Relay for Life
Friday April 30th 2010, 3:19 pm
Filed under: This 'n' That

There are so many fundraisers for worthy causes that I hesitate to ask, but they say it can’t hurt to ask. For the first time I have decided to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, the society’s nationwide signature event. As most of you know, I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in 1996 with a stage-four carcinoma in the base of my tongue. Some doctors didn’t think much of my chances, but other doctors bet on aggressive treatment and with their help, and the support of family and friends, I beat the odds. I believe that research can ultimately eradicate this pernicious disease, but its going to take more time and more effort, and that costs money.

I am on a relay team from Altadena (The Soroptimist Strutters) and we will take turns walking the track at Loma Alta Park on May 15th-16th. If you are able to support the cause and help the world fight cancer, you can make a contribution to the American Cancer Society. I will be collecting checks for the Relay for Life right up to the event or you can donate online by clicking here.

I would be glad to walk in honor or in memory of someone you know who has been touched by cancer. If you send me that persons name with your donation I will make sure that the person is included by name in the Luminaria Ceremony when candles are lit and we celebrate their lives.
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UPDATE: Good news/bad news — the Altadena Relay has been rescheduled for August and moved to Farnsworth Park. Only bad news cause I was already psyched and ready to go, but it’s good news as it gives me a longer lead time to collect contributions.
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Thank you to my wonderful friends & contributors

I started the ball rolling with a donation in the name of two friends; Jan Strayer and Josie Tison. I will continue to update this list as donations come in. Among those who I will be remembering are Kate Sullivan. Also in my thoughts is Jesse Fife waging his cancer war in Pittsburgh.

5/14/2010: Current tally is $575

Greg & Sue
Renee Govanucci
Sue Jennings
Tison Lacy
J E Nelson
Arlene Richards
Maria Schneider
Jan Strayer
Karen & Scott Twomey


Jake Hanna, R.I.P.
Sunday February 14th 2010, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Jazz Ears,Notables


  

This video of Jake, swinging with the All Stars: Jimmy Cleveland, Jeff Fuller, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Bunch, Warren Vaché, Scott Hamilton is a short excerpt from one posted at Drummer World. The tune is Perdido.

  

  

  

It used to be in days of yore, that news, be it good or bad, took weeks to travel – pony express. Now word goes out so fast that scarcely an hour passes before the entire world becomes aware. So it was on Friday evening that I learned that Jake Hanna had left us. It has been years since I’ve been in real touch with Jake & Denisa, but my affection for them both remains always in my heart. You’ll read elsewhere, and everywhere, about Jake’s tremedous talent, his huge heart, his super-sized sense of humor and penchant for telling a good, often hilarious story.

Not only was Jake a wonderful raconteur but he was also a perpetrator of many pranks. Every once in a while, though, someone would turn the tables on him and one such time it was my dad who, much to his own chagrin, prevailed. It was during The Merv Griffin Show days in New York. The show was taped in the Little Theatre on 44th street between Broadway and 8th avenue, next door to Sardi’s. Mort Lindsay was the band leader, and musicians included Bill Berry, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Davis, Jim Hall, Jake Hanna, Richie Kamuca,…

As Jake got up from his seat at the drums, after or during a rehearsal, he had a habit of deliberately stepping into a small waste basket — when done at the correct angle, he’d then walk a few feet with the basket affixed as a boot. One day my dad decided to put quite a few inches of water in the bottom and float a few wadded-up papers on top to hide the tide. Rehearsal came and went but Jake didn’t step in it; oh well.

That night, during the show, Jake had the rare occasion to leave his drums and walk a few feet onto the stage to hit a gong — yes, you guessed it. TV cameras rolling, Jake walks onstage with a very wet pant leg. The camera didn’t see him step in the basket, but the band did and they all fell out, quietly. The water had sloshed up towards his knee and Jake just had to keep on going to hit his mark and ring that gong.

I am sure he is now instigating heavenly hilarity and swinging with all his angelic friends – well, maybe not angelic….

Read more about Jake here and here.

UPDATE: Also check out the Rifftides post and dig the early photo of Jake that looks to me to be circa the time of the Wastebasket Caper, along with a great video clip.


