Jazz Appreciation Month
You probably know this already, but April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Given the state of Jazz today, especially here in the land of its birth, it is quite appropriate that JAM should have begun on April Fool’s Day. Be that as it may, a number of events are (were) planned in various places including telecasts on BET and BET Jazz of the Jazz Masters Concert, held during the 31st conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) last January in New York City (for information about other events, log on to www.smithsonianjazz.org). The IAJE event honored Jazz Masters Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Herbie Hancock, Luther Henderson, Nancy Wilson and writer Nat Hentoff, and featured performances by the Heath Brothers (Jimmy Heath, saxophones; Albert “Tootie” Heath, drums; Percy Heath, bass) with special guest, trumpeter Clark Terry; the New York Voices with guests Paquito D’Rivera and Hubert Laws; the Dave Brubeck Trio (Joe Sanders, bass; Justin Brown, drums); the Billy Taylor Trio (Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums), and “The Four Brothers” — vocalists Jon Hendricks, Kurt Elling, Mark Murphy and Kevin Mahogany.
Speaking of Kevin Mahogany . . .
The velvet-voiced baritone from Kansas City was the guest artist February 21 at a concert in Albuquerque sponsored by the New Mexico Jazz Workshop and featuring the surprisingly accomplished Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra. The AJO opened the program with a pair of compositions by Gordon Goodwin (“Count Bubba,” “There’s the Rub”), another by Tom Kubis (“Samba Dees Godda Do It”), trombonist Ed Ulman’s arrangement of “Dig the Sweet Clifford Brown” (based on “Georgia Brown”) and pianist Paul Coleman’s entrancing “Variations on ‘Things’” (a,k.a. “All the Things You Are”). Mahogany sang a number of songs arranged by fallen comrade Frank Mantooth, the superb pianist / composer / arranger who was slated to appear at the concert but died of a heart attack less than a month before the event. Mantooth arranged the standards “Moonlight in Vermont,” “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” and “One for My Baby” as well as the Basie favorite “Centerpiece.” Mahogany also sang his own composition, “Three Little Words” (not to be confused with the Bert Kalmar / Harry Ruby standard of the same name), and a Matt Harris arrangement of Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” In between songs, Mahogany charmed the audience with his keen sense of humor, and the concert was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra, formed in 1982 by Pancho Romero and now directed by John Sanks, has backed many Jazz and pop artists during its more than two decades including Vince DiMartino, Bob Montgomery, Mike Vax, Rich Little, Steve Houghton, Rich Matteson, The Temptations, Rita Moreno, The Four Tops, Vaughn Nark, The Supremes, Kim Richmond, Clay Jenkins, Steve and Eydie Gormé, Butch Miles, Jim Pugh, Shelly Berg and Jeff Jarvis. The AJO, from what I heard, is quite good, and houses a number of first-rate soloists including (but not limited to) Ulman, Coleman, tenor saxophonist Lee Taylor and trumpeter Kent Erickson. Many of its members are teachers and / or administrators including saxophonist Glenn Kostur, who directs the University of New Mexico’s Jazz Ensemble, and Ulman, who serves as executive director of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop.