I was particularly excited by the series of concerts I had planned for the winter/spring of 1999. February started off with the Dick Johnson Quartet. Dick was a true icon in the Boston area, a premier reed player- master of the clarinet, saxophones and flute. Artie Shaw had personally chosen Dick to direct the Artie Show Big Band when he retired- quite an honor- and one that Dick accepted with his usual modesty.
Dick brought sparkle and warmth to any performance- always smiling and always very appreciative of the audience. It was obvious how much he really loved to play. Joining him that night were Paul Schmeling on piano, his son Gary Johnson on drums and Marshall Wood on bass.
Gray Sargent was on tour with Tony Bennett and was generally unavailable for most local events. However, Tony had given his musicians a brief time off in February and March; although I didn’t have much advanced notice I was able to book the hall at Lasell for an extra concert in March. Gray played in a trio format with Marshall Wood on bass and Les Harris, Jr. on drums. Gray gave the audience two full sets of music;I felt he would have been happy to play even longer. When in charge of his own group he could really stretch out. He especially liked to challenge his fellow musicians by calling a whole variety of tunes, including some obscure ones. Both Marshall and Les were up to the challenge that night. Here is the trio’s rendition of “I want to be happy” by composer Vincent Youmans and lyricist Irving Caesar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M-eTCpoEcA&feature=youtube_gdata
A week later the Tim Ray Quartet presented “Happy Birthday Duke Ellington” – a celebration of the Duke’s 100th birthday. With Tim were Marshall Wood on bass, George Schuller on drums and special guest Herb Pomeroy on trumpet.
April featured another saxophonist- Cercie Miller. Her quartet included Bob Savine on drums, Dave Clark on bass and Tim Ray on piano. The jazz quiz that night featured questions about women in jazz.
The answers are at the end of the post.
The last concert of the season featured the Bill Pierce Quartet with Bill on tenor and soprano saxophones, Conseulo Candelaria on piano, Ron Savage on drums and Ron Mahdi on bass. If you listen carefully you can Bill counting out the rhythm by snapping his fingers at the beginning of this hard-swinging version of Ellington’s “Take the A-train.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hw7MdqjxSTA&feature=youtube_gdata There is a totally different mood in Strayhorn’s “Prelude to a Kiss” where Bill shows his more romantic side. https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=IPboRwSw48k
It turned out that the spring of 1999 marked the end of our stay at Lasell College. The school administration planned to build senior housing on the campus which later became known as Lasell Village. Initially I thought the project would provide us with a built-in audience for our concerts. However, the school decided to locate the project’s marketing department in the Yamawaki Art and Cultural Center and convert the performance hall into office space. Therefore, in the midst of a highly successful spring series I was frantically searching for a new venue.
I looked at a multitude of places, or at least it seemed that way at the time: various churches, private schools and a middle school in Newton. In the end I chose the Episcopal Church on Highland Avenue in Needham. The church was on a main street, very easy to find. There was parking across the street in the Needham library lot. The basement hall had a stage, a good piano and could accommodate about 200 people. There was a full kitchen in the back of the room and very nice bathrooms nearby. There was even storage space so that we could leave some supplies there.
In the back of my mind was an old dream of having table seating and a cabaret atmosphere. I had tried that setup at Pine Manor but had to abandon the tables because they used up too much room. The church hall, however, would be large enough. I bought dozens of battery operated candles so that when the lights were turned off it would look as if real candles were on each table.
The major negative about the venue was that the church was not in Newton where I received Art Council support. However, I was the best alternative available I could find and afford.
How much the change would affect the audience only time would tell. As before I was plagued by the question- would the audience transition again to a new location?
Jazz Quiz answers
1.Ina Rae Hutton and her Mellodears, the Sweethearts of Rhythm
2. Some Like it Hot.
3. Ella Fitzgerald and the Chick Webb Orchestra.
4. Lil Hardin was Louis Armstrong’s third wife
Trombonist and arranger Melba Liston, pianist
Pianist and Singer Shirley Horn
Singer and composer Peggy Lee.
saxophonists Cercie Miller
Pianist, composer and arranger, leader Toshiko Akiyoshi
Canadian born pianist to Singer Diana Krall
Singer who said she didn’t sing jazz is Mahalia Jackson
Radio jazz show host is the late Mary McPartland.
5. Terry Lynn Carrington.
6. Leonard Bernstein, On The Town