Free Concerts Continue in 1987 but the All-Day Festival Remains a Mystery

jazz logo The fifth summer of free concerts started off with the Hollyday brothers. The older brother Richard played trumpet, the younger Christopher, age 17, played alto sax.

hollyday brothers

The Hollyday Brothers
photograph by Ruth Williams

They created quite a sensation with the audience because as young players they understood the jazz idiom so well. Their rhythm section was one of the best in Boston: Alan Dawson on drums, John Medeski on piano and John Lockwood on bass.

Next Alex Elin returned with Gray Sargent on guitar, Marshall Wood on bass and Joe Hunt on drums. Then Larry Watson performed with a band which included two gifted Japanese musicians- Yasko Kubota on piano and her husband Archie on drums.

Archie and Yasko Kubota

Yasko and Archie Kubota
photograph by Ruth Williams

Jazz is actually far more popular in Japan than it is in the United States, even though it is an American original art form. Many Japanese students come to the U.S. to study jazz, especially to Boston and New York.

The final concert brought the return of Jeff Stout and his Red Hot Six. There were a few changes to Jeff’s group this time. He was joined by fellow Berklee faculty member Larry Monroe

Larry Munroe

Larry Monroe
photograph by Ruth Williams

on alto sax and a surprise appearance of Buzzy Drootin on  drums. It is likely that many people in the audience were not familiar with Buzzy Drootin and did not know they were hearing a legendary drummer and a Boston icon play that night.

Buzzy Drootin

Buzzy Drootin
photograph by Ruth Williams

The series was also notable because for the first time we had corporate sponsors. Several banks as well as a local real estate agency gave donations.

audience 87

Audience behind the bakery
photograph by Ruth Williams

The 1987 All-Day Festival remains a mystery to me. The photos from that day, except this one of Semenya McCord with Yasko Kubota on keyboard have disappeared.

Semenya McCord

Semenya McCord with Yakso Kabuto
photograph by Ruth Williams

Two different fliers remain but each listed different personnel. Since Tenor Madness appears in both a flier and one newspaper announcement I am confident that they performed. However, two newspaper listings don’t agree about the other bands.

How could there be such last minute changes for an important event? One of the challenges of hiring a musician for a gig is always the possibility that something better might come along. It is what I referred to as the “Dizzy might call” syndrome. What I mean is that a Highland Jazz event in 1987, even the All-Day Festival, was not a prestigious gig. So if a nationally known musician like Dizzy called one of the performers I had hired, he or she might be very tempted to choose the other offer and bow out of mine. That would leave me scrambling sometimes at the last minute to find a replacement. This didn’t happen on a regular basis but it was always a possibility, especially for a local musician whose star was on the rise. In the case of the festival that might explain why a more up to date newspaper listing differed from an earlier flier.

Where are they now?

I found an interview with Yasko Kubota where she revealed that she had actually toured for three years with the New Kids on the Block. Her web site focuses on her group The Power Unit but doesn’t mention the New Kids tour. In this video Yasko plays a sensational solo rendition of the French folk song “Frere Jacques.”

Buzzy Drootin died in 2000 at the age of 80. He had emigrated to Boston from the Ukraine when he was five. He came from a musical family and started playing the drums when he was a teenager. Read more about his biography and listen to a drum solo from a recording of the 1954 Newport Jazz Festival.

In this profile of Larry Monroe from 2009 he is described as Berklee’s international man. He retired in 2012 after 50 years at the school. In this video he performs a version of Body and Soul.”

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