Jazz Jottings November 20167 minute read

Jazz Jottings November 2016
Bria Skonberg married Matthew Papper on Sept. 10, 2016

Those happy bells you heard ringing on September 10 were actually wedding bells for our gal Bria Skonberg and Matthew Papper, the artistic director for Town Hall, a performing arts center in midtown Manhattan. The New York Sunday Times ran a glowing article about the couple’s three-year courtship leading up to their marriage. To capsulize a few of the highlights:

Matthew first became aware of Bria when he dropped in to hear Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks at Sofia’s Restaurant in the Hotel Edison, and she was playing in the band. They kept running into each other at various events, but it was all fairly casual until they exchanged phone numbers that led to Bria inviting Matthew to join her at a late night jam session at an uptown bar. At 2:30 a.m., the two decided to share a cab to their respective apartments, but the ride extended into a tour twice around Manhattan from Washington Heights to Battery Park and a $85 cab fare (plus tip), with the couple ending up for ice cream at 6:30am at a 24-hour restaurant.

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With Matthew due to go to work in two hours, Bria, with her impish sense of humor, gave him a note for his boss, stating: “Papper can’t come to work today. He has typhoid.”

It was obvious the relationship was serious, and both were well aware of the demands of their respective schedules. The proposal came in October 2014, and Bria’s engagement ring has a white gold band shaped into the shape of a trumpet, capped with a sapphire gemstone. (A sapphire in an engagement ring is said to indicate faithfulness and sincerity, and coincidentally is the birthstone for the month of September.) Papper, as he is known, hit all the right notes when he was quoted as saying, “There’s nobody with whom I’d rather share my love of the arts and have more pleasure learning about it and experiencing all that is ahead of us both than with Bria.”

He is now booking 25 to 30 concerts and events at Town Hall, while Bria, in the words of Nate Chinen of The Times, “has become the shining hope of hot jazz on the strength of a clarion trumpet style indebted to Louis Armstrong, a smooth purr of a singing voice inspired by Anita O’Day, and the wholesome glow of youth.”

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Jazz Jottings November 2016
Dr. F. Norman Vickers, without whom we’d have many blank pages.

Dr. F. Norman Vickers, who reviews CDs and books on jazz for The Syncopated Times, is a man of many interests and accomplishments. For 36 years, he was a gastroenterologist and internal medicine specialist along with contributing and editing various medical publications in Florida. He has served on the boards of numerous community organizations. His hobby is raising camellias, and for 10 years he was secretary of the Pensacola Camellia Club.

He is one of the founders of Jazz Pensacola (formerly the Jazz Society of Pensacola), served as its volunteer executive director for 18 years, still volunteers a half-day a week at the Society office, was instrumental in establishing a Jazz Room in one of Pensacola’s public libraries, and is deservedly referred to as “Pensacola’s jazz ambassador, historian and keeper of the flame.” The joke used to be that the receptionist answering his office phone would sometimes ask if the call was “medical or musical.”

He is also one of the founders of the American Federation of Jazz Societies back in 1986, although he modestly states that he merely happened to be present when the likes of Hal Davis, Harold Gray and Warren Vache, Sr. met to form the national networking organization of jazz societies. For 20 years, Norman was a guiding influence in AFJS and did serve as president in the mid-1990s. He currently monitors a jazz chat room on the Internet.

Norman took piano lessons throughout his childhood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, played the piccolo in high school, and taught himself to play the guitar and harmonica. Even today at the age of 85, it doesn’t take much encouragement to get him to pull out his ever-present chromatic harmonica and have him play a jazzy rendition of Lulu’s Back in Town.

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After a 10-year hiatus, the CanUs Hot Jazz Band will be back on the festival trail, traveling 150 miles from their home base in Victoria, British Columbia to Lacey, Washington as one of 11 bands scheduled to appear at the 27th annual Olympia Classic Jazz Festival on the attractive campus of Saint Martin’s University the weekend of June 22-25, 2017. Leader Toni Blodgett acknowledges that Charlotte Dickison, the longtime moving force behind the Festival, just would not take “no” for an answer when the invitation was extended to the popular sextet that has been around since 1991.

Related: Jim Armstrong Reunion with CanUS Jazz Band

Festival director Walt Bowen and his committee have recruited another stellar lineup that also includes Jeff Barnhart & Charlotte’s Boys, Black Swan, Josh Duffee’s Greystone Monarch Orchestra, Grand Dominion, High Sierra, Ivory & Gold, Tom Rigney & Flambeau, Uptown Lowdown, Wolverine, and Yerba Buena.

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Jazz Jottings November 2016
An early example of a music stream.

A recent survey pertaining to the music industry shows that the number of U.S. consumers purchasing music declined from 120 million in 2005 to 99 million in 2015. However, streaming subscribers have gone from 20 million in 2012 to 68 million in 2015, better than a three-fold increase.

