Monthly Archives: April 2014

1998 celebrates a gala 15th anniversary

jazz logo  Although Wayne Naus was not a “newcomer” to the series, (having performed as co-leader of the Greg Hopkins/Wayne Naus big band,) he made his first appearance as solo bandleader in March.

Wayne Naus

Wayne Naus
photograph by Ruth Williams

The program was “a Tribute to Clifford Brown” a virtuoso trumpet player who died tragically in a car crash in 1956 at the age of 26. Wayne was joined by Arnie Krakowsky on tenor sax, Mark Pucci on bass, Rick Klane on drums and Joe Mulholland on piano.

As early as the fall of 1997 I had started planning for the 15th anniversary concert. It was clear that we needed a large hall with more seating capacity than the one at Lasell. I sought advice from Judith Anderson, Associate Director of the Mayor’s office for Cultural Affairs in Newton. We had known each other for a long time and she was a great fan of jazz. I felt she could recommend a suitable venue for us. She suggested the auditorium at Newton South High School. It had recently been completely refurbished, had excellent acoustics and a fine piano. I told her that was a great idea but I didn’t know who to approach about reserving the date etc. She asked me to let her know the date and she would take care of the rest. Much to my surprise I never received a bill. I guess Judith reserved it under the office of Cultural Affairs and absorbed the costs, but whatever she did, she never told me.

Once the date was set as April 4 the next step was to hire the musicians. I wanted to include as many people as possible. I started making calls and was delighted to find that anyone who wasn’t already booked agreed to do the show. In the end I hired 17 musicians. With such a large number I couldn’t afford to pay anyone very much money. No one had a problem with that. Quite the opposite – each wanted to thank the organization for providing an opportunity to perform.

Eric Jackson, host of Eric in the Evening at WGBH-fm agreed to act as MC. We even hired a professional engineer who provided sophisticated sound equipment.

Here is the program from the evening:

anniversary program

15th anniversary program

donna Byrne Quartet

left to right- John Lockwood, Donna Byrne, Les Harris, Jr.
photograph by Ruth Williams






Rebecca Parris

Rebecca Parris
photograph by Ruth Williams

Jazz Professors

left to right – Richard Evans, Tony Corelli, Jeff Stout
photograph by Ruth Williams

As the program indicates some of the rhythm players performed with several groups. Nevertheless, as you can see in the photo of Joe Hunt there were two drums sets on stage, because not everyone was comfortable playing the same set.

Joe Hunt

Joe Hunt
photograph by Ruth Williams

Ruth Williams assembled a large photo collage depicting 15 years of Highland Jazz events in the various venues that we had used. The collage was on display in the auditorium lobby.

With the help of Ed Williams we issued three new cassettes. All the music came from live events. We had one for horn players, one for rhythm section players and one for vocalists. All the musicians I contacted agreed to donate their music for this fund-raising effort. My watercolors provided the cover art.

anniversary cassettes

Anniversary Cassettes

It was a spectacular evening of music. The house was packed and the excitement in the air was almost palpable. Everyone anticipated the appearance of their favorite performers; it was unusual to see so many outstanding musicians perform on the same stage in one night.  I think the musicians had more fun off-stage, hanging out in the green room than they did on stage.

We received quite a bit of press coverage, particularly from the Newton Tab which did a full page spread complete with photos. I was delighted that the story mentioned in detail the core volunteers, Highland Jazz’s unsung heroes. “Lincoln resident Ed Williams records the concert and sends tapes to the musicians, while his wife, Ruth, takes photographs of the performers for flyers and the organization’s web page. Alimansky’s aunt, Irene Benson, sells the tickets at the door. Needham resident Seymour Levy prepares all the flyers and graphics. Bob Ricles, a former Newton resident, brings soda to each show.” The article also noted that “Many of the performers for the anniversary concert, such as Rebecca Parris, were relatively unknown when they first played with Highland Jazz, but have since gone on to make a name for themselves, in the local area, if not in New York or nationally.”
(The Newton Tab, April 2, 1998. Page 32 and 33.

Three weeks after the anniversary concert we were back at Lasell for a return visit of harmonica player Mike Turk in “Out of This world”. He was joined by Jon Wheatley on guitar, John Ramsey on drums and Barry Smith on bass.

