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. (http://www.agitatedcatmusic.com/biography/biography.html.) 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. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v7IJUsSw_Y ).

Fred Haas is a senior lecturer at Dartmouth College (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~music/faculty/haas.html) 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.


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