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NEA Jazz Masters Concert -a Tribute to Benny Powell

Friday, November 19, 2010, 8:00 PM
$40/$32 Members/$20 Students with I.D. Package: $120/$100 Members (Table seating for 2, Wine, Snacks, CD (Packages are SOLDOUT)

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“innate elegance…mellow, full-bodied sound." (The New York Times)

NEA Jazz Masters Jimmy Heath, saxophone, Barry Harris, piano, Jim Hall, Guitar, and Curtis Fuller, Trombone, join in concert with David Wong, bass, and Tootie Heath, drums, in a musical tribute to Benny Powell, who played in the Jazz Masters Annual Concert at Flushing Town Hall and passed away in June. Born in New Orleans, Powell was a member of Lionel Hampton’s big band and gained national attention during his 12 years with Count Basie.

Born in New Orleans, Powell is, perhaps, best known for his 12-year tenure (1951-63) with Count Basie, and for his eight-bar contribution to the Count's all-time big hit, “April in Paris.” But more than that, Powell, in his all-too-rare solos with the Basie band, displayed a blues-laced, story-telling approach to improvisation. Check out, for instance, his masterfully balanced two-chorus statement on “Blues Backstage” from 1954, or “In a Mellotone,” recorded in a live performance five years later.

After leaving Basie, Powell embarked upon a rich, diverse musical career. A versatile and accomplished player, he has worked extensively on Broadway, television, and on numerous recordings.
During the 1960s and '70s, Powell graced the trombone sections of Duke Pearson's fine New York big band and the renowned Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. (His four-chorus solo on Jones'”Fingers” is a master class in modern jazz trombone improvisation.) He also began-and continues-to make his name as a leader in his own right, a respected teacher, and a dedicated activist in the cause of rights for jazz artists.

After a decade in Hollywood, where he worked on The Merv Griffin Show, Powell returned to New York in the early 1980s and connected with two visionary instrumentalist-composers, the late clarinetist John Carter and pianist Randy Weston, with whom he performed for over 30 years.

Although an unsuccessful kidney transplant in 1990 left him to undergo thrice weekly dialysis treatments until a second match was successfully transplanted in 1996, Powell never let it keep him from working-and even touring-with the likes of Weston, Benny Carter and Jimmy Heath among many others.

Jimmy Heath has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger. Jimmy is the middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (Percy Heath/bass and Tootie Heath/drums), and is the father of Mtume. He has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, from Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. In 1948 at the age of 21, he performed in the First International Jazz Festival in Paris with McGhee, sharing the stage with Coleman Hawkins, Slam Stewart, and Erroll Garner. One of Heath’s earliest big bands (1947-1948) in Philadelphia included John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Specs Wright, Cal Massey, Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant, and Nelson Boyd. Charlie Parker and Max Roach sat in on one occasion.

During his career, Jimmy Heath has performed on more than 100 record albums including seven with The Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader. Jimmy has also written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards and have been recorded by other artists including Art Farmer, Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie J.J Johnson and Dexter Gordon. Jimmy has also composed extended works - seven suites and two string quartets - and he premiered his first symphonic work, “Three Ears,” in 1988 at Queens College (CUNY) with Maurice Peress conducting.

After having just concluded eleven years as Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Heath maintains an extensive performance schedule and continues to conduct workshops and clinics throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada. He has also taught jazz studies at Jazzmobile, Housatonic College, City College of New York, and The New School for Social Research. In October 1997, two of his former students, trumpeters Darren Barrett and Diego Urcola, placed first and second in the Thelonious Monk Competition.
Jim Hall, born in Buffalo, and educated at the Cleveland Institute of Music, moved to Los Angeles where he began to attract national, and then international, attention in the late 1950s. By 1960 Jim had arrived in New York to work with Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer, among others. His live and recorded collaborations with Bill Evans, Paul Desmond, and Ron Carter, are legendary.

Not only is Jim Hall one of the jazz world's favorite guitarists, but he has also earned critical acclaim for his skills as a composer and arranger. The first formal recognition came in 1997, when Jim won the New York Jazz Critics Circle Award for Best Jazz Composer/Arranger. His pieces for string, brass, and vocal ensembles can be heard on his "Textures" and "By Arrangement" recordings. His original composition, "Quartet Plus Four," a piece for jazz quartet augmented by the Zapolski string quartet, was debuted in Denmark during the concert and ceremony where he was awarded the coveted Jazzpar Prize, and later released on CD.

His most recent large-scale composition was a concerto for guitar and orchestra, commissioned by Towson University in Maryland for The First World Guitar Congress®, which was debuted in June 2004 with the Baltimore Symphony. The title of the work, “Peace Movement,” is indicative of Jim’s desire to contribute to world peace through his music. He views music as a way of bonding people together and crossing barriers, be they barriers of geography, ideology, religion, or other discriminations. In accepting the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship award in January 2004, he said, “The women and men who have received this award in the past have spread peace and love throughout the world, something that governments might emulate. I am pleased to be one of the peacemakers.”

In addition to the recent focus on orchestral and choral composition, Jim remains active as a player, working and recording with a variety of ensembles all around the world. In addition to working with his trio, Jim likes to spice up the mix with various guests. From time to time you might hear Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, the New York Voices, Kenny Barron, Pat Metheny, Slide Hampton, and others, working for a night or two with Jim's groups. In fact, several of these guests can be heard on a live recording titled "Panorama.” On occasion, these alliances lead to more intensive collaborative projects such as the “Jim Hall & Basses” recording featuring Scott Colley, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, George Mraz, and Christian McBride, and the "duets" project with Pat Metheny.

Jim’s latest project, “Magic Meeting,” a CD featuring the Jim Hall Trio with Scott Colley and Lewis Nash, was recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York City at the end of April 2004. Jim’s new website (www.jimhallmusic.com) enables him to share with his audience a personal view of his creative process, in addition to the finished product. Via the web, audiences can participate, not just by purchasing the new CD, but by ‘being there,’ behind the scenes, so to speak, witnessing Jim prepare for a project, meeting the players, hearing the outtakes, and more.

Some years ago, Guitar Player magazine quoted Jim as saying "I do feel good about my playing. The instrument keeps me humble. Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say `No, you can't play today.' I keep at it anyway though." Jim and his wife, Jane, who is both a psychoanalyst and a songwriter, live in New York City’s Greenwich Village with their dog, Django.

Barry Harris is an internationally renowned Jazz Pianist, Composer and Teacher. Dr. Harris is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Northwestern University. He has received the Living Jazz Legacy award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Association, and an American Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, Dr. Harris received the Manhattan Borough President Award for Excellence. This award was given for recognition of his devoted public service and in honor of excellence in the field of music. He received the 1999 Mentor award for his work with youngsters at the Manhattan Country School in NYC.

Dr. Harris has devoted his life to the advancement of Jazz and in the 1980’s founded the Jazz Cultural Theatre. For the past several decades Dr. Harris has been an exponent of the classic Jazz style that was developed by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins.

Dr. Barry Harris receives frequent request to appear as a guest lecturer by Universities and various musical venues all over the world. His lectures and interactive instrument and vocal workshops focus on the complete aspects of music including improvisation, harmonic movement and theory. His schedule includes lectures in the United States, Holland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Japan. When he is not travelling, Dr. Harris holds weekly music workshop sessions in New York City for vocalists, students of piano other instruments.

Curtis Fuller was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1934. He came to music late, playing the baritone horn in high school and switching to the trombone at age 16. Detroit, at the time, was the breeding ground for an astonishing pool of fresh, highly individual talent.
Milt Jackson and Hank Jones had already gone to New York and made their names. But coming of age in Detroit in the early fifties were Fuller, Donald Byrd, Elvin and Thad Jones, Paul Chambers, Louis Hayes, Kenny Burrell, Barry Harris, Pepper Adams, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Red, Hugh Lawson, Doug Watkins, Tommy Flanagan and many others who would make the mid-decade migration to New York and eventually international recognition.

In 1953, Curtis left the local scene to serve his two-year stint in the army, where he met and played with Cannonball Adderley and Junior Mance among others. When he returned home, he began working with Yusef Lateef's quintet. The Lateef quintet came to New York in April 1957 to record two albums for Savoy and a third produced by Dizzy Gillespie for Verve.

Word of Curtis's talent spread rapidly around New York. Although he initially came under the spell of J.J. Johnson and listed Jimmy Cleveland, Bob Brookmeyer and Urbie Green among his favorites, Fuller came to New York at the age of 22 with a unique style and sound.

In May, after being in town for about a month, he recorded with Paul Quinchette and made his first albums as a leader: two quintet albums for Prestige with Sonny Red featured on alto. Like the Blue Note debuts by Kenny Burrell and Thad Jones the prior year, he used mostly transplanted Detroit players.

Blue Note's Alfred Lion had also heard about Fuller and went to see him at the Cafe bohemia with Miles Davis's sextet. Curtis joined the Blue Note family, appearing on a Clifford Jordan date on June 2 and making his own, The Opener, with Hank Mobley, on June 16. That summer Curtis was everywhere. "Alfred brought me into dates with Jimmy Smith and Bud Powell. And then we did Blue Train with John Coltrane. And I became the only trombone soloist to record with those three artists." So after eight months in New York, Curtis Fuller had made six albums as a leader and appeared on 15 others. Even in those prolific times, that's pretty impressive for a newly-arrived trombonist.

At the end of '58, Benny Golson asked Curtis to share the front line for a Riverside blowing date entitled "The Other Side of Benny Golson," which put the emphasis on Benny's tenor playing rather than his composing and arranging. The chemistry between these two horn men clicked, and they would record an album under Curtis's name for Savoy [Blues-ette] and three under Benny's name for Prestige in 1959 with various rhythm sections. They also made two Fuller albums for Savoy with trumpet added to the front line, which laid the groundwork for the creation of the Jazztet.
In February 1960, the Jazztet, a sextet under the leadership of Benny Golson and Art Farmer, made their first album. Curtis Fuller was the trombonist and McCoy Tyner made his recording debut as the pianist. The Jazztet became a very successful unit from the start, but Fuller and Tyner left a few months into the life of the band. They were headed in other directions.

In the summer of '61, Curtis made Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers a sextet for the first time. The combined writing and playing talents of Fuller, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and Cedar Walton, driven by Blakey and Jymie Meritt (later Reggie Workman), created one of the most exciting and distinctive bands in the history of hard bop.

Curtis stayed with the Jazz Messengers until February 1965. He spent the rest of that decade freelancing around New York, adding his beautiful sound to a number of Blue Note dates such as Lee Morgan's Tom Cat, Hank Mobley's A Caddy for Daddy, Joe Henderson's Mode for Joe and Wayne Shorter's Schizophrenia.
After some health problems, Curtis is active again. What is as remarkable about Curtis Fuller as his lyrical improvising and ingenious writing is his personality. On the road, on stage, or in the studio, Curtis is a relaxed professional who lifts every situation with his incredible sense of humor and his natural sparkle.


Jimmy Heath at the Somerville Jazz Festival 9 13 09



Barry Harris Jazzpiano Solo



Jim Hall and Petrucciani live "Beautiful Love"



Curtis Fuller /Larry Willis Sextet