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The Jazz Culture Feature

Tribute to MULGREW MILLER at the Allen Room, with Cedar Walton, Barry Harris, Buster Williams & Willie Jones III

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Barry Harris/Cedar Walton Concert in Memory of Mulgrew Miller By Connie MacNamee

Barry Harris/Cedar Walton Concert in Memory of Mulgrew Miller, June 22, 2013, 7:30 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. (Full disclosure: I am a vocal student of Barry Harris, since 1991.) This close to the solstice, the evening began in full afternoon light at 7:30 p.m. The Allen Room is a many-tiered stadium facing an enormous window looking east on 59th Street, in front of which stood two grand pianos (Steinways), back to back. Cedar Walton came out, slim and straight, with an easy way with his words and a delicate elegance in his physical manner. He began with a series of thoughtful chords before settling into “Every Time We Say Goodbye”—out of time, noodling gracefully. This set a lovely base for the music to come. Out came Buster Williams, bass player, and Willie Jones III, drummer. Cedar explained that the next tune was supposed to be “It’s You or No One,” which he wanted to change to “It’s Me or No One.” He had to explain that it was a joke, that he is really very humble. He said that “the Powers That Be chose the tunes,” but he got through with a little help from his friends, especially the bass player. The song eventually hit a nice groove and held it, while many in the audience nodded their heads in time. Then the rhythm section left and Barry Harris entered for the first duet with Cedar. Cedar announced that they would play “’’Round Midnight,’which we should be able to get through, since we’ve been playing a couple of months.” At first, the chords and the rhythm were blurry, as each pianist would fill in notes incrementally different from each other, but because they were 2

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masters and basically in accordance with each other’s approach, the very blurriness rose into an impressionistic painting that was moving and beautiful. The next item on their set list was for Barry to play his unaccompanied solo and he said “Behind that?” because the music really had reached a high level between them. Cedar started offstage, but just got as far as the bass player’s stool, which he traded for the lower drummer’s stool, and he sat and watched Barry play. The tune was “Yesterdays” with a rolling bass line that sometimes morphed into “Night in Tunisia.” At the time, I wrote down “web of memory,” and it was exquisite. Playing alone, Harris could place one note in the air and leave it to sing before filling in beneath it. Cont. on p. 4 John Watson, piano, keyboard/vocal w- Leee John



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Leila Keels, Sachiko Tatsushi, Margaret, Dean Sagnafi, Anthony Hart

The bass and drum came back to do “Woody’n You,” one of Barry’s favorites, and he managed to catch the bass player’s eye and ear to have him go along with the slightly altered bridge, rewarding him with a goodnatured “Go ahead” for a second chorus on his solo. The drummer did a nice solo, too, but didn’t get applause because when Barry returned with the “shout chorus,” the audience didn’t realize that the trading fours were over. Cedar announced “I’m back” and proceeded to pat the back of Barry’s neck as he passed on to his piano. He said, “I always wanted to feel the back of Barry’s neck,” and Barry countered with “’The Thrill Is Gone’.” After that, Barry said “I’m fortunate to have the gig, but unfortunate that it happened this way. Maybe he knew I needed the money.” Then he played and sang a short composition of his on the subject of death, “Who Knows Just When One’s Life Is Bound to End,” ending saying “Mulgrew, we will miss you.” 4

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Then all four musicians played “Green Dolphin Street,” with Cedar and Barry alternating choruses. This would have been the end, but the audience insisted on an encore, so Barry, Buster and Tony came back with a blues, “Parker’s Mood,” featuring the bass player’s beautiful warm tones, as well as the drummer’s expert dealing with the slower tempo on his solo. Barry closed his end of the blues quoting Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso.” The staff cleared us out to prepare for the second show. I saw Joe Lovano in the lobby. I said “How did you like it?” He said, “Barry, man. He touches you with every note.” The second show began with Barry alone. It was getting pretty dark by this time and the enormous full moon was rising. He said, “I’m here truly by accident.” Then he sang his tribute song again (it’s just one chorus) of “Who Knows Just When One’s Life Is Bound to End?” “Mulgrew.” His profound solo consisted of “This Nearly Was Mine,” into “Ruby, My Dear,” into “Lotus Blossom,” into “I Will Always Love You,” into “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” getting a good swing going by the second chorus. He had essentially plunged headlong into the feeling of loss and finally pulled himself and the rest of us into more of a celebration that Mulgrew Miller had lived his life so sweetly and so well. Buster Williams and Willie Jones III came out for “My Heart Stood Still,” a song that Barry often plays with a little break at the end of each of the two lines in the “A” section, then complicated chords and rhythm in the bridge. They caught on amazingly quickly. Cedar returned to play the duet with Barry, this time “Old Folks,” which they had a good time joking about before they started to play. Cedar likes to quote “Country Gardens,” a favorite quote of Charlie Parker’s, and this time he also threw in “Bye Bye The Jazz Culture, V.II:3


Blackbird.” Barry and the rhythm section left the stage after that and it became Cedar’s time for an unaccompanied solo. It was “Darn That Dream” for the most part, with a bit of “Con Alma.” Cedar then had his best showcase of the night, with a familiar composition of his own, “Bolivia.” The bass and drum were back, keeping the rhythm very well. Buster Williams must have fingers of steel to be able to play the same figure over and over. The particular way the song is crafted makes it just right for the length of ideas Cedar can come up with, and he kept at it for an eternity, quoting “Comin’ Through the Rye” twice, as well as “There’s a Small Hotel.” Cedar’s fans loved it! Barry came back to stay for what was supposed to be “The Way You Look Tonight,” but Cedar didn’t want to do it. They settled on “All the Things You Are.” For those hearing this concert on WBGO, let me say: 1st chorus: CW; 2nd BH; 3rd CW; 4th BH (quoting “Habanera”); 5th CW, then bass & drums and out. Barry suggested “All God’s Children Got Rhythm” but Cedar nixed it. They played “I’ll Remember April” with the first chorus from BH; 2nd CW; 3rd BH; 4th CW; 5th BH (quoting “My Man”); 6th CW playing the melody, and that was the end of the concert! Happy music fans scraped themselves off the ceiling and filed out. Akiko Surita, singer, and Dorothy Taylor, flautist, pianist


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Connie MacNamee, right Singer The Jazz Culture Newsletter Readers comments on Mulgrew Miller next week The Jazz Culture Newsletter Private Jazz Tours in NYC; for Info email:

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Jazz Foundation Partners with International Women in Jazz for Jam at Local 802

Bertha Hope, piano, Kim Clarke, bass, Luciana Padmore, drums, Kit McClure, t sax


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Jacueline Lennon, President ofInternational Women in Jazz, and Host Keisha St. Joan, below, view from the back

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The Jazz Foundation has regular Monday night sessions at the AFM Local 802 headquarters in Manhattan. Monday, June 24, 2013, for the first time, the Jazz Foundation partnered with International Women in Jazz to have a women's rhythm section lead the jam: Bertha Hope, Kim Clarke, Luciana Padmore, and Kit McClure did the Honors, with Keisha St. Joan as Host. On hand were IWJ President Jacqueline Lennon and a big crowd ofwell wishers. Photos above, Bertha Hope and Kim Clarke, Bill Saxton, unknown fan, and singer Lil Phillips, Kim Clrke, Luciana Padmore and Kit McClure, Andrea Brachfeld, who duos with Bill Saxton below on "Confirmation."


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