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Without getting overly technical, “streaming music,” which is more accurately known as “streaming audio,” is a way of delivering sound without the need to download files of different audio formats. Music services such as Spotify and Pandora use this method to provide songs that can be enjoyed on all types of different devices.

A typical example would be the 400 hours of 450 Riverwalk Jazz programs that are being streamed 24/7 over two channels on the Stanford University-hosted website – FREE of charge. These radio broadcasts are being presented in thematic categories such as New Orleans, Harlem Renaissance, Birth of Swing, and so on. It would take a listener seventeen and half days to listen to the entire series.

Other data from the survey shows that the average ticket price for concerts over the past decade has increased from $61.58 in 2006 to $75.24 in 2015, a little over 6%. Gross revenue from concerts by the top 100 world tours increased by a bit over 8% in the past five years. However, global revenue from the sale of recorded music has dropped from $20 billion to $15 billion over the past decade, mainly due to declining revenue from physical products such as CDs.

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Singer-pianist-bandleader-actor and three-time Grammy Award winner Harry Connick, Jr. has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and had ten #1 jazz albums. For the past three seasons he has been judging American Idol with Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. He now has ventured into the world of daytime TV talk shows as host of Harry, which premiered Sept. 12 on Fox-owned stations.

Discussing his new 60-minute program, he said, “When we pitched it, we said, ‘Let’s do something based around all the things I love to do as opposed to plugging me into an existing format,’ and that’s what we did. We think it’s going to be inherently different.”

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“I’m not going to come out and do a monologue and then have three guests. Some days there won’t be any celebrity guests. It’s not a celebrity-driven show. Some days we’ll celebrate everyday folks in extraordinary ways. Some days I might tell stories. My band is the band that’s on the show every day. These are musicians I play with all the time and with whom I have a close relationship and who are really good at doing anything and everything at a moment’s notice. Any kind of whim I have, they’re able to pull things off.”

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Pete and Will Anderson’s latest CD, Correspondence, introduced me to “Shaw ‘Nuff,” a 1945 bebop number by Dizzy Gillespie. While the tune is listed in the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz and to my non-musical ear, is essentially a series of chord progressions, the Andersons give further evidence of their versatility as creative improvisers. As Dave Robinson, who mentored the twins when they played in his Federal Focus band, pointed out, “They have a wide stylistic reach, which is a valuable commodity in the jazz world today.”

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Jazz Artists of Charleston has launched a community service program called “Jazz in the Joint” to bring jazz to jails and prisons in South Carolina. The brainchild of clarinetist and JAC Board member Steve Simon, who states, “My hope is that through the transformative power of music and outreach programs like this, inmates will have a few hours to forget where they are and to realize that people they’ve never met care about them.” JAC’s goal is to make “Jazz in the Joint” a part of ongoing community education programs and to encourage other jazz groups to embrace the concept as a way of fostering positive change through music.

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The Jazz Composers Symposium will be held May 18-20, 2017 at the University of South Florida in Tampa under the sponsorship of the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers and USF. The Symposium is expected to attract jazz composers, scholars, musicians, students, and industry professionals for an extensive program of seminars, guest artist master classes, presentations of new works and concepts, and discussion of music industry trends.

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In the opinion of JazzWax blogger Marc Myers, “Jazz isn’t dead. You just have to look a little harder to find the real excitement and innovation.”

Jazz Jottings November 2016

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Dick Rippey has been peddling his inventory of traditional jazz, ragtime and big band CDs, books and videos at festivals for the past 44 years. It’s as much a labor of love as it is a thriving business, but he feels it is important to keep this music alive. Actually Triangle Jazz & Records was started by his late brother Tom back in 1947. Calling itself the largest supplier of the genre in North America, Dick currently takes his wares to a half-dozen festivals a year, even though he acknowledges sales aren’t as strong as they once were. “Because we have such a selection of this recorded music and memorabilia, it is a service that jazz fans and collector value,” he states.

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Fluid in his lungs had Gary Church back in the hospital for a few days following his September 9th heart attack, but Cheryl Thurston brought in his portable Baby Grand to buoy his spirits. In a little over two weeks, he was back playing his horn – however lightly – with Cheryl at a local restaurant

Gary had four stents placed on the left side of his heart in September and will have another stent placed on the right side of his heart on November 10 to clear an artery that is totally blocked followed by an extended period of rehabilitation. Gary has had to deal with health issues in recent years, primarily involving a brain tumor.

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Don Parcher reminds us that the Buck Creek Jazz Band will be making one of their rare appearances at the upcoming San Diego Jazz Fest & Swing Extravaganza over Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-27) at the expansive Town & Country Resort on Hotel Circle. Formed in 1977, Buck Creek has appeared at just about every Trad festival there ever was, playing in the style of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and early New Orleans musicians.

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“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach (German author-poet, 1812-1882)

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