Elliot Lawrence Broza in 1925, the son of radio and TV pioneers, he had his first band at age 12, played college proms while attending the University of Pennsylvania, and became music director of Station WCAU’s house band in 1945.

The theme song for the Elliot Lawrence Orchestra that toured the country (1946-54) was “Heart to Heart.” As the Big Band era came to a close, he did radio (Red Buttons) and Broadway shows (Bye Bye Birdie, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). Scored the movies Network and The French Connection, and was music director and conductor for Tony Award telecasts.

Born Raymond Antonini in 1922, Ray Anthony is the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra (1940-42). Following World War II service in the Navy, he formed his own group that gained noterity for such tunes as “The Bunny Hop” and “Hokey Pokey” as well as the theme music for the Dragnet and Peter Gunn TV programs. His band’s theme song was “Young Man with a Horn.” He appeared on TV and in several films (portrayed Jimmy Dorsey in The Five Pennies). Has released over 126 albums. Ray Anthony and his Bookends were active between the 1960s and 1980s. His second wife was actress Mamie Van Doren.

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We conclude with a wise word from Albert Schweitzer: “There are two means of refuge from the misery of life: music and cats.” (Fortunately, I have two lovable cats.)

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