Memorial Service for Dick Katz
Thursday January 14th 2010, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Announcements,Date Specific

A Memorial Service Dick Katz will take place on Monday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 PM, Saint Peter’s Church, 54th St. and Lexington Ave., in New York City.


Celebrating BB
Thursday December 24th 2009, 10:20 am
Filed under: Jazz Ears,This 'n' That

Bob Brookmeyer has been in the news a lot of late. It shouldn’t take an 80th birthday to precipitate this avalanche of applause — his artistry and tremendous output throughout the decades should be cause enough — but such is the nature of arts coverage in America so I am thrilled that he has garnered a spotlight.

Thanks to Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides for reminding me and for posting a video I had not seen, AND for pointing me to Spirit Music: Bob Brookmeyer at 80, an appreciation that includes a brief account of the Eastman celebration on Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society blog plus several delectable downloadable audio clips and other links.

My personal memories of Bob go back a ways. “Trombone and guitar duets? Your kidding, right?” So said the little kid that I was in the 1960s when dad said he and Bob Brookmeyer were going to play a duo gig at Hopper’s, a now long-defunct restaurant/jazz club just a couple of blocks away from our apartment. Filial love aside, I was mesmerized and have been an ardent follower of all-things-BB ever since. By my teen years I was addicted to his arrangements for the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.

In 1999 a recording of Brookmeyer & Hall 1979 duo performance at the North Sea Jazz Festival was released on CD and I got to write the liner notes.

And here are just a few more BB links worth noting:

  • Jazz Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer on His Career, Influences, and Outlook on Music at ArtistHouse Music.
  • Bob Brookmeyer at Trombone Page of the World.
  • Bob Brookmeyer to blow out some candles (with his trombone) at Jazz @ Rochester blog.
  • Bob Brookmeyer and Some of His Friends on Night Lights (a weekly one-hour radio program of classic jazz hosted by David Brent Johnson and produced by WFIU Public Radio).

  • Joy to the World and a Pox on Wall Street!
    Tuesday December 22nd 2009, 11:55 am
    Filed under: Hmmm....,This 'n' That

    Americans For Financial Reform web site exhorts you to “sing your displeasure.” Here’s a sample:

      (Jingle Bells) Goldman Sachs, bankster hacks, bailouts every day…
      (Deck the Halls) Wrecked our homes with loans of folly…
      (Joy to the World) Joy to the banks, the crash has come, the Feds reward their sins…

    Click here for more lyrics.

    And on a more serious note, check out what else you can do at Showdown America: The American People vs Wall Street Banks.


    Music Makes a Difference
    Saturday December 19th 2009, 12:44 pm
    Filed under: I'm All Ears,This 'n' That

    I am not one of those people who walks around all day with an iPod streaming my favorite music direct to my brain via ear-buds, but I do listen to music while driving. Not just on the very occasional long trip up the coast, but daily when doing local errands, and when stopped at a traffic light at a major intersection, or near a freeway off ramp, I often wonder if music would make the homeless people I see there looking for a handout feel better too. “The Soloist” comes to mind (book by Steve Lopez, movie starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr) but Nathaniel Ayers was cello prodigy training at Juilliard in New York when schizophrenia took hold. And there are lots of homeless playing music on the streets and hoping for tips in return.

    Still…

    I imagine myself driving around handing out free iPods filled with wonderful music of all types – classical and jazz, hip-hop and opera. I can picture scores of homeless toe-tapping their way through our streets, heads bobbing, eyes smiling. But then I have visions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and realize that medicating with music doesn’t solve any of real problems.

    Still…

    Food for the soul is nourishing, and the homeless seem to agree. In New York, violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins been performing in shelters for five years — she calls her program Music Kitchen. Recently, at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church shelter, one of her listeners told a New York Times reporter “I look at music as something to get my mind focused off of the other things I’m going through,” and another explained “I’m not stable right now. To hear them play, it motivates me to do what I have to do in the future.” (“For the Homeless, Music That Fills a Void” The New York Times, December 19, 2009)

    I spent a little time this morning looking online for any other stories about music and homelessness. I found several reports of concerts to raise money for groups that help the homeless, and some wonderful programs for children like Rock For Kids, a chicago-area non-profit that brigs music classes to homeless and underprivileged youth, but I was looking for stories that explored the beneficial impact that music can have on people. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the look on my face when I read a blog post about a city commissioner in Florida who thinks that “piping opera or classical music into the Five Points area might disperse some of the homeless.” I had a few of my own choice prescriptions for him. Meanwhile, I continue my quest, so if you’ve heard of any pertinent stories, please let me know.


