[JPL] Grammy Salute to Jazz
Jazz Promo Services
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Thu Feb 7 11:41:27 EST 2008
>From the Los Angeles Times
Grammy Salute to Jazz
Sonny Rollins is a no-show at Grammy event, but high school ensembles
impress, as does Bill Cosby.
By Don Heckman
Special to The Times
February 7, 2008
The Grammy Salute to Jazz at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Tuesday night
lost some of its luster when one of the principal honorees, tenor
saxophonist Sonny Rollins, canceled his appearance. His nephew, Clifton
Anderson, accepted the award on Rollins' behalf, explaining that his uncle
had back strain from a minor car accident and decided not to make the
five-hour plane flight from his New York home.
Although Rollins performs in the Southland every year or two, the invited
audience of music-world heavy hitters was clearly disappointed over the
missed opportunity for up close and personal contact with one of jazz's
Fortunately, the other honoree, pianist McCoy Tyner, was present to accept
his award from Recording Academy President Neil Portnow. But Tyner elected
to offer his thanks from the keyboard of his instrument, reducing the
evening's verbal interaction with the Salute to Jazz honorees from a
possible two to zero.
That's not to say that Tyner's playing lacked powers of communication. His
lush, rhapsodic, solo rendering of "For All We Know" was a definitive
display of the unique improvisational dialect he has been developing for
nearly five decades. The only thing missing was more of the same in Tyner's
far too brief set.
On hand with his usual aplomb to take up any of the slack was Bill Cosby --
at his best, as usual -- before the kind of musically literate audience that
can pick up on the subtleties of his jazz-oriented raps. In rare form, he
unreeled one witty tale after another, climaxing with a visual impression of
the differences in body language between a classical and a jazz pianist. And
when he returned at the end to finish the show, neither he nor the audience
seemed particularly willing to have it come to a close.
The other highlights of the program were all provided by the marvelous music
of the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy jazz ensembles. Assembled just a few days
earlier, the ensembles' high school singers and instrumentalists, chosen
from 26 cities and 14 states, were quickly molded into impressive groups --
a jazz choir, a jazz combo and a jazz big band -- by the Manhattan School of
Music's Justin DiCioccio and USC's Ron McCurdy.
The solo work of the young players surely made their elders proud,
especially in the dynamic performances of the combo's alto saxophonist,
Grace Kelly, and the big band's two tenor saxophonists, Adam Larson and Chad
Lefkowitz-Brown. And the big band, playing together with a surprisingly
well-integrated ensemble sound, swinging with the ease and élan of players a
decade older, offered stunning affirmation of Cosby's reference to both the
vitality and the continuing significance of America's music.
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