Riffs: Music News from Out & About
By Patricia Myers
Phoenix-born drummer Lewis Nash has been named the Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft Professor of Practice in Jazz at Arizona State University. He will join the faculty of the ASU School of Music in January.
Nash will teach applied lessons, rhythm-section classes, jazz combos and a jazz repertoire class. He also will assist in recruiting students for the ASU School of Music jazz-studies program, while continuing his professional concert performances throughout the nation and world.
“I am truly honored to accept the Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft Professor of Practice role in the ASU School of Music,” Nash said. “The school’s mission of preparing creative leaders who will transform our society through music inspires me, and I look forward to the opportunity to play a role in the nurturing of the next generation of jazz artists.”
The new position was made possible by a gift from Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft, longtime supporters of the ASU jazz program. Bob is an accomplished pianist-keyboardist, jazz musician, composer, recording artist, teacher and entrepreneur of creative work. The Ravenscrofts also support the Young Sounds of Arizona program of two big bands and a combo of high school students who are selected by audition for this ongoing program of the Phoenix Musicians Union that began in 1971.
“We are thrilled that Lewis Nash has agreed to join our School of Music community and return to his home,” said Heather Landes, director of the division. “Mr. Nash not only brings his international reputation and knowledge as one of today’s most distinguished jazz artists to our program, but our students will benefit greatly from his outstanding teaching and mentorship.”
Nash was born and raised in Phoenix and attended Percy L. Julian Elementary School, East High School and ASU. He has credited local jazz mentors during the 1970s, including pianists-composers Charles Lewis, Keith Greko and Prince Shell, also saxophonist Allan Chase and ASU jazz program founder Bob Miller, with giving him a foundation and his start in jazz performances.
Nash has been drummer of choice for a wide array of artists, from jazz masters to the hottest young players of today; he also is a clinician and educator. His career spans more than 400 recordings with Betty Carter, Tommy Flanagan, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner, Hank Jones, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Clark Terry, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. Nash also is a highly sought-after jazz educator, and is sponsored by Sakae drums, Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads and Vic Firth drumsticks. Nash moved to New York in 1981 but retained his ties with the Phoenix community. In 2012, Jazz in Arizona established founded The Nash, a jazz club in downtown Phoenix named for him.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students and faculty,” said Michael Kocour, associate professor and director of jazz studies. “While I as a longtime jazz educator may hypothesize with our students about the performance practices and compositional thinking that have gone into the making of some of the most significant jazz recordings of our time, Lewis Nash can speak to our students directly about what it was like to actually make those recordings. There’s a big difference.”
“The Ravenscrofts have been wonderful contributors to our jazz program for many years,” Landes said. “Their support of the arts and jazz, in particular, in the Phoenix metropolitan area, has been unwavering. We are grateful to the Ravenscrofts for their incredible generosity and for this sustainable gift supporting musical innovation in the ASU School of Music.”
The Buzz: The Phoenix Musicians Union continues its free first-Tuesday concert series with “We Three” performing an original tribute to the Ink Spots on Jan. 3. The trio is vocalist Renee Patrick (daughter of a former Ink Spots member, the late George “Pepe” Grant), pianist Nicole Pesce and violinist Suzanne Lansford. Donation for snacks and beverages help support Young Sounds of Arizona, the all-Arizona high school honor jazz bands. The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at the Musicians Hall, 1202 E. Oak St., Phoenix 85006, 602-254-8838. The monthly series will continue Feb. 7 with Pam Morita-piano Jan Sandwich-vocals; March 7, Papa John DeFrancesco-organ, Mike Eldred-piano; and April 4, JiGGle (Bryon Ruth-tenor sax, Scott Zimmer-saxes, Ted Sistrunk-bass, Jacob Eary-drums).