Tim Ray

Tim Ray
photograph by Ruth Williams

May featured the Tim Ray Quartet. Even though Tim had appeared before as the pianist for Donna Byrne this was the first time he performed as leader of his own group. Tim featured the music of Thelonious Monk in a program he called “Monk Stream.” The concert included Marshall Wood on bass, Bob Savine on drums and Herb Pomeroy on trumpet. Tim’s interpretations of Monk’s tunes was fascinating. In addition he played several of his own new compositions that he had written specifically in a monk-like style.

Donna Byrne

Donna Byrne

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s birth, the Donna Byrne Quartet presented “Mostly Gershwin”, featuring a variety of Gershwin’s tunes as well as some of Donna’s favorite non-Gershwin songs. She was accompanied by Tim Ray on piano, Marshall Wood on bass and Less Harris, Jr. on drums.




October introduced an evening of Brazilian jazz with the debut appearance of the Roger Ebacher Quartet. Roger played both percussion and flute and was joined by Sam Barrios on keyboards, Thomas Hebb on bass and Matt Taylor on drums.

Semenya McCord

Semenya McCord
photograph by Ed Cohen

This very special year ended with two long-time Highland Jazz favorites: the Semenya McCord Quartet in November and the Paul Broadnax Quartet in December for ”A
Jazzy Holiday Concert.” Semenya was joined by Herb King on drums, Frank Wilkins on piano and Wesley Wirth on bass.

Paul featured Fred Haas on reeds, Dave Trefethen on guitar and Peter Kontrimas on bass. As a special treat Newton artist Hank Kearsley displayed several of his drawings of jazz musicians, including some of Paul. This was the first appearance of Fred Haas at a Highland Jazz concert and he received an enthusiastic welcome from the audience.

Where are they now?

Judith Anderson passed away in January 2010, a regrettable loss to her family and to the city of Newton.

Although Tim Ray is probably best known as the pianist for Lyle Lovett  his website details his many musicial accomplishments, including performances at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center and the 1992 Presidential Inauguration. ( The site also includes information about the innovative trio Tre Corda which featuresTim on piano, Greg Hopkins on  trumpet and cellist Eugene Friesen .A video from the University of New Hampshire provides an opportunity to appreciate Tim’s solo work. Here he plays a medley of Duke Ellington tunes. ( ).

Fred Haas is a senior lecturer at Dartmouth College ( as well as composer and a master of both saxophone and keyboards. Fred Haas teaches jazz improvisation, jazz history, music theory, saxophone, and jazz piano and directs several jazz combos at the college. What a lot of people don’t know is that he is the founder and director of Interplay Jazz Camp, a week long holistic jazz workshop that incorporates meditation, yoga and tai chi to enhance creativity. Fred also runs his own CD company, JazzToons, that has produced several small group jazz CDs.


1997 Adjusting to a new venue –Expanding the list of new performers

jazz logo  The new venue was the Yamawaki Art and Cultural Center at Lasell College in the Auburndale village of Newton. I had visited a number of venues and this one came out on top for several reasons – the hall had a grand piano, comfortable seating, a raised stage and good sight lines. It could accommodate a larger audience than Pine Manor, although I didn’t expect to fill the house for every event. Although the performance hall was on the second floor, a small elevator was available and in theory it was handicap accessible- a major advantage over the Founders Room.

I worried that the new location would result in smaller crowds. The Yamawaki Center was not an easy venue to find – located in a residential area where the street lighting at night was not bright. The one small sign for the hall was barely visible from the road. It was not until after 2000 that some car manufacturers even offered gps systems in their cars. In 1997 a person new to a neighborhood could easily get lost especially after sundown.

Another negative was that during intermission there was really no place for people to gather. The narrow passage outside the concert hall was barely wide enough to set up tables for the soda and ticket sales. As a result people many people stood on the stairs leading to the ground floor or during nice weather went outside.

On the lighter side I had a great deal of difficulty figuring out the lighting system. There were multiple switches in various parts of the room. Some controlled the stage lights, others the lights in the hall itself. There seemed to be no clear logic to explain how they worked; in some cases turning them up made the lights go down. That mystery remained during our stay at Lasell.

Because of my concern about finding the location I scheduled the first concert at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. We opened the season in March with the third annual presentation of “Women in Jazz Know the score…” again under the direction of Henrietta Robinson. Here is the program from the event.


Program for “Women in Jazz know the Score…”

Three weeks later we featured the Donna Byrne Quartet with her usual band: Tim Ray on keyboards, Jim Gwin on drums and bassist Marshall Wood.

