Riffs: Music News from Out and About

By Patricia Myers

The Buzz: The third annual Tucson Jazz Festival has scored a coup: George Benson is the 2017 headliner, performing Jan. 19 at the Fox Theatre. Tickets go on sale later in the fall for one of his rare “home-state” concerts. Benson continues to tour nationally and internationally, especially since the 2013 release of his Nat King Cole tribute-album. Tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington will open the festival on Thursday, Jan. 12. At 35, the Los Angeles native has performed with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, Gerald Wilson Orchestra. In 2004, he released his “Young Jazz Giants” album, and in 2015 his first solo-leader-producer album, “The Epic” on the Brainfeeder label. TJF producer Yvonne Irvin, who heard him at a Summerstage concert in New York’s Central Park in June, said, “The audience was crazy about his blend of hard bop, funk and rock.” Although singer-songwriter Burt Bacharach was the star for the first festival, but none was booked for this past year.


Lyle Lovett Big Band’s annual summer tour featured, as always, three exceptional Arizona musicians, pianist Matt Rollings, vocalist Francine Reed (now back to Phoenix after 24 years in Atlanta), guitarist Ray Herndon (co-leader of the Herndon Brothers Band at the Handlebar J in Scottsdale). They celebrated Herndon’s birthday at the family’s Western restaurant, joined by Lovett himself, causing happy excitement among surprised patrons. In other Francine News, she’ll perform at the HJ on the last Wednesday of each month, joining the band on “Back to Mr. Lucky’s Night” that features J. David Sloan, plus a swinging horn section.


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Musicians’ News: Bob Corritore and his U.S. blues colleagues performed in mid-July at the Hondarribia Blues Festival in Spain. The harmonica player and Rhythm Room owner brought with him pianist Henry Gray, Junior Watson and Fred Kaplan’s West Coast All-Stars with Kedar Roy and Ronnie Smith. Gray, now 91, was featured on two sets with the band, which also performed a separate set of songs from Bob Corritore’s Taboo album.


August was the 20-year anniversary of the AZ Lindy Hop Society that continuously offers dancing events with DJs or live bands, as well as swing-dance classes. During those years, Steve Conrad has teaching aspiring dancers and working to keep this organization going strong. He’s been otherwise busy, appearing on “The Bachelorette” season in an episode filmed in Los Angeles that featured a couple learn how to dance after watching 92-year-old Jean Veloz with Conrad and others. Next for Conrad is an episode of “House Hunters” on HGTV, also in an upcoming documentary about Veloz. The society has weekly Tuesday dances (with DJs and sometimes live bands, $7 admission) at the Fatcat Ballroom, 3131 E. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.         


Vocalist Renee Patrick did her annual “Goin’ to Chicago” this summer, and sat in with Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman at some of their numerous gigs.


The composer in 1965 of “Mustang Sally” died June 27 in Detroit. Matt Rice, 92, also was co-writer of the Staple Singers’ landmark hit, “Respect Yourself,” and composed many other songs for Stax Records. Wilson Pickett’s version of “Sally” turned the song into a huge hit that’s still regularly performed by nearly every blues band in existence.


Singer Vismaya is performing in her native Sweden this month, followed by a booking   at the Chez Papa Jazz Club in Paris.


Former Phoenix vocalist Sylvia Howard, living in Paris for the past 20 years, has had a busy summer performing at festivals and, in July she was featured in a concert with the Black Label Swingtet at the esteemed Paris supper-club Le Petit Journal Montparnasse. This month, she and the band will perform in Morocco at the Tanjazz Festival. Their new CD, “Sylvia Sings Duke,” was released earlier this year, preceded in 2012 by her album “Now or Never.”


My annual Paris jazz forays this summer were to review talented French and European jazz musicians, as well as American stars on tour. Reviews included pianist Cyrus Chestnut, vocalist Michele Hendricks (daughter of Jon), and saxophonists Benny Golson and Craig Handy. The Paris club scene continues to thrive at more than 30 regular venues, plus annual several outdoor festivals. My current and past reviews are posted at AllAboutJazz.com.

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Final Chorus: Joe Temperley, 86, baritone-soprano saxes/bass clarinet, May 11 in New York City; Buster Cooper, 87, trombonist (Ellington etc.), May 13 in Florida; Sir Charles Thompson, 98, pianist, June 16 in Japan; Claude Williamson, 90, pianist, July 16 in Los Angeles; Charles Davis, 83, saxophonist, July 15 in New York; Bobby Hutcherson, 75, vibraphonist, Aug. 15 in Montara, Calif; Jean-Baptiste “Toots” Thielemans, 94, harmonica wizard, Aug. 22 in Belgium; Rudy Van Gelder, 91, audio engineer (Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse, CTI), Aug. 25 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Categories: News