Dizzy Gillespie’s Memorial Fund Concert By Susan Frances
September 15, 2011- Greenwich Village, New York City
Every shade of jazz was showcased at Dizzy Gillespie’s Memorial Fund Concert held at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village, New York from bebop and free jazz to torchlight swing and world music. The master of ceremonies, actor/comedian Bill Cosby and special host, NY1 correspondent Cheryl Wills, kept the artist rotation running smoothly. Their rapport was affectionate as they introduced each individual musician to the stage, some of whom Mr. Cosby had a long-standing connection with including poet Amiri Baraka and saxophonist/flutist/poet Elliott Levin.
Proceeds from the concert and the silent auction will go to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey which underwrites the medical expenses for jazz musicians who are uninsured. Cosby made a special note to his long-time friend, drummer Sunny Murray who made history performing with such magnetic jazz men as Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and Sonny Sharrock back in the ’60s. Murray was unable to attend the concert as he lives in France but was there in spirit.
A drummer in his own right, Cosby made a few jabs at the young lions on the skins including John Lee’s eighteen year old drummerEvan Sherman, Levin’s baby faced Weasel Walter, and Kim Clarke’s bubbly Kenny Martin. Cosby brought out the musicians vulnerabilities whether it was making a fiasco of their hard to pronounce names such as Armenian-American bassist Albey Balgochian and Swiss-born trombonist Denis Beuret or coaxing the shy musicians like saxophonist Ras Moshe out of their shell.
Starting the show off was one of Dizzy’s guitarists John Lee and his band, Dressed to impress, they had the chops and finesse to win the crowd over. The highlight of their set was the dueling trumpets of Bruce Harris and Luxembourg’s Ernie Hammes. Harris’ first attempt at reaching Dizzy’s high notes fizzled, but at the end of the set, Cosby promptly goaded Harris to try those notes again with Dizzy’s gusto and sure enough he got his trumpet to blaze.
Hammes’ presence was just beginning. He returned to the stage twice more to play in pianist Amina Figarova’s band. Now, here’s a lady who can lead. The dialogues and exchanges between her keys, Hammes’ trumpet, Francois Grillot‘s upright bass, and Bart Platteau’s flute were stimulating. Not a foot in the house was sitting still. Their rhythmic action was infectious, and their harmonies were laden with enthusiasm and bold fervor. Their spirited rapport had the crowd wrapped around their fingers.
Although the duo of reedist Marty Ehrlich and bassist Ray Anderson was sparse in comparison, their music was irresistibly engaging. They supported each with a keen perception that kept their pieces uplifted and showed the movements of two acoustic instruments can be a veritable crowd pleaser.
The concert swayed into the world music domain with the elegant voicing of Lola Danza who was accompanied by the charming gayageum player Eunsun Jung. This duo bolstered the soothing sounds of the Far East. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the gayageum is a high pitched instrument similar to the zither or the lyre and originated in Korea. Combined with Danza’s soprano register, their music acted as an elixir that was a joy to reach an imbibed state of mind.
The concert changed its trajectory once again and entered into the R&B/soul terrain with saxophonist Don Byron‘s band featuring the gorgeous vocals of Brownsville, Brooklyn’s own DK. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say her voice resounded with the verve of Patti LaBelle, the deep register of the late Pearl Bailey, and the emotive stylizing of Alicia Keys.
The sphere of freestyle jazz was represented by Levin’s band and Don Minasi‘s group whose improvisations were complex and driven by polyrhythmic activity and individualized musings. Levin was quite proud that his band emerged rather spontaneously but their floor shaking, ad hoc improvisations made it seem like they had been playing together for ages. Though Simona Premazzi’s piano was drowned out by the excitement of the horns and Weasel’s dynamic drumming, her keys added texture to the fanfare and zest to the boisterous ramblings from the rest of the band.
Also in the room was the experimental form of poetry partnered with freestyle jazz and represented by Amiri Baraka, Zenbeatz, Anne Waldman, Steve Dalachinsky, and Tracie Morris. The art form had a mixed reaction from the audience. Some poets like Zenbeatz’s Jane Grenier B. and Tracie Morris had people think about their own actions while the messages of Anne Waldman and Steve Dalachinsky went right over the audience’s head.
The strength of the concert was its diversity to represent the multiple cultures of jazz, sometimes even going global in the case of Luxembourg’s Ernie Hammes, Switzerland’s Denis Beuret, and Italy’s Amina Figarova and Simona Premazzi. A few other noteworthy performances included vibraphonist Bryan Carrott who composed catchy full bodied melodies with his mallets reminiscent of the paths discovered by Earl Griffith, upright bassist Francois Grillot who rocked the house, and pianist Antonio Ciacca whose performance made the ivories tingle with delight.
The concert was a salute to jazz musicians who are merging the old generation with the new guard. Contrary to popular belief, both sounded happy to be together just as the younger generation of TV personality Cheryl Wills was happy to be presenting alongside a seasoned TV professional like Bill Cosby.To quote Jackie Gleason, “How sweet it is.” ~ Susan Frances.
September 15, 2011
Dr. Ana-Isabel Ordonez, Founder and Executive Director of Ruby Flower Records in coordination with a stellar cast of musicians and poets presented Jazz & Poetry for The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund. MCd by Bill Cosby. The fund was established by Dizzy Gillespie on his passing in 1993. All proceeds from ticket sales went to underwriting the costs of hospitalization for jazz musicians who are uninsured and receive care at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey. The Memorial Fund is one of Mr. Gillespie’s last wishes before succumbing to pancreatic cancer in 1993. It is a testament to his love for his fellow artists and his desire to ensure they receive the medical care they need.–Susan Frances
The Historic Cotton Club Harlem and Ruby Flower Prods presents on October 16, 2012 the Dizzy Gillespie/Englewood Fundraiser. Dizzy Gillespie is one of the most influential figures in many American musical forms, having first revolutionized jazz in the 40s by being one of the acknowledged inventors of bebop; and then again in the decades that followed when he championed the rich rhythms of Afro-Cuban, Caribbean, and Brazilian music that, to a large extent, still dominate jazz to this very day. Born October 21, 1917, Cheraw, South Carolina, John Birks Gillespie, Dizzy moved to Philadelphia with his family at age 18 and joined Frankie Fairfax’s band before moving on to New York City and Teddy Hill’s big band in 1937.
Later he played with all the greats Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Earl Hines, and Billie Holliday. He met Charlie Bird Parker in 1940, Thelonious Monk, and others. Gillespie was the first jazz artist to be sent abroad under the auspices of the United States government, spreading American goodwill and good music around the world. John Birk s Gillespie died on January 6, 1993, Englewood, New Jersey. The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund helps underwrite the costs of hospitalization, diagnostic tests, and a full range of surgical and medicalcare for jazz musicians who are uninsured and without the ability to pay. Since its formation, the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund-Englewood Hospital has provided over $5 million in medical services, the Fund is 100% donor supported. Dr. Francis Forte, Oncologist and accomplished guitar player runs the cause. The Memorial Fund was the last wish of Dizzy.
The fund-raiser is hosted by actor, writer and activist Christopher Kennedy Lawford.
He spent 20 years in the film and television industries as an actor, lawyer, executive and producer. He is the author of two New York Times bestselling books, Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption (2005) and Moments of Clarity (2009). He has also published Healing Hepatitis C (2009) and his newest work, Recover to Live, Kick Any habit, Manage Any Addiction, is forthcoming. In recovery for more than 26 years from drug addiction , Mr. Lawford campaigns tirelessly on behalf of the recovery community in both the public and private sectors. He presently works with the United Nations, the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse, the White House Office on Drug Control Policy and the World Health Organization. He also consults with Fortune 500 companies and numerous non-profit groups, speaking around the world on issues related to addiction, mental health and Hepatitis C. In 2009, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Mr. Lawford to the California Public Health Advisory Committee. In 2011, Mr. Lawford was named Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime to promote activities supporting drug treatment, care and recovery. He also serves as National Advocacy Consultant for Caron Treatment Centers. Mr. Lawford holds a Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University, aJuris Doctor from Boston College Law School and a Masters Certification in Clinical Psychology from Harvard Medical School where he held an academic appointment as a Lecturer in Psychiatry.
Chris will be accompanied by NY1 Anchor Woman, Cheryl Wills.
Mrs. Wills is an award-winning television personality for Time Warner Cable flagship national news network, New York 1 News, based in New York City. She has been with the news channel since its launch in 1992 and the journalist is also the author of Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale; which traces her great-great-great grandfather Sandy Wills; courageous service in the Civil War as a member of the United States Colored Troops. On March 25, 2011, Cheryl Wills made history as the first journalist invited to speak inside the United Nations General Assembly Hall for the International Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Cheryl is also a blogger for the internationally renowned The Huffington Post and she contributes to Essence.com. A nationally recognized public speaker, Cheryl has been tapped to host and speak events at The Essence Music Festival, McDonalds Gospel Fest, The Congressional Black Caucus and The World Summit of Mayors in Senegal West Africa. As a television journalist, Cheryl Wills has been a reliable guide through everything from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to moderating televised discussions about the presidency of Barack Obama. She has received numerous awards for her work including New York Press Club and AP Awards, the YMCA National Black Achievers in Industry Award. In 2010, McDonalds honored Wills as a broadcasting legend during a regional ad campaign. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from New York College of Health Professions in May of 2005. Her acting work has included playing herself in television shows like NBC Law & Order SVU and major motion pictures such as Freedomland, starring Samuel Jackson, and The Brave One, with Jodie Foster andTerrence Howard. Wills is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and is the V.P. of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists; an active member of The Women’s Forum of New York, The Links, Incorporated, The Inner Circle of City Hall Journalist; The New York Press Club, and The Screen Actors Guild. Cheryl is also proud to be a The Founding Commander of the New York Chapter of the Sons & Daughters of the United States Colored Troops.
to Benefit Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund at Englewood Hospital
Englewood, NJ (September 7, 2012) – Join other jazz lovers for an intimate evening of music to benefit The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund on Tuesday October 16 at 7:30 pm at the historic Cotton Club in New York City. The Fund provides free medical care to uninsured jazz musicians at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, NJ.
Before passing in 1993 from pancreatic cancer, Dizzy Gillespie expressed two wishes to his family: to support other jazz musicians and to have a memorial in his name at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. The Memorial Fund was created to honor his requests. Today, the Memorial Fund helps underwrite the costs of hospitalization, diagnostic tests, and a full range of surgical and medical care for jazz musicians who are uninsured and without the ability to pay. In partnership with the New York City-based Jazz Foundation of America, Englewood Hospital and a network of more than 50 dedicated physicians in a variety of specialties, provide free care to the musicians at the Medical Center. Since its formation, the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund has provided over $5 million in medical services. The Fund is 100% donor supported.
This special evening fundraiser will feature an evening of jazz with special guest hosts Christopher Kennedy Lawford and Cheryl Wills. Mr. Lawford, a New York Times best-selling author, actor and activist, is widely regarded for his advocating awareness about addiction and mental health issues on the international stage. Ms. Wills is an award-winning journalist and anchorwoman for Time Warner Cable’s NY 1 news channel.
Tickets are $65 and are available for online purchase through PayPal.
The Fundraiser for The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund is organised by Dr. Ana Isabel Ordoñez of Ruby Flower Productions.