Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tower Of Power Tickets Now Available For 4/17/09 Show In Danville

I am pumped up as I have secured tickets for the Tower of Power concert to be held 4/17/09 at Norton Center For The Arts on the campus of Centre College in Danville. This concert has not yet been announced on the Norton Center website and there is no link on that site to purchase tickets. Over the past month, I have been calling the Norton Center ticket office every day or so for ticket availability updates. Yesterday, they agreed to release tickets to me. I was able to pick any seats in the house, except for the first four rows which are reserved for sponsors of the concert. I will be sitting in the center of the fifth row. I have told some of my TOP friends and they, too, have secured prime seats already. The phone number for the ticket office is 859-236-4692.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jazz Musicians Gerry Niewood & Coleman Mellett Die In Airplane Crash

Gerry Niewood & Me In 2007

I have listened to woodwind ace Gerry Niewood play on Chuck Mangione albums for many years and was thrilled to meet him on a 11/07/07 gig in Lexington. I found him to be a beautiful person and fantastic musician.

I was stunned and extremely saddened to learn that he and guitarist Coleman Mellett lost their lives in the Flight 3407 airplane crash last Thursday. They were on their way to perform a concert with Chuck Mangione.

From The New York Times, 2/15/09, by Nate Schweber, "For Two Jazzmen, Work Meant Life on the Road":

GLEN RIDGE, N.J. — From the day she was born, Elizabeth Niewood kept what she called a “daddy doll,” a cloth figure about 18 inches tall with a shock of ochre yarn for hair and eyes stitched with light blue thread.

The doll was made to look like her father, the saxophonist Gerry Niewood, and was a gift from a family friend intended to comfort Ms. Niewood whenever her father was out of town plying his trade. The doll now has greater poignancy for Ms. Niewood, who is 23: her father was on his way to perform at a concert when he was killed on Thursday night in the crash of Flight 3407 outside Buffalo.

“It was just another outing for dad,” Ms. Niewood said as she cradled the doll and fought back tears during an interview on Saturday on the porch of the beige, three-story home here that her father bought more than 30 years ago.

Mr. Niewood, 64, and Coleman Mellett, 33, were scheduled to perform with the jazz musician Chuck Mangione when their Continental Connection flight from Newark slammed into a house as it approached the Buffalo airport, killing all 49 aboard.

In the world of jazz, the two men were largely successful, able to carve out middle-class existences solely through their music and not needing to rely on day jobs to pay their bills. But their lives as musicians were hardly glamorous; flying in a cramped turboprop plane to play a show in Buffalo in February was not an unfamiliar routine.

Family and friends of both men said they accepted the rigors of life on the road as the sacrifice they had to make in order to create the music they were passionate about.

“Ever since Sept. 11, he said the travel has been harder on him,” said Bob Sneider, a jazz musician and a friend of Mr. Mellett’s who teaches at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. “But music was his passion, and he loved to go and perform for people.” Mr. Niewood had also toured with Simon and Garfunkel and Liza Minnelli and had appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”

He had known Mr. Mangione since they were grade-school classmates in Rochester, N.Y., said Adam Niewood, Mr. Niewood’s son, who is also a musician even though his father had encouraged him to do something that offered more financial security.

“I marvel at the fact that my dad’s mother hardly went anywhere besides her hometown, and he set foot on almost every continent just by playing saxophone,” Adam Niewood, 31, said.

“He’d say, ‘A lot of people have to save up all year to take one vacation; I go on vacation 10 months out of the year and I don’t have to pay, I get paid.’ ”

Mr. Mellett grew up near Washington and studied music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh before transferring to William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., said his friend and former roommate Paul Wells, 35, who is also a jazz musician.

Mr. Mellett was married to Jeanie Bryson, 50, a jazz singer and the daughter of Dizzy Gillespie, with whom he would often perform. They lived in a ranch-style house in East Brunswick, N.J., a lifestyle that Mr. Mellett found ideal, far from the famed jazz clubs of Manhattan. Though he occasionally taught lessons to supplement his income, Mr. Mellett earned a steady salary from being part of Mr. Mangione’s ensemble. At Mr. Niewood’s prompting, Mr. Mellett also worked with the Radio City Music Hall orchestra during the “Christmas Spectacular” show.

