[JPL] FRIENDS PITCH IN FOR GEORGE CABLES
drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Dec 10 16:16:47 EST 2007
Jazz community rallies behind beloved pianist
WITH BENEFIT CONCERT, FRIENDS PITCH IN FOR GEORGE CABLES
By Andrew Gilbert
for the Mercury News
Article Launched: 12/06/2007 01:39:37 AM PST
Art Pepper dubbed pianist George Cables "Mr. Beautiful" for his bright,
sonorous sound and sublime melodic sensibility, but he could just as
easily have been talking about the pianist's soul.
One of jazz's most beloved musicians, Cables has been at the forefront
of the music's progressive mainstream for almost 40 years. Though based
in his hometown, New York City, since 1989, he forged particularly
strong ties with the Bay Area as the house pianist at Keystone Korner
during the North Beach club's heyday in the 1970s.
But Cables has been a scarce presence on the West Coast in recent years
because kidney disease tethered him to a dialysis machine. Since
undergoing a kidney and liver transplant in October, he's been off the
scene entirely, and probably won't get a doctor's clearance to perform
until early spring.
In an outpouring of affection for Cables, a dazzling cast of friends and
admirers is coming together on Saturday afternoon at Yoshi's in Oakland
to raise funds for the pianist and his long-time partner, Helen Wray
(the inspiration for Cables' lovely standard "Helen's Song"), who has
left her job and home in San Francisco to help him recover.
"I've had a couple of bumps in the road since the transplants, things
the doctors are trying to figure out," says Cables, 63, who taught at
San Jose State University in the '80s. "I lost a lot of weight, and
don't have the energy I'd like to have. I have to remind myself that
this is going to take a while, you have to take it slow. But I've been
really fortunate, getting lots of calls and support from friends and
people I don't know. This kind of thing makes you more serious about
waking up, opening your eyes and making use of the time."
Cables won't be able to travel to the Bay Area for Saturday's event, but
his spirit will be represented by the players taking the stage in his
honor, including his former employers, vibes legend Bobby Hutcherson and
Bebop and Beyond saxophonist Mel Martin, saxophonist Gary Bartz (who
played on Cables' most recent CD, 2003's "Looking for the Light"),
drummers Jeff "Tain" Watts, Babatunde Lea and Vince Lateano, vocalists
Mary Stallings and Denise Perrier, bassists Ray Drummond and Jeff
Chambers, guitarist Calvin Keys and the Mo'Rockin Project with trumpeter
Khalil Shaheed, /oud /master Yassir Chadly and saxophonist Richard Howell.
Jessica Felix, a longtime Bay Area jazz activist, is producing the event
with the help of disc jockey/drummer Bud Spangler and KCSM's music
director, Jesse "Chuy" Varela. Felix has been presenting Cables in
various contexts since the early 1980s, including a decade-long run of
New Year's Eve shows at San Francisco's Gallery 52. When she moved to
Sonoma County in the late 1990s, she founded the highly regarded
Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and Cables was on hand to get it off the ground.
"He said, 'Let's test the water,' " Felix says. "George is the one who
helped me start jazz here, and he's come back every year since. He's a
truly wonderful man. He's always ready to step up for other people, no
questions asked. When I did two benefits for Billy Higgins after his
liver transplant, or the benefit for Woody Shaw, or the tribute to Eddie
Moore that turned into the Eddie Moore Jazz Festival, he was there."
Drummer Eddie Marshall, who played extensively with Cables in Bobby
Hutcherson's band and the Keystone house rhythm section, is also
participating in the benefit. Close friends for four decades, they
bonded on and off the bandstand while accompanying a parade of jazz
"Those were the best days of my musical life, playing with George and
bassist James Leary at Keystone," Marshall says. "We had such a
fantastic run. Art Pepper really stood out, as a character and a great
player. But there were so many great players, Dexter Gordon and Charles
McPherson and Stan Getz.
"Working with George was a thrill in itself," Marshall continues. "I
just have to hear four bars, and I know it's him. Why is that? He's got
amazing chops, brilliant ideas, and his sound is unique. He takes all
these chances. That used to kill me. How's he going to get out of this?
To me he's an extension of Bud Powell and Barry Harris. He brought it to
another level. And he writes some of the most beautiful melodies, which
seem to flow out of him. I'm just amazed at George's spirit, even in the
darkest times. I call to cheer him up, and he cheers me up."George
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