Riffs: Music News from Out and About

By Patricia Myers

The fall season concert by the long-acclaimed Young Sounds of Arizona on Tuesday Nov. 24 at Mesa Community College will be an appealing and exciting program performed by in two ensembles and a quintet comprised of talented teenage jazz musicians from metro-Phoenix high schools.


The three youth groups were invited to perform by the Mesa Community Performing Arts Jazz Ensemble (formerly Arizona Jazz Masterworks Orchestra created by Fred Forney). That orchestra will perform under the direction of pianist Nick Manson. “The music department has given us carte blanche with repertoire, and the band sounds great, very modern,” Manson said.


The Five O’Clock and Seven O’Clock bands are led by YSA director Vince Wedge. “The focus for student musicians is pretty straight-ahead, although we want these young musicians to get a handle on most of the jazz styles. One of the charts that our 10-piece ensemble is rehearsing is ‘Concheka’ by Bob Meyer that’s in three-four time, but it has Latiny feel.” That composition has been described as a “super-hot, flying, tumbling, soaring tune.” The tentet is an ensemble known in jazz circles as a “little big band” that was popularized in southern California by Dave Pell in the “cool jazz” mode. Wedge added, “We try to have something for anybody, and the Seven O’Clock band is gonna swing. They’re playing together well and starting to jell really well.” Wedge said he has recovered from cancer of the tonsil. “I’m doing well now. I’m cancer-free, and we hope that’s going to last a long time, but I’ve lost 50 pounds, so people see that I look different.”


The five-member combo has been rehearsing with Andrew Gross, assistant director of YSA. “We’re working on ‘Lover Man’, ‘Giant Steps’ ‘Tour de Force’ by Dizzy Gillespie and ‘Kenya’ by J.J. Johnson,” he said. He also emphasized, “In Young Sounds, we don’t just teach the students to play jazz; we encourage them to have a professional attitude.” Founded in 1971, Young Sounds of Arizona remains the first and oldest program of its kind in the country, and is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It involves students are between the ages of 13 and 18, selected by audition from schools throughout the Metro-Phoenix area.


The concert is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, in the Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center, 1833 W. Southern Ave. (at Dobson Road), Mesa 85302, 480-461-7172, admission is $8, $7 for seniors-military-staff, $6 for students, purplepass.com.


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The Buzz: Pianist Armand Boatman is recovering from triple by-pass heart surgery on Aug. 30, working diligently on cardio-vascular rehab therapy. Armand told me that during the long surgery, his wife Kat was sitting between saxophonisr Jerry Donato and flutist Joe Corral when the surgeon emerged to announce, “It was a success; he’ll be better than ever!” The two musicians looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, “Tempo!” (referring to the pianist’s legendary express-train-speed keyboard agility. And then Armand said, “I’ve contacted Seth Thomas (watch/clock-maker) to design me a new metronome — that starts at 500.” (As a frame of reference, in 1940s-era bebop jazz, “Cherokee” often was performed at 368 beats per minute; Charlie Parker‘s “Bebop” and “Shaw Nuff” have been performed at 380 bpm).                                           


When Judy Roberts and Renee Patrick perform on Mondays at Malee’s Thai Bistro in Scottsdale, local musicians often come to sit in. One recent night, two touring stars stopped by to perform: guitarist Howard Alden (who recently moved to Chandler from NYC) and trombonist Russ Phillips, in town for the Nov. 5-8 annual Arizona Classic Jazz Society’s festival at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort in Chandler.


“Sweet Erv” Campbell is the propelling personality behind next January’s “Century Sky Room Reunion” show, tentatively at the Elks Lodge on Seventh Avenue. The afternoon celebration is expected to feature jazz musicians such as pianist Charles Lewis among 7those who performed for decades at the second-story club at 1150 E. Washington St., Phoenix (closed in the late 1980s). Past patrons of the Sky Room are expected to come from throughout the state, California and elsewhere.


Downtown Radio, 99.1 fm debuted in Tucson in mid-Ocober, thanks to the positive persistence of Jason LeValley, son of longtime metro-Phoenix jazz supporters Lois LeValley and Jim LeValley. Tucson’s first officially sanctioned low-power fm station was funded by community members recruited by a team of volunteers. The station plans to focus on local bands and obscure recordings, with shows curated by local musicians and rock-music fans. The station has reported a demand outside of its broadcast range to start streaming, and its Facebook presence is soliciting new underwriting. Downtown Radio also plans to assist programs for disadvantaged youth via connections to services and resources, including mental health advocacy.



In radio station-related news, “Jazz Nights at Julieanna’s Patio Café” in Yuma will offer live jazz by one of four area groups on Fridays, Nov. 6-April 22 (weather permitting, except Dec. 25, Jan. 1, April 1).The series is produced by Yuma trumpeter Steve Hennig and sponsored by radio station KAWC, 88.9 fm-1320 am. (It seems logical that Arizona’s “jazz station” would sponsor something similar in Maricopa County, to reward its jazz fans . .. just sayin’.)


The Count Basie Orchestra arrives Dec. 19 for two concerts at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts after a lengthy hiatus. The band’s newest CD, “A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas!” is its first Christmas album during 80 years of performing. The 11 tracks feature guests Johnny Mathis, Ledisi, Ellis Marsalis and Carmen Bradford. I sure would like a jazzy Santa to put that in my holiday stocking!


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Musicians News: Michael Reed will celebrate his birthday with “Soul (Café)” on Friday Nov. 13. But before that, he’ll be in Seattle to perform a cameo in Theatre Zinzanni, where his sister Francine Reed has been a featured performer for many years. He’ll sing “What a Wonderful World” in this long-running and highly popular Cirque de Soleil-style show.


Acoustic bassist Dan “Igor” Glenn will perform this month in the All-Star Band of the Western Music Convention in Albuquerque, NM. He previously was inducted into the National Western Swing Hall of Fame.


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Overheard: “Judy Roberts and Renee Patrick are an organic duo.” — Patron at Malee’s on Main Thai Cuisine.

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Final Chorus: Larry Rosen, 75, co-founder GRP Records (with Dave Grusin), also Jazz Roots education program, SASSY Awards (Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition); Mark Murphy, 83, vocalist, Oct. 22 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, NJ, Oct. 9 in Park Ridge, NJ;
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