An exciting variety of top-name jazz musicians will perform concerts for the third annual Tucson Jazz Festival from Jan.12-21, and includes a free all-day event. The roster assembled by organizer Yvonne Ervin includes a rare local performance by Arizona resident vocalist-guitarist George Benson on Jan. 19. The free day-long Downtown Jazz Fiesta will be Monday, Jan. 16, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., with local bands on outdoor and indoor stages in the vicinity of 33 S. Fifth Ave., Tucson. Two more special concerts are vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater on Jan. 20 with the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band that includes guest drummer Lewis Nash. The festival’s closing concert will be Tower of Power on Jan. 21. The festival launches with New York saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and includes guitarist-vocalist John Pizzarelli on Jan. 14-15, and guitarist Howard Alden and clarinetist Anat Cohen on Jan. 17. Full information is at TucsonJazzFestival.com or call 520-428-4853.
Two free outdoor concert series begin this month. The Sunday A’Fair is scheduled for most Sundays through March, with two bands performing from noon to 4 p.m. on the lawn near the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The weekly Thursday Out to Lunch series is staged at noon at the Mesa Arts Center. Both series book a variety of music styles.
The weekly Downtown Glendale Jazz Jam has a new home, again supported by Beth Dore and Mark Wlodarczyk. It’s now on the heated patio of the Desert Rose Pizzeria and Gastro Pub, 6729 N. 57th Drive, Glendale 85307, 623-937-3004, 6:30-9:30 pm Thursdays, $5 cover. This replaces the former jam night at Polo’s restaurant, which has been sold.
Musicians News: The continuing weekly Thursday series at Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse in Scottsdale continues to book local favorites who consistently attract enthusiastic listeners. The series was created more than a decade ago by former ASU jazz studies director Chuck Marohnic, with support from Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft. The performance hall Scottsdale Congregational Church has a raised stage, baby grand piano, Hammond B3 organ and an excellent audio system; coffee and desserts are sold during performances. The first concert in 2017 will feature pianist-vocalist Danny Long with Tony Vacca-sax-flute, Bob Lashier-bass and Dom Moio-drums, 7:30-9:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 5; $5 donation at the door. (See Venues for other bookings.)
Jazz in the Hills, also founded by Marohnic, has revitalized with twice-monthly events in Fountain Hills that feature top local musicians. Beth Lederman performs on Jan. 6 and Fred Forney on Jan. 20. (See Calendar for more info.) Forney and his quartet also will present “The Music of Miles Davis” at 7:30 pm Wednesday, Jan. 11, at the Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix 85004, 602-368-3121. Lederman plays piano from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at B&R Bistro in Scottsdale, featuring frequent guest artists.
Several annual series will start this month: Arizona Musicfest’s season launches Friday, Jan. 27, with trumpeter Chris Botti, followed on Feb. 1 by pianist Nicole Pesce. The Lakeshore Music monthly series continues with former Count Basie vocalist Carmen Lundy performing Jan. 14 at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Vocalists Dennis Rowland and Diana Lee with Greg Warner and The Jazz Experience will kick off the ASU Kerr Cultural Center-Jazz in AZ series on Jan. 4, followed Feb. 1 by The Divas 2017 (Delphine Cortez, Blaise Lantana, Renee Patrick, Carmela Ramirez and Sherry Roberson). The series continues March 8 with Danny Long and Judy Roberts: “Dueling Chicago Quartets,” and culminates April 5 with the Charles Lewis Legacy Quintet of Lewis-piano-arrangements, Frank Smith-sax-flute, Joe Corral-flute, Dwight Kilian-bass and Dom Moio-drums.
Touring musicians are adding new dates at performing arts centers in Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler, as well as at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix. A newer venue is The Grand in central Phoenix, where vocalist Gina Fletcher and her band will play a mix of R&B, blues, pop, jazz and neo-soul, plus a performance by ballet dancer Amy Symonds on Saturday Jan. 7. Gina is the daughter of the late jazz singer Sam Fletcher, and she twice won Amateur Night at the Apollo. The event is 8 to 10:30 pm at The Grand, 718 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; admission is $10 advance, $15 at the door. Online purchase: http://square.com/store/five.star.artist.management; more info at 480-233-4031.
Final Chorus: Hod O’Brian, 80, bebop pianist, Nov. 20 in New York City; pianist Cheryl Stephens, 69, Nov. 27 in American Fork, Utah; Rusty Jones, 73, jazz drummer, Dec. 9 in Chicago.