A jazz broadcaster has fond memories of JazzFest

Editor’s note: Michael Gourrier is a New Orleans native, now living in Richmond, Va. He has been broadcasting jazz for 43 years, initially in Galveston, TX in the early 70s and then at WWOZ-FM in New Orleans for another 24 years. After Hurricane Katrina, he relocated to Richmond, VA in 2006 and has been affiliated with WRIR-FM and was named Jazz Director in 2008.

Michael has been affiliated with University of New Orleans and Loyola University as well as serving in various capacities at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro. He has also served as Master of Ceremonies at several Satchmo Summerfests.

Michael Gourrier

Currently he’s guest lecturer at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Jazz Studies Department. He’s been presenter at both the Richmond Jazz Festival and the Richmond Folk Festival.

Michael has made donation of CDs to Jazz Pensacola for our Jazz Room at downtown West Florida Public Library and for our CD sales.

Michael wrote: “I am a living testimony to the pleasure that was the Pensacola Jazz Festival. I looked forward to the Spring of the year to make my annual trek to Pensacola to experience America’s Original Performance Art Form under a shady tree right on the Gulf of Mexico.

“My old friend, Dr. Norm Vickers and his krewe of aficionados would line up a really nice presentation on a yearly basis of national acts along with regional and local performers to whet the appetite of any serious music devotee.

Michael Gourrier.

“Highlights over several years, in no particular order, included former Charlie Parker Bandleader Jay McShann; phenom at the time, Christopher Holliday; native Floridian, Nat Adderley with multitalented Larry Willis on piano; the inimitable Miss Betty Carter. From California came the rocking aggregation of Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham and the Sweet Bay Blues Band that included one of Charles Mingus’ teachers Red Callendar. From Philadelphia, the student of the occult, Kenny Barron (Marie Laveau, Things Unseen, Other Places). Vibe Master and educator, Gary Burton showed how four mallets are handled. Also, vibes master Bobby Hutcherson wowed the audience.

“They are all just fond, pleasant memories lingering over the Gulf. And the band played on!”

Editor’s note: Gourrier refers primarily to the period 1988 to 1997 when Pensacola JazzFest was under the superb direction of WUWF-FM with Jazz Society and Pensacola Arts Council in supporting roles.

Remembering Bob Haggart

Bassist Bob Haggart (1914 -1998) was a remarkable person in many ways. He’s known to most as a string bassist. But he was also a composer and talented artist.

He was guest bassist for the three Pensacola Jazz Parties 1989-1991 and at the 1991 event, trumpeter Yank Lawson also attended. Lawson had been a colleague with him in the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band and also, they led the World’s Greatest Jazz Band from 1968-1998.

Haggart was best known for two compositions, Big Noise from “Winnetka” and the ballad What’s New?

Photo by Norman Vickers

But I should also mention Haggart’s tune My Inspiration and his co-composition also with drummer Ray Baduc, South Rampart Street Parade.

Bob’s artistic talents can be seen on several record covers. When he’d go to a recording session, during the lag times, he’d sketch scenes from the session. These have been featured on record covers, especially LPs since there was adequate room to show artwork. Haggart also was a painter, like vocalist Tony Bennett. I was told that his art frequently won prizes in art exhibits.

Photo by Norman Vickers

The story I heard about the spontaneous composition by Haggart and Baduc came about when they were entertaining a group from Winnetka. Baduc was a talented New Orleans drummer and the spontaneous bass and drum composition included Haggart whistling through his teeth and Baduc taking part of his solo by beating on the bass strings while Haggart did left handed fingering of bass strings to provide the melody. This tune became so popular that emerging string bassists were almost required to add this piece to the jazz bassist repertoire.

Photo by Norman Vickers

The second composition that requires mention is Haggart’s 1939 ballad, What’s New? with lyrics by Johnny Burke. I was at an Arbors Jazz Party in the ‘90s and Roger Kellaway was playing solo piano on stage. He played a very angular and dissonant arrangement of Haggart’s ballad. I happened to be standing next to Haggart and asked him if he was pained to hear his lovely tune stretched and distorted to this degree. His reply, “No it doesn’t bother me. There was one man who made tape recordings of arrangements of What’s New and sent them to me. It filled up two cassettes. I don’t know why anybody would want to do that.”

Thanks Bob, wherever you are in the hereafter. Thanks for enriching our lives!

Arbors Records has a CD entitled “Piano Giants at Bob Haggart’s 80th Birthday Party.”

CD Review: ‘Jazz Party,’ Delfeayo Marsalis & Uptown Jazz Orchestra

Jazz Party
With Delfeayo Marsalis and Uptown Jazz Orchestra
Troubadour Jazz Records

When this CD arrived for review I thought that, if it were anything like he previously produced CDs, trombonist-bandleader-composer Delfeayo Marsalis would produce another musically challenging and thought provoking recording. He doesn’t disappoint.

As with his previously produced CDs including Southern Gentleman—a duo recording with his pianist father Ellis and Make America Great Again, recorded with his big band we get a sly tongue-in-cheek sociological essay along with an interesting commentary on how the recording was produced. Delfeayo composed and arranged most of the music whereas other band members also made contributions in the composition and arrangements. Delfeayo and his big band perform on most Wednesday nights at Snug Harbor on New Orleans’ Frenchman Street and this recording favorably reflects their work together.

As the name of the recording implies, this is upbeat, contemporary New Orleans party music. Any of this would be appropriate for a “second-line” celebration.

Along the sociological line, D. Marsalis has composed a tