The Summer Series Rolls On In 1986.

jazz logo The NEA funding allowed Highland Jazz to increase the number of free concerts from four to five.  This time new faces outnumbered the bands that had performed in past summers. The series started off with the Mike Metheny Quartet. The other new groups were the Fringe and Carole Akerson. Kris Key returned as did Jeff Stout and His Red Hot Six.

Ed Williams

Ed Williams, recording engineer                                                  photograph by Ruth Williams

At this point I should mention two loyal and essential volunteers who attended all the concerts right from the beginning- Ed Williams and his wife Ruth. Ed became our house recording engineer; he recorded every concert and gave copies to each musician as an audio record of the gig. Ruth was our official photographer and is responsible for most of the photographs you see here.

The grant also allowed us to increase the number of players for the All Day Festival. The Jazz-All-Stars, led by Gray Sargent on guitar, started off the day.

Dave Whitney

Dave Whitney photograph by Ruth Williams

With Gray were Kenny Wenzel on trombone and flute, Dave Whitney on Trumpet, Ed Freedman on tenor sax, Charlie LaChapelle on bass and Chuck Laire on drums.

Then Gray and Charlie joined Alex Elin on tenor and Joe Hunt on drums for the second set.

Gray Sargent

Gray Sargent on stage   photograph by Ruth Williams

Alex Elin and Gray Sargent

Alex Elin on tenor sax and Gray Sargent on guitar    photograph by Ruth Williams

Any time you see that hint of a smile on Gray’s face you know the music is really grooving.

The third set featured Rebecca Parris on vocals, Ron Murray on guitar, Grover Mooney on drums, Rachel Nicolazzo on piano and Kenny Wenzel on trombone.

Kenny Wenzel

Kenny Wenzel on trombone, Grover Mooney on drums and Rebecca Parris      photograph by Ruth Williams

The day concluded with the Stan Strickland Sextet featuring Stan on reeds and vocals, Jim Bridges on guitar, Rodney Smith on drums, Greg Jones on bass and two percussionists – Sidney Smart and Sa Davis.

This time we had 4 MCs, one for each set: Ron Della’Chiesa and Eric Jackson from WGBH, Steve Elman from WBUR and Jeff Turton from WFNX. Eric brought his Dad, Samuel Jackson who was the first African American radio announcer in New England.

Eric and Sam Jackson, ron Della Chiesa

left to right Eric Jackson, Sam Jackson and Ron Della Chiesa
photograph by Ruth Williams

The quality of the performances were exceptional. I felt that the level of musicianship justified the NEA award. For once I could relax and not worry about breaking even since we had the grant money to fall back on.

Mario was a strong believer in making people feel special. This is one of the reasons he was successful in business. He greeted customers with a big smile, calling each woman “Bella” (beautiful) regardless of what she looked like. It didn’t take me long to  understand how effective his approach was. He also liked to give out awards of appreciation and this time the recipient was Ron Della’Chiesa. While Ron was addressing the crowd I waited on stage to present his award.

Ron Della'Chiesa and Nancy Alimansky

Ron Della’Chiesa and Nancy Alimansky on stage    photograph by Ruth Williams

As usual Mario was busy all day at the grill

Mario grilling

Mario grilling
photograph by Ruth Williams

but was able to cool off at the end.

Mario Boccabella

Mario Boccabella                                                                             photograph by Ruth Williams

Where are they now?

Mike Metheny was in Boston from 1976 to 1989 leading his jazz quartet and teaching at Berklee. According to his website he now lives in the Kansas City area where he is a freelance performer, educator and music journalist.  He has released 10 albums as leader and has appeared as a sideman in many other recordings. As a music journalist, Metheny has written for several Midwest jazz magazines and contributed liner notes for numerous CDs. Although he plays both trumpet and flugelhorn he is known for playing EVI, or the electronic valve instrument, a trumpet synthesizer which his younger brother Pat gave him as a present.  Here is a good example of his sound.

The original members of the Fringe were George Garzone on tenor sax, Bob Gullotti on drums and Rich Appleman on bass. In the current configuration John Lockwood replaces Appleman who left the band in 1985 to become chair of the bass department at Berklee.  According to the Boston Globe “The Fringe are one of the genuine living treasures of the Boston jazz scene.”

Their website contains a two-hour video of a live concert celebrating their 39th year. The biography page includes very interesting information  about each player’s background and philosophy of music.

Jeff Stout, now a professor in the brass department, explains that before he started teaching at Berklee he made his living solely by playing. He was a former soloist with the Buddy Rich Orchestra. If you have always wanted to learn how to improvise listen to this lesson which Jeff recorded for Berklee. And you must hear him playing “Old Devil Moon” with Ray Santisi on piano.

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