    A Reluctant Reviewer
    Wednesday November 18th 2009, 10:28 am
    Filed under: I'm All Ears,Jazz Ears,This 'n' That

    There are several dozen CDs awaiting my attention, many sent by publicists who likely have long since given up on me – some have been waiting for more than a year. Some came directly from the artists themselves. Back in August of 2007 I explained that “I do not consider or even intend for this blog to be an impartial journal or source of news as in ‘all-the-news-that’s-fit-to-print. I receive tons of press releases and even some review copies of books and CDs, but I used to be very selective in what I choose to write about, and my selection criteria is admittedly based on my personal taste.” (Read the entire It’s My Party post here )

    As readership grew, more submissions arrived. When it comes to the roles of music critics and reviewers, I am conflicted about whether I wish to be one. Today I am leaning toward “no.” Duke Ellington is often quoted as defining two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. I have a minimum of three categories, carving out a subsection of Good for the Truly Great. The truly great songs, singers, musicians, arrangements, and performances (live or recorded) are those that transcend the quotidian and make a lasting mark on my soul.

    Still, a number of people have sent me these stacks of CDs and I now feel obligated to respond. This feeling will not continue into the new year. Be forewarned: while you are welcomed to send review copies, please know that I will only blog about those I really like. I may from time to time include something for intellectual reasons, allowing for its evolutionary impact, or rail against something I find offensive, but from here on out my primary criteria for a mention on DevraDoWrite will be to share only the music that has touched me. Luckily there are many ‘“reviewers” and “critics” out there who relish the assignment of screening it all for you and they will be the ones who will reap the joy of a new discovery — I am just not one of those people.

    So now, here are a few discs that I placed in a pile marked “well done” – they don’t deserve a spot in my forever time capsule, and they do not even rank near the top of the Good list, but they are enjoyable nonetheless.

    Jammin’ by the Jay T. Vonada Quartet is Vonada’s debut release. I got nervous when I realized that it was a self-produced novice production comprised entirely of original tunes, but my ears were pleasantly surprised. His compositions have form and flow, and he displays versatility (blues, Latin, swing, bebop, ballad…) This young man has been studying, shedding, and striving. Being a youngster, he has a way to go, but this release bodes well for his future in jazz.

    Morning Glory features flautist Dotti Anita Taylor backed by a lady’s trio: Bertha Hope, Miriam Sullivan and Bernice Brooks. This easy swinging CD is a mix of original compositions and well-knowns ranging from a jaunty Time After Time to a contemplative A Child Is Born (Thad Jones). The recording was produced by Houston Person and the trio is joined by percussionist Steve Kroon, saxophonist Patience Higgins, trumpeter Eddie Allen, and guitarist Dave Tunnell on a few tracks.

    Our Delight by the Paul Gormley Quartet features Paul on bass, Sam Most on flute, Paul Kreibach on drums and Larry Koonse on guitar. Toe-tapping with the pros from the opening notes, these gents have clocked a lot of hours on the bandstand. The ensemble is tight, the solos good, and the wide-ranging collection of tunes includes compositions by Tadd Dameron, Nat Adderley, Horace Silver, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini. Very enjoyable!

    If you want to hear some standards, old-style, take a trip down memory lane with Since You by vocalist Josie Courreges. And if you’re also a movie buff you might appreciate Jazz and the Movies featuring vocalist Jack Wood backed by a number of Los Angeles-based heavy-hitters including George Gaffney and Llew Matthews, Luther Hughes and Jim Hughart, John Pisano and Peter Woodford, Pete Christlieb and Buddy Childers. The songs come from 11 different movies, penned by the likes of Marilyn & Alan Bergman, Arlen/Mercer, Cole Poter, Gershwin, and more.


