Sabby Lewis Opens the Founders Room in 1989

jazz logo  The first group to perform in the Founders Room at Pine Manor College was the Sabby Lewis Trio with Sabby on piano, Ron McWhorter on bass and Harold Layne on drums.

Sabby Lewis

Sabby Lewis and Ron McWhorter       photograph by Ruth Williams

Sabby Lewis

Sabby Lewis
photograph by Ruth Williams

Sabby had already enjoyed a long and varied career. During the 1940s his band alternated between New York and Boston. Locally he had played at the New Savoy, the Hi-Hat, Wally’s Paradise and in most major New England ballrooms. In the 40s and 50s Sabby’s band played with Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine, Billie Holiday, George Shearing and more. A list of some of his sidemen through the years included saxophonists Paul Gonsalves and Sonny Stitt and trumpeter Cat Anderson. In 1952 he became a disc Jockey at (WBMS)-later known as WILD and had a one-hour show weekdays in the early afternoon.

Sabby’s concert was the only date available at Pine Manor until after New Year’s. We were back at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in October for a very special event: the Jay Brandford Septet.

I do not remember where I first heard Jay’s septet but I immediately loved the sound of his band and the energy of his arrangements. According to John Garelick of the Boston Phoenix “..the septet sounds like no one else in town…His band features some of the best local soloists: trombonist Hal Crook, tenor David Finucane, trumpeter Andy Gravish, pianist Dan Trudell and Jay’s pure-toned alto.”  John Ramsay was the drummer and Ron McWhorter, played bass.

Hal Crook

Hal Crook photograph by Ruth Williams

Jay Braandford and Andy Gravish

Jay Bradford and Andy Gravish photograph by Ruth Williams

After graduating from M.I.T. Jay took a job at a local research lab. He then turned to music full-time. Although one could say he was a late bloomer he developed a real gift for arranging and leading a band of six other strong players. This would not be his only Highland Jazz appearance.

John Ramsay

John Ramsay photograph by Ruth Williams

Another concert, another venue change. We were back at the Countryside School in December to present Eli Newberger and Jimmy Mazzy.

Maay and Newberger

Jimmy Mazzy and Eli Newberger photograph by Ruth Williams

According to Jazz Times, “You will have to search far and wide to find a musical combination like this in the traditional jazz field, and even then you probably won’t.”

Newberger was the tubist and pianist in the New Black Eagle Jazz Band and Mazzy was a banjoist and singer with many groups. This was somewhat a change for Highland Jazz; I did not usually hire traditional jazz groups. But this duo was so masterful that I couldn’t resist. The audience really enjoyed hearing early New Orleans music, tunes by Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller and other trad jazz composers.

Eli Newberger

Eli Newberger photograph by Ruth Williams

What many people probably didn’t know was that Eli was a very well-known pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and an authority on shaken baby syndrome.

Jimmy Mazzy

Jimmy Mazzy photograph by Ruth Williams

In anticipation of the holiday buying season I sent out this flier. It announced the spring schedule but more importantly reminded our audience that we had eight cassette tapes for sale, offering music that any jazz enthusiast would cherish.

Holiday Flier

Holiday Flier

Where are they now?

Sabby Lewis died in 1994 at the age of 79. Here is a brief conversation between Sabby and vocalist Mae Arnette about some of the popular clubs in Boston in the 1950s.

Jay Brandford is now living in New York. In this clip Jay is playing baritone saxophone.After reading Highland Jazz Memories he wrote the following:

I’m so glad you’re sharing your Highland jazz archives online. Scrolling through the website brings back many happy memories of playing and listening, and a real feeling of community. Thanks for all you did for the players and the audiences.

No website for me right now (maybe later this year), but it won’t take long to describe my musical activities since 1991 when I moved to New York. At that time the Jazz scene was pretty healthy here and I got many chances to play gigs with some of the great musicians in the area such as Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Frank Foster, Dick Oatts, Frank Wess, Gary Smulyan, Slide Hampton, Jon Faddis, and many others. Over the past 20 years I’ve stayed active with big bands, working for a few years with the Duke Ellington Orchestra when Mercer Ellington (Duke’s son) still ran the band, and I subbed on a couple of tours with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Big Band (I sat next to James Moody in the sax section!). I’ve played lead alto for 10 years with the Westchester Jazz Orchestra (; we made a couple of excellent CDs. Currently I play baritone sax in the Count Basie Band, the Ron Carter Big Band, and Dave Liebman’s Big Band.

Once I started a family it became difficult to afford to keep my Septet going; we had a few gigs at local clubs back in the 1990’s before I threw in the towel. However, I’ve continued to compose and arrange and last year I had a couple of gigs with a new project, a tentet. A lot of fun!

Best wishes to you Nancy and thanks so much for the great opportunities you provided years ago.

Although Eli Newberger is no longer actively practicing medicine he continues to write about children, lecture and perform. His website provides details about his many activities. He is also responsible for uploading more than 78 videos to YouTube. In this example he and Jimmy  play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Jimmy Mazzy’s website details that  he has made more than 30 recordings independently or with Stomp-Off records.

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