The Jazz.com Blog
June 20, 2009 · 1 comment
It’s hard keeping up with arnold jay smith. In addition to covering the Jazz Journalist Association awards gathering, he managed to attend the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame ceremony on the same evening. His report is below. T.G.
The American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) presented its annual Jazz Wall of Fame induction ceremonies fittingly at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room on June 16. As always it was a warm gathering of friends and relatives of the honorees, not to mention the family of jazz.
The room itself overlooks Central Park and as the natural light faded into twilight and we were bathed in the glow of ever-greening electric ones, and the gigantic photo of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin, Kid Ory, and the Dodds brothers loomed over us. The photo is the backdrop for ASCAP’s Jazz Wall in their offices.
There are two sets of inductees picked by the troika of lyricist Alan Bergman, bassist John Clayton and arranger Johnny Mandel. One set is posthumous, the other living legends. In addition, there are Young Jazz Composers awards and a Jazz Wall of Fame Prize. This year Anat Cohen, who earlier in the day was awarded Best Clarinet at the Jazz Journalists awards, won the latter. (See report here.)
Each living honoree played for his/her supper, as it were. The departed had others play for them. As one would expect, everyone was at the peak of form. The proceedings were hosted by current ASCAP president Paul Williams, who thought of himself as being unhip. Later he ad-libbed Lord Buckley saying that he felt “like the Naz up here.” Hipness comes in unexpected wrappings.
Among the more elegant speakers was Dan Morgenstern who introduced and presented the award to Cohen. She played a personal tune called “Purple Piece” with her quartet. When asked the title, it appeared that she had just thought of it. Jazz is still the sound of surprise. The most unusual instrumentation of the evening was lead by awardee violinist Regina Carter. An Italian violin, a French accordion and an African kora were the instruments for the selection, which was African in origin. Multiplicity thy name is jazz.
After Randy Weston’s group, sans rhythm –piano, alto and tenor sax and trombone—played yet another interpretation of his “Hi-Fly,” Weston stood at the podium and gently yet emphatically delivered his sermon-cum-lecture on the diversity and origins of all music, if not all human life, Mother Africa, and how we all need to understand and appreciate that fact. Church-like, the Allen Room was silent throughout his dissertation. Not a soul uttered a word nor moved towards him to curtail the lengthy oration. When he was finished we rose and cheered. (You may read a gist of what he said on OctoJAZZarians profile.)
I hasten to say that Johnny Mandel did not choose himself. ASCAP past president Marilyn Bergman said that it was an oversight finally adjusted that this giant of a player, arranger and composer is raised to their Jazz Wall. Karrin Allyson played and sang a lesser-known Mandel tune called “Little Did I Dream.” His acceptance speech was brief but humble.
Joe Lovano and Eddie Palmieri musically represented John Coltrane and Tito Puente. Lovano, a devotee of Trane’s, played the saxist’s “Central Park West” as Clayton in his intro urged us to glance out the multistory window at that so-named avenue as the music wafted over us from within. Palmieri, who enjoyed a close personal friendship with Puente, introduced TP’s famous “Piccadillo” with a long, rambling abstract piano solo finally releasing the tension with the refrain. Then he led us en clave through the improv choruses.
The best was yet to come. Radio station WBGO’s Music Director Gary Walker briefed us on the gestation of vocalese and its primary progenitors: Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, all honored this night, Dave Lambert posthumously. He was taken from us in 1966 in a tragic accident on I-95, as he was being a Good Samaritan helping a stranded motorist change a tire. Annie Ross and Jon Hendricks keep the genre alive singing, separately and together, the tunes L-H-R created from famous instrumentals.
“Hendricks and Ross tore the Allen Room apart and left us in shambles,” someone was heard to say. Opening with their copyrighted version of Count Basie’s “Every Day (I Have the Blues),” Annie segued into her version of Wardell Gray’s “Twisted.” Jon moved in with “Cloudburst,” the tune that has been recorded by every vocal ensemble in the world from Manhattan Transfer to the Pointer Sisters and sampled by hip-hoppers and rappers. Even the Flaming Pizzarellis have a tune-on-tune arrangement. There are printed scores for schools. H & R wrapped it up with another Basie fave a very up “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.”
Early the next morning I called Hendricks on another matter. He sounded still breathless from the night before. Seems they repaired to Ross’s regular Metropolitan Room gig and did more L-H-R into the wee small. Jon muttered something like “Davey would have loved being [in the Allen Room], man.” He was Jon; he was.
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