Donna Byrne quartet

Donna Byrne Quartet
left to right Tim Ray, Marshall Wood, Donna and Jim Gwin
photograph by Ruth Williams

April brought the return of Paul Broadnax in a concert entitled “Spring is Here.” He was joined by vocalist Carol Akerson, Peter Kontrimas on bass and John Connelly on drums.

One of the newcomers that season was a group called RESQ, the Really Eclectic String Quartet,  (pronounced rescue”). Although classically trained they had a varied repertoire – jazz standards, gospel, R&B, Latin and European folk music. No less an authority than Yehudi Menuhin once called them “truly original and marvelous…”

Riverboat Stompers

Riverboat Stompers
watercolor by Nancy Alimansky

The fall opened with another new group- an evening of Dixieland Jazz featuring the Riverboat Stompers. Their instrumentation included trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, drums, tuba, two banjos and often a Klaxon horn and kazoo. They were clearly not the most polished group I had ever hired but the audience appreciated their flamboyance and enthusiasm, especially when the two banjo players began to trade solos, clearly competing with each other to see who could play faster.


Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter returned in October. We ended the year with the Jazz Professors- five professors from the Berklee College of Music. Technically there were only 4 professors: Joe Hunt on drums, Paul Fontaine on trumpet, Ray Santisi on piano and Richard Evans on bass. The saxophonist Tony Corelli was a Berklee graduate (class of ’79) but he was promoted in rank for the concert.

The transition to a new venue seemed to occur without too much disruption. Little did I know that our stay at Lasell would end in just two years.

Where are they now?

The Riverboat Stompers’ website ( has information about the band’s current activities and a clip of their rendition of “Limehouse Blues.”


End of an era- Highland Jazz leaves Pine Manor

jazz logo After seven years at the Founders Room in Pine Manor College it was clear that I would have to find another venue. The reasons for leaving revolved around money. When we started there the college had charged us a rental fee of $125 for the room which had a capacity of 125 people. Over time the price rose to $150, still quite reasonable. Then in the spring of 1996 I was informed that the cost would increase another $100. Moreover we would no longer be allowed to bring in our own refreshments for sale. We would have to purchase soda from Pine Manor’s concession and then sell it, thereby practically eliminating any profit from the sale. Most harmful to our welfare was the impending loss of the Saturday night slot, the time when we were most likely to sell out the 125 seats. We were offered Friday or Sunday. I had tried a Sunday in the past but the attendance was very low. Other than the Friday concert we did last year with Dave McKenna Friday night had also not been successful for us.

The Newton Tab published an article on August 13, 1996 and interviewed David Ellis, vice president for business and finance at Pine Manor. He said the rent and room availability changes were based entirely on a business decision.

“We feel very strongly about being good neighbors here, but you have to realize we’re not in the business of subsidizing nonprofits. We’ve been losing money for a long time on outside programs.”

After consulting with the board I made the hard decision to leave. The Founders Room was an elegant place, a beautiful venue for jazz. I was worried about how the audience would react to a change of venue. From past experience I knew we would lose a portion of our audience since some people just don’t like change, no matter what the reason. Nevertheless I felt I really had no choice.

The final concert at Pine Manor took place on November 23 and featured the Gray Sargent Trio with Gray on guitar, Marshall Wood on bass and Jim Gwin on drums. It seemed appropriate to end our run at Pine Manor with Gray’s Trio, since his was the second band I hired when Highland Jazz began thirteen years before in 1983.

Alimansky sketching

Nancy Alimansky skeching
photograph by Ruth Williams

It was a beautiful concert. I sat in front on the stairs, sketched the musicians and relaxed in the venue for one last time, surrounded by beautiful tapestries on the walls and oriental carpets on the floor.

1996 welcomes more first-timers to the series

jazz logo  Much to my concern scheduling problems began to occur at Pine Manor. We were, however, able to secure March date for a reprieve of “Women in jazz know the score….” However, we had to settle for a Friday night. The college told me that they could get more revenue from other renters on a Saturday night. So as far as March dates were concerned it was Friday night or nothing.

In April Herb Pomeroy returned with a reprieve of “Reminiscin in Tempo!”, his tribute to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. He was joined by Jon Wheatley on guitar, bassist John Rapaucci and drummer Artie Cabral.

Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter

Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter

May introduced the husband and wife team of Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter. Their program was entitled “Happy Birthday Irving Berlin.” Berlin, born May 1888 would have celebrated his 112th birthday the week following the concert. Lynne and Mike were known for their interpretations of the American songbook. According to musician and composer Dave Frishberg, “I can’t exactly describe what Lynne and Mike do, but whatever it is they do it better than anyone else on earth!” Doubly talented they both sang and played- Lynne on piano and Mike on bass. They were joined by Jim Repa on reeds and flute.


The next newcomer to the Highland Jazz series was Ron Gill. Ron had been part of the Boston jazz scene for over twenty years, performing in concerts, on radio, television, jazz festivals and variety shows. At the time of his appearance he was the host of the Jazz Gallery on WGBH-FM, Monday mornings from 1 to 5 a.m.

Ron Gill

Ron Gill
photograph by Ruth Williams

Ron chose a provocative theme for the concert.  “Tribute to the 90’s” featured the music of five jazz greats: Miles Davis, Billy Eckstine, Antonia Carlos Jobim, Carmen McRae and Dizzy Gillespie. All of these giants had passed away in the 90s. Ron was accompanied by the Frank Wilkins Quartet with Frank on piano, Bobby Tynes on sax, Skip Smith on bass, Antonio Dangerfield on trumpet and Eric Preusser on drums.

The fall series began with a reprieve of Dave Whitney’s successful 1994 concert “Satchmo’s got it!” – a tribute to Louis Armstrong. The band featured Dave on trumpet and vocals, John Wheatley on guitar, Peter Kontrimas on bass and Chuck Laire on drums. Try your luck at the jazz quiz from that concert. The answers can be found at the end of the post.

Lennie Hochman

Lennie Hochman

Leonard Hochman, another Highland Jazz newcomer, performed at the October concert. “Manhattan Morning,” was a salute to Lester Young and Billie Holliday. Lennie was a veteran reedman who played both tenor sax and bass clarinet. His career included performances in leading clubs, theaters and on radio and television throughout the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Canada. His first CD “Until Tomorrow” was widely acclaimed and a received a Boston Music Award nomination. According to jazz critic Bob Blumenthal “On bass clarinet Lennie already has his own niche…he is a true original.” Rounding out the band was vocalist Sally Worthen, Irv Galis on piano, guitarist Tony Wolff, bassist Dave Zox and drummer Harvey Brower.

Lennie’s story is an interesting one. Born in Philadelphia he grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He started playing tenor when he was 11 and freelanced from the time he was 15 until he turned 24. Among the musicians who he performed with were  Kai Winding, Al Haiag, Phil Woods, Kenny Clarke, Brew Moore, Charlie Barnet and Herbie Mann.  In 1957 Lennie moved to Boston and spent six years as a studio musician. He recorded with  Phil Wilson in the early 1960’s but was still little-known when he stopped playing in 1963. Hochman then worked at a band instrument rental company and eventually bought the business. After selling the company, he began to play again in the early 1990’s. He was finally discovered at the age of 61 when he recorded Until Tomorrow. With him on the debut recording are guitarist Mitch Seidman, Harvie Swartz and Alan Dawson. He made a follow-up set, Manhattan Morning in 1995 with a quintet that included Swartz and  Kenny Barron.

Where are they now?

Lynne Jackson and Mike Palter continue to delight audiences with their interpretations of the American songbook. Their web site offers up-to-date information about their newest CD and other activities.

According to Ron Gill’s official web site ( he has retired to Charlotte, NC. Boston’s loss. In addition to information about his career and recordings, the site includes photographs from a March 2005 Highland Jazz concert. (,_cont..html)

Leonard Hochman has died, but fortunately his music is still available. Here’s a recording of “The Dragon” with Lennie playing bass clarinet. The tune is from his first CD Until Tomorrow. Faces of Jazz, Ruth Williams Photographs, Boston Publishing Company, Newton, MA c. 2001


1995- The debut of “Women in Jazz Know the Score” and a memorable weekend with Dave McKenna

jazz logo  In 1987 Congress passed a resolution declaring March to be Women’s History month that year. Since 1995 all U.S. presidents have issued annual proclamations to continue the tradition. It was time for Highland Jazz to get into the act. Henrietta Robinson, then host of WGBH’s Friday night Jazz Gallery, proposed the idea of an all-female quintet comprised of composers, arrangers, band leaders, vocalists and instrumentalists. The quintet took the name Women in Jazz Know the Score.. (and a whole lot more). For the program the group not only chose jazz standards but also featured their own arrangements and original compositions.

Henrietta Robinson

Henrietta Robinson
photograph by Ruth Williams

Henrietta was producer, band leader and vocalist. Carolyn Ritt, recording artist, band leader, composer and professor at Berklee, was the pianist. Diane Wernick, instructor and leader of the band “Bop/a/Nova,” played soprano and alto sax. The drummer was Carolyn Castellano, a member of “Boungainvilla” and co-founder of the ensemble “The Lydian People’s Front.”  On acoustic  bass was Jane Wang, a member of the ”All Nationalities of Women” jazz ensemble as well as the groups “Wide Out,” and “The Lydian People’s Front.”

Founders Hall was packed for this debut and I knew that we had started a yearly tradition.

Following Women in Jazz Herb Pomeroy and his quartet presented a reprieve of “Reminiscin’ in Tempo” featuring the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

One of my dreams had always been to present a concert with Dave McKenna. For as long as I could remember I had been a great fan of his. I frequently went to the Copley Plaza Bar to hear him during the seven years that he played there (1981-1987). (

Dave McKenna

Dave McKenna

It was a very comfortable room with deep lounge chairs, not unlike a typical living room. There were also a few high chairs surrounding the piano. If you got there early you might be lucky enough to find one of those seats empty and then you were in for a great treat. Musicians used to comment that Dave “knew all the tunes.” I heard a story that when he was a young man he was featured once a week on a live radio broadcast. People would call the program and ask for a tune, hoping to name one that Dave didn’t know. He was rarely stumped.

He used to like to play tunes which had a common theme, depending on what his mood was, or what he might be thinking about. For example, he might do a medley of tunes about weather, or Paris, or baseball. He was a great fan of the Boston Red Sox. If a game was in progress he couldn’t wait to take a break and leave the bar to check the score in his room upstairs.

One night at the Copley he asked me who my favorite piano player was. I answered “You.” “No, really, I am serious. Tell me who your favorite player is.” I told him, “You are my favorite piano player.” Dave seemed like the kind of man who didn’t know what a gifted musician he was. That’s why my answer came as such a surprise.

I never seriously thought he would do a concert for Highland Jazz. I doubted that I could afford his fee. However, Gray Sargent suggested that he and Dave perform a duo. He agreed to call Dave for me and much to my surprise Dave accepted. He even agreed to stay at my home to save the cost of my paying for a hotel room. The dates were April 21 and 22, 1995.

The plan was for him to arrive at my home late Friday afternoon and leave Sunday morning. He would stay in the den which had its own bathroom, TV and piano. Of course I had the piano tuned, thinking that I would probably have a private concert from my favorite pianist right in my own home.

A few days before the weekend Dave called to tell me that he was coming with his wife, Frankie, and that she would require her own room. All I had left was a single bed in my son’s former bedroom; Dave said that would be fine.

When they arrived it was obvious that theirs was a strained relationship. I showed them their accommodations and reminded them that the house was smoke-free. If they wanted to smoke they would have to use the breezeway off the kitchen. Neither one looked very happy about that news.

Then Dave went into the kitchen, opened one of the cabinets and took out a plastic cup that I had received as a promo from Dunkin Donuts. It was one of those cups with plastic suction in the bottom that would attach to the dashboard. “This will be my cup while I am here,” he told me. I was rather taken aback. He had obviously picked the cheapest cup I owned. I told him that since I had plenty of nice cups and a dishwasher, he didn’t need to confine himself to that one. “No,” he replied, “this will be my cup,” and he left it on the counter. I guess that was his routine on the road when he stayed as a guest at someone’s house .

I thought the concert went very well Friday night.  We had a good crowd and Dave and Gray couldn’t have sounded better. They were both what I call “quote masters;” that is, in their solos they would insert bits and pieces of other tunes to amuse each other and sometimes confound the listeners.

During intermission Frankie sat upstairs at a small table where CDs were for sale. She confronted me right before the break. Did I expect her to give Highland Jazz a commission for anything she sold?  I explained that wasn’t our policy, but she remained rather irritated all evening.

When we got home Dave immediately complained about the piano, that it was stiff and hard to play. Here was a musician who described himself as a saloon player, who often played in cafes or restaurants where the piano was in poor shape. No one else had found the piano at Pine Manor inadequate and I was quite surprised. Maybe something else was going on. As for Frankie, she was angry that Gray had left her in charge of selling his CDs. “Why didn’t he bring someone to do that?” I said nothing in response.

Things didn’t improve the next day. I invited them both out to lunch, hoping to ease the tension in the house.  Since Dave declined I was left with Frankie. It was more of the same- stories about people who took advantage of Dave, who didn’t appreciate him enough, who recorded him playing without his permission etc., etc.

Saturday night we had a standing-room-only crowd. This time there were no complaints from Dave about the piano. I think he really enjoyed himself.  The two musicians seemed to read each other’s minds when it came to improvising and challenging each other.

Here is what Gray wrote about playing with Dave- “It’s a dream playing with him because he’s such a great musician. Absolute genius. Working in a duo format, it’s like having a small orchestra behind me. He has unbelievable ears. It’s like he’s soaked in all the music he’s ever heard, and it seeps out little by little when he plays.”

McKenna, Sargent

Dave McKenna and Gray Sargent
photograph by Ruth Williams

When we arrived home, Dave looked around the kitchen and noticed a box of matzo on the counter. Passover had just ended. “Can you make matzo brie?” he asked. I was shocked to hear him use the Yiddish phrase for fried matzo. I told him I could. He explained that the best matzo brie he ever had was when he stayed with a member of Benny Goodman’s band. He had never tasted anything like it since. I promised to get up early the next morning and make him a double serving.

Around 7 am Sunday morning I heard him moving around downstairs. I got up quickly and hurried into the kitchen. The fried matzo came out perfectly. Dave left nothing on his plate, though he didn’t say how it compared to the version he had eaten years before.

Frankie left about noon, but Dave remained because he had a gig later that day. When we were alone in the kitchen he told me that a young woman, named Liz, was coming to pick him up and drive him to the venue.  “She’s my girlfriend,” he explained, “although I shouldn’t say anything to you. You and Frankie seemed to be pretty close.” I explained that I was not close to Frankie in any sense. “Of course there’s nothing for you to worry about,” he continued. “It’s just a platonic relationship.” That was clearly more information than I needed to know.

Soon after the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a nice looking woman, quite a bit younger than Dave. A few minutes later they left together.

The next day I called Marshall Wood who had played with Dave on Sunday afternoon. “So, what did Dave say about the fried matzo I made for him?” I imagined that now I would be featured in one of Dave’s many stories. “Oh, he didn’t mention the fried matzo,” Marshall replied. “All he said was that you made him smoke outside the house and that it was cold.”

And did he ever play the piano while he was there? Not a note. For him this was just another gig and he certainly didn’t need to practice.

The season ended with two solid programs. The first in May featured the Donna Byrne Quartet with Tim Ray on keyboards, Jim Gwin on drums and bassist Marshal Wood. This was the first time Tim appeared at Highland Jazz and he soon became a frequent performer.  By this date Donna had issued two CDs, “Sweet and Lovely” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” She had also appeared in New York City at Rainbow & Stars, the Blue Note and Tavern on the Green.

In JuneAlex Elin returned with a reprieve of a 1991 concert, “Masters of the American Songbook.” This concert featured trumpeter Lou Colombo as special guest, Alex on piano, Joe Hunt on drums and Mark Pucci on bass. The quartet played tunes by some of America’s most beloved song writers including George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin. It provided a strong ending to an exceptional spring season.

September marked the return of Meredith d’Ambrosio and Eddie Higgins – always a crowd favorite. The Philadelphia Daily News described Meredith as follows- “I can’t say enough about Meredith. Here is a singer and a musician who knows her own voice in a way that the best soloists in jazz know their instruments….”

Mike Turk

Mike Turk
watercolor by Nancy Alimansky

In November I presented a newcomer to the series. “Settin’ the World on Fire” featured Mike Turk, a virtuoso harmonica player who had been called the “Toot Thielemans of New England.” He simply amazed the audience with his playing, making the lowly harmonica perform like a true jazz instrument. Joining him were Paul Broadnax on vocals and keyboards, Joe Hunt on drums and Dave Trefethen on guitar and bass.

Where are they now?

Carolyn Castellano teaches at Brookline High School and actually brought her jazz band to perform as the opening act of a recent concert. In this video ( she talks about her goals in teaching music to high school students.

Carolyn Ritt Wilkins is a professor at Berklee in the ensemble department. ( ). She is also the author of Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Journey from Slavery to Bittersweet Success (University of Missouri Press)

Diane Wernick is an assistant professor of the ensemble department at Berklee. (

Dave McKenna passed away in October 2008 at the age of 78. There will be more about his legacy in a later post.  Dave plays two tunes about the heart in this video. ( ). It is a good example of the various rhythms he could produce with his left hand, which acted as its own rhythm section.

Mike Turkl’s web site has all the latest information about his recordings and current activities. (