April Is Jazz Appreciation Month
Hollywood- JazzAmerica in conjunction with LACER, and The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation presented a superb program for Jazz Appreciation Month, April 13, at Catalina Bar & Grill.
I was in the company of a young and enthusiastic crowd for the hot afternoon of cool jazz. It felt great to be in an air-conditioned building during our recent heat wave.
Many of you know Richard Simon as a great bassist, comedian and an educator. We might have to add Master of Ceremonies to his resume. He was hilarious as he found a way to add a little humor introducing the compositions performed by the talented student groups.
The show opened with The Young Lions. This is a remarkable group that has only been together for three months. They have recently won the statewide marching band competition. The group study under a partnership between Buddy Collette’s JazzAmerica program and LACER. The students meet after school, twice a week. The students have the full support of Ed Zubiate, Principal at Fairfax High School, and works closely with Ray Vizcarra, Music Director. The band got their program underway with “Secondline” paying homage to the celebratory spirit of music of New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. The journey continued to Memphis with “Beale Street Blues (W.C.Handy). The group performed a variety of compositions reflecting the various hues of jazz. They continued their entertaining set with “Victory Stride,” composed by James P. Johnson. We took a brief detour to Puerto Rico for “Perdido” a Latin composition written by Juan Tizol of The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Everything was starting to look bright as the group performed “On The Sunny Side of the Street” by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. They closed their set with another Latin flavored composition by 2008 Grammy Award Winner Herbie Hancock entitled “Watermelon Man”. This was one of many hits recorded by the late great conguero Mongo Santamaria.
The JazzAmerica Swingtet performed after a brief intermission. This polished sounding group practices on Saturday mornings. They also performed well on famous jazz standards during their brief five song set. The proud parents, sponsors and I were treated to “Good Queen Bess” by Johnny Hodges of The Duke Ellington Orchestra. “Deed I Do” (Fred Rose & Walter Hirsch) and “You Gave Me the Blues” (Vick Dickenson), “Neal’s Deal” (Neal Hefti) and concluded with “Rosetta” by Earl “Father” Hines.
Saxophonist Zach Frotton was the recipient of the 1st Annual Jack Bloch, Ping Ho, and Loren Bloch Scholarship that he will use for his studies at DePaul University. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors presented an Award of Recognition to JazzAmerica for the outstanding work of the organization. Consuella Mackey, Founder/Executive Director-Operation Confidence, Commissioner on Disability City of Los Angeles presented the award to Richard Simon. Linda Ortiz from LACER (Literacy, Arts, Culture, Education & Recreation) greeted the audience. Mr. Buddy Collette, Gil Bernal, Jackie Kelso and Jack Lecompte were some of the musicians in attendance at Catalina Bar and Grill.
The afternoon concluded with a splendid set featuring Plas Johnson-saxophone, Llew Matthews-piano, Richard Simon-bass and Harold Mason-drums. Dee Dee McNeil was the guest vocalist. Their set consisted of the following “Our Day Will Come,” “Pink Panther,” “Route 66” with vocalist Dee Dee McNeil and “Lullabye of Birdland”. They got a little funky with “I Feel Good” by the late great “Godfather of Soul” Mr. James Brown. The band slowed the tempo down for a ballad “I Got It Bad; And That Ain’t Good”. Dee Dee McNeil rejoined the group to sing “Sugar,” and “It’s You or No One.”
I enjoyed my early afternoon outing to hear some live jazz. It is said that “Jazz Is Made in America and Enjoyed By the World.” This was my first time visiting Catalina Bar and Grill at its new location. With respect to the Governor of California “I’ll Be Back” to Catalina Bar & Grill in the near future.