“He loved his wife, he loved his home, he loved the town where they lived, and he loved the life they built up,” Mr. Wells said. “We both shared the common goal of being working New York City musicians. As we got older, we found it was more complicated than we thought when we were 20 years old.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Saxophonist Hank Crawford Passes Away

I always enjoy hearing Hank Crawford play the saxophone. He was a very soulful player and I will miss him. The following was published 2/2/09 in The New York Times and written by Bruce Weber:

Hank Crawford, whose fluidly emotional saxophone solos as a sideman for Ray Charles led to a long career as a leader of jazz and soul bands and a lengthy discography for Atlantic, Kudu and Milestone Records, died Thursday at his home in Memphis. He was 74. The cause was complications of a stroke he had in 2000, his sister Delores said.

Beginning in the early 1960s, when Mr. Crawford was music director for Charles’s big band and also recorded on his own as a bandleader, he was best known as an alto saxophonist who melded a wailing blues style to the melodic and rhythmic exigencies of modern jazz, funk and soul. He proved an especially flexible musician over the decades as styles of popular music swiveled hither and yon.

A sampling of his recorded tracks from the ’60s and ’70s would encompass, say, “The Peeper,” a bluesy swing number reminiscent of the Duke Ellington tunes he first listened to at home as a child; “New York’s One Soulful City,” an example of the rhythmically funky if melodically saccharine sounds of some television themes of the ’70s; and “I Hear a Symphony,” a soulful disco cover of the 1965 Supremes hit.

But Mr. Crawford’s distinctively piercing sound remained constant, a forceful and urgent plaintiveness that was rooted in the blues and delivered with a preacher’s fervor. In addition to working with Charles, over the years he was an arranger, co-leader or sideman for blues masters of several different stripes, among them Eric Clapton, Etta James, B. B. King and Jimmy McGriff.

“He has a rich, throbbing tone and a way of phrasing like a blues singer,” Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times in 1986. “Mr. Crawford’s solos are artfully shaped, but they convey a naked emotionality.”

Bennie Ross Crawford Jr. was born in Memphis on Dec. 21, 1934, into a large family and “a jazz and gospel household,” as Delores Crawford described it in a phone interview Monday. A pianist who played in church, he attended Manassas High School, an incubator of musical talent with alumni including Jimmie Lunceford and Isaac Hayes. Among Mr. Crawford’s own schoolmates were the future jazz notables George Coleman, Harold Mabern and Charles Lloyd.

Mr. Crawford’s father was a truck driver who badly wanted to play the saxophone but did not have the chops; still, he contributed to the history of music.

“He was a confused saxophone player,” Ms. Crawford said. “But he brought a saxophone home with him from the Army, and put it in Hank’s hands.”

Mr. Crawford was given his nickname as a teenager by some fellow musicians who thought he sounded like a local saxophonist named Hank. He attended Tennessee State University in Nashville and was just short of a degree when Ray Charles came to town and offered him a gig in his band playing baritone sax.

Mr. Crawford played baritone on several of Charles’s records, including “Ray Charles at Newport” and “What’d I Say.” During his years with Charles, the saxophone section also included David (Fathead) Newman, with whom he later collaborated frequently, and Leroy (Hog) Cooper. Both Mr. Newman and Mr. Cooper also died in January.

Mr. Crawford, whose first marriage ended in divorce, was a widower. In addition to Delores Crawford, he is survived by two brothers, Danny and Ceylon; three sisters, Shirley, Marva and Alma; a son, Michael; a daughter, Sherri; and a granddaughter. All live in Memphis.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tower Of Power Coming To Danville KY

TOP's website shows a 4/17/09 upcoming show at Centre College in Danville at Norton Center For The Arts. The Norton Center website does not yet have any information yet, so I called the ticket office. They promised to call me as soon as tickets are available.