    Fela! Dance Music With A Political Message
    Tuesday November 10th 2009, 3:42 pm
    Filed under: This 'n' That

    Back in the day, I was a New York City child of the sixties. I attended a private progressive elementary school and my friends and I were fairly savvy and politically active — protesting war toys, stumping and stuffing for Bella Abzug, marching on Washington… My friends and I were also music , dance, and theater lovers, singing folk songs, dancing weekly at Michael Herman’s Folk Dance House, attending Broadways musicals and then performing them in our living rooms. Torches have been passed to next generations, and my best friend’s son has learned his musical, social and political lessons well. Barnaby is no longer a kid. Now he’s a young man with two jobs — a 9-5er by day and musician by night. His band (and Barnaby himself) is featured in this video promo for the Broadway show “Fela!”

    I did not know that Fela! and I shared a birthday and that on that day last month (October 15), “Felabrations” were held all over world. A happy belated discovery.

    In the words of director/choreographer Bill T. Jones “a confrontation of power is always relevant,” and Fela! is is “a wake up call” that hear you can “hear with your hips.” Click here to watch Jones and biographer Dr. Carlos Moore discuss Fela Anikulapo-Kuti on YouTube.


    John Levy Celebrated at Farnsworth Park
    Wednesday August 19th 2009, 7:21 pm
    Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Notables,This 'n' That

    thankyou.jpgjohn_headshot.jpgjohnheadshot2.jpg This is a cross-posting from SnapSizzleBop.com and includes some extra photos.
     
    On Saturday evening, August 15, 2009, half-way through the free concert in the amphitheater at Farnsworth Park in Altadena, a plethora of plaques and commendations were bestowed upon John. Every summer, the Sheriff’s Support Group of Altadena (SSGA), sponsors a series of free concerts sampling a wide variety of musical genres. Saturday night featured smooth-jazz guitarist Brian Hughes, and tho his style is a tad more contemporary than the music John played and the artists he managed, it was fitting nonetheless and we were delighted to be there. Brian even surprised us with a lovely nod to Wes Montgomery in the second half.

    [Many thanks to photographer Leroy Hamilton for sharing these pictures. Click on each image to enlarge and view in a separate window.]

    ssga_certificateofspecialrecognition.jpgWe knew, of course, that the SSGA was going to honor John, and I suspected that he might get a proclamation from a local politician’s office, but neither of us were prepared for the number of awards that he received. First was the SSGA certificate of Special Recognition presented by the group’s president, Robert Klomberg, in recognition of John’s “achievements in the music world of Jazz, as a performer, Manager, and Produce of the greatest names in Jazz, and as an Altadena resident…”    sheriffsdept_certificateofappreciation.jpg

    Then Bob turned the mic over to Capt. Roosevelt Blow who gave John a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept, signed by Leroy Baca, in tribute to John’s “dedication, unprecedented professional accomplishments, and lifetime commitment to music.”
    naacp_certificateofmerit.jpg
    Next came an award from the NAACP, presented by Charles Pulliam, III. We are very familiar with the annual NAACP Image Awards, but this was a Certificate of Merit and so is quite special. In the presentation, they acknowledged that John’s history was just 3 years shy of theirs as the organization is commemorating its centennial, and in an accompanying letter, Branch President Barbara Bigby spoke of how John “paved the way and set the standard for those who enter unchartered territory.” 

    lacounty_commendation.jpgCapt. Blow also did the honors on behalf of the California Senate, presenting a Certificate of Recognition for John’s “Lifetime of Music” signed by Carol Liu. Then came a beautiful hand-crafted County of Los Angeles Commendation (click here to see the special detail – a bass depicted to the right of John’s name) from Supervisor Michael Antonovich, “In recognition of dedicated service to the affairs of the community and for the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all citizens of Los Angeles County.” congressionalflag_capitolbldg.jpgcertificateofspecialcongressionalrecognition.jpgAnd last, but certainly not least, Congressman Adam B. Schiff sent not only a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, but also a flag that once flew over the Capitol Building.

    johndevra.jpg 

    johndevra2.jpg

    coolidgegang1_4×6.jpgJohn never seeks the spotlight, and Saturday night was no exception. In his acceptance speech he deftly turned the spotlight on his friends. Eight households from our own little block turned out in force (with their children!) as well as many friends from the greater neighborhood at large. coolidgegang2b.jpgAs much as he appreciated the official commendations, nothing touched John’s heart as much as this show of love from our friends who are as close to us as family and who embody the true meaning of community. Thank you Neil and Brenda; Bill; Joe and Jen; johnmcintyres_4×6.jpgRobert and Sue; Richard, Jan, Jessica, and Christopher; Wayne, Cheryl, and Emily; Tom and Judy; Phil, Susan, and Robin; Byron and Regina; Laronda; William and Erin. Also our friends from Fox’s, Diana, Ron, and Spree; friends from across town, Valerie, Kit, Lynn and Mary; and…. (I am bound to have forgotten someone, if so my apologies.)
    autographing-books.jpg Events like this require a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and had we known all the participants before-hand, John would have been able to thank them at the time. Now, after-the-fact, we want to at least acknowledge as many a we can, publicly via the Internet, and extend our heartfelt thanks for all that they did. Capt. Roosevelt Blow who spearheaded this effort, Robert Klomburg, President of the SSGA, the group that sponsors this annual series of free concerts in Farnsworth Park, and Angelica Calleros of Parks and Recreation. Also: Carolyn Seitz of the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Committee; Jamie Bissner, member of SSGA and the Altadena Town Council; all the members of the Altadena Sheriff’s Station including Lieutenant Sheila Sanchez, Sergeant Marsha Williams, Sergeant Dan Bartlett, and Deputy Sammy Estrada; Sussy Nemer and Rita Hadjimonukian in Supervisor Antonovich’s office; William Syms in Congressman Schiff’s office; and District Director Tahra Goraya in Carol Liu’s office.
    WE THANK YOU, ONE AND ALL.

    Life and Death and Michael Jackson
    Saturday June 27th 2009, 10:43 am
    Filed under: Hmmm....,Notables

    Is Michael Jackson really THAT important? More important than protestors in Iran? Famine? What about the millions of AIDs deaths in Africa? OK, music provides a soundtrack for our lives and Michael’s music has touched many millions of lives, and yes, death is sad for those of us still here, especially when death comes early in life. But really, can any one person be so important as to obliterate all other concerns?

    At first I was sickened by the overabundance of Michael everywhere I turned, and admittedly, to some extent I still cringe, but reading Sarah Weinman’s June 25th post on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, I found her perspective to be more in keeping with my thoughts, and the comments from her readers gave me hope as well. Readers commented on his “troubled life” and hoped that in death he would be at peace. “The guy only seemed to come fully alive onstage,” wrote J.D. Rhoades. “In front of a crowd, he was damn near superhuman. But you can’t live life onstage 24/7, and he could ever seem to adjust to life on Earth.”

    Weinmn saves her greatest appreciation for his dancing, writing that Jackson

    “represented the ultimate American narrative, reared from an early age to work hard and produce, to support a family rife with internal tensions and jealousies and to appease the hangers-on, trapped by his penchant for excess and flaws tragic and monstrous….But when it comes right down to it, what brings me back to MJ’s classic songs, his groundbreaking videos and those breathtaking live performances is the way he moved, his total command over space, the upward slope of his arch and downturn onto the balls of his feet.”

    For many years now, when I hear Michael’s name his music is the last thing to come to my mind. Media attention has focused on his private life more than his music, and the videos that capture his dancing prowess are somehow overshadowed in my memories by his crotch-grabbing. But last night, Johnny Pate called and mentioned a beautiful song by Michael that he heard at the end of Ann Curry’s NBC report. The song was Gone Too Soon from his Dangerous album. I don’t own any MJ recordings, but I do remember this beautiful song in the context of Michael dedicating it to Ryan White and shining a spotlight the importance of AIDs research. (It also garnered a lot of attention when Princess Diana died and was on a compilation CD titled Diana Princess of Wales Tribute.)

    It’s sad that Michael lived such a tortured life, and it is sad that he died, but even sadder to me is the current state of our culture that feeds more on celebrity-gawking and not enough on arts appreciation.

    Update: Interesting article in The New York Times – His Moves Expressed as Much as His Music