One of the challenges of keeping a jazz series going is finding the right mix of performers- musicians who will attract an audience and programs that will be fresh and enticing. During the twenty years that I directed Highland Jazz I had many successes but also a few misses. One example of a miss occurred in the fall of 1984. I decided to hire a local news personality who claimed to be a jazz vocalist. Think of how much free publicity we would get; imagine how many people would flock to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to see this newscaster in person. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. What did I learn? The audience is really knowledgeable and won’t come out to hear someone perform just because she reads the news on television.
So I returned to presenting musicians who were true professionals. The Grey Sargent Trio performed in November.
In December Stan Strickland presented a program with the intriguing title of The Blues and Other Abstract Truths; Stan was accompanied by Frank Wilkins on keyboard, Jim Bridges on guitar, Jun Saito on drums and Sa Davis on percussion.
Mario suggested a jazz brunch to start off 1985. The church hall was not only unavailable for a Sunday brunch but would also be too small. The details elude me now, but we managed to rent a small hall at the Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre. I hired the Greg-Hopkins-Wayne Naus Big Band with vocalist Maggi Scott to perform. The guest MC was Ron Della Chiesa of WGBH-FM. Ron was a great fan of Mario’s cooking and was delighted to join the fun.
I had an additional agenda for this concert. I wanted to help the band get some additional bookings. A big band with 17 members can be expensive to hire and generally doesn’t get a large number of gigs. So I sent out an invitation “Be our guest” to a variety of managers of clubs, hotels and restaurants, hoping that some would come to hear the band and realize what an outstanding group of musicians they were. Here is a copy of that invite.
It was Ron who pointed out to the audience what was so special about the music. They played standard jazz tunes but, according to Ron, “their arrangements are real fresh. Old tunes sound new. That’s where the arrangement comes in.”
It was the kind of event that Mario relished. He was dressed in a sterling silver tux, with winged collar and white tie. The food was lavish and delicious, including Chicken Pasquale, flounder stuffed with shrimp, Beef Stroganoff, tortellini with primavera sauce and more.
Where are they now?
Greg Hopkins has had a distinguished career as a professor at The Berklee College of Music, a bandleader and composer/arranger. He has been a regular performer at Highland Jazz concerts, recently with his Nonet band and with Tim Ray’s Tre Corda featuring Greg on trumpet, Eugene Friesen on cello and Tim on piano. His website is full of rich information about his recordings, bio etc. Here is a splendid video of Greg playing his arrangement of “Body and Soul” with the Tokyo Brass Art Orchestra in 2010.
Wayne Naus is a an associate professor in the Harmony Department at the Berklee College of Music. His website will bring you up to date on his current interests and activities. Here is his rendition of “Amazing Grace” in which you can hear his distinct, clean trumpet sound.
In this video Maggi Scott talks about her work as a voice coach at Berklee where she has been teaching since 1978.