as i have intimated this blog will not be about your everyday goings-on.  during Oct. we visited a variety of places some not even on the jazz map.


first up was a live presentation of a play about Oscar Wilde.  it was performed in a magnificently preserved Beaux Arts room at the Prince George Hotel and presented by the Duke Ellington Center For the Arts.  a live trio played Ellingtonia while we picked at finger food: Frank Owens, piano; Jackie Williams, drums; JJ Wiggins, bass.  the play –”Blacker”– itself was not the thing for me.  however, there was an interesting sidebar. Wilde’s relationship with the infamous Dreyfus Affair in France.  they say everyone is separated only by degrees from another.  i was told that Col. Dreyfus was a forebear of Dreyfus Funds, where my retirement is housed, and more importantly Dreyfus Jazz Records, for whom i was publicist.

there was some beautiful music in the play, proudly proclaimed by its author, Russ Weatherford, as original.  however, after conferring with a vocalist who was also present, we discovered that it was a reworking of the tag to Jobim’s Manha de Carnivao nicely dovetailed into the dramaturgy.  as Maestro Ellington purportedly told Jimmy Forrest after the latter “borrowed” “Night Train”: from Duke’s “Happy-Go-Lucky Local,”  “The next time you write an original be sure it’s yours.”


being in the presence of genius is ethereal.  Randy Weston’s presentments contain elements of history, anthropology, sociology, musicology, religiosity, not to mention melody, harmony and rhythm, heavy accent the latter.  Weston was honored at the 2011 All Nite Soul at St. Peter’s Church –still called “The Jazz Church”– which is the annual celebration of Jazz Vespers, the first of its kind now copied worldly.  Weston calls his band and recitals “African Rhythms.”  and he covers the topic.  this All Nite Soul was among the better attended in many years.  take it from one attendee who has been there for virtually all 41 of them.

the music begins with vespers at 5p; then the concert at 7p, and on into the early brights.  new and established artists are eager to play.  it used to run 5p-5a, but that’s been abridged somewhat.  Arturo O’Farrill opened with free form a cappella piano  which served as an intro to “African Sunrise.”  with its dedication to Dizzy Gillespie and Machito as arranged by Melba Liston, the band, which expanded and contracted for the entire length of the Weston part of the concert, featured Vincent Gardner, trombone, TK Blue, alto and flute, Billy Harper, tenor, and the powerhouse rhythms of Alex Blake, bass, Neil Clarke, percussion, Lewis Nash, drums and Candido, congas.  Blake, an enthusiastic player, actually vibrated himself off the platform, got up and continued his solo from where he, um, dropped off.

for “The Healers” tenorist Bill Saxton and pipa-ist (a Japanese string instrument) Min-Xiai-Fen were added taking yet another direction for Weston devotees.  Weston favs followed: “Hi Fly,” never played twice the same way after all these decades, featured Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet, Paul West replaced Blake; Howard Johnson, tuba, with Vince Ector in for Nash.  the concluding “Little Niles,” composed for Randy’s late son Azzedine, had all joining in.

as an encore Howard Johnson brought his plus-strings arrangement for that last tune which featured, Blake on bass, and trumpeter James Zollar.

another stand out of the Nite would have to have been Wade Barnes’ Brooklyn Repertory Ensemble featuring vocalist Donna Cumberbatch.  a couple of comments heard during their set: “they certainly didn’t mail in those charts;” “they all came to play.”


meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, Jon and Laurelyn Faddis celebrated their first issue, Tyler John, at New Journey Church, a small house of prayer in the Bed-Sty Brownsville section.  Rev. Wayne Stokeling officiated in the blessing ceremony which featured Jon praising his new son in an a cappella trumpet version of Thad Jones ‘s “A Child Is Born.”  Rev. Wayne does as masterful a job in the kitchen as he does in the pulpit; he barbecues a variety of crustaceans and mollusks for a small, noisome gathering during the Newport jazz Festival.

…more later.

- © arnold jay smith

Nov. 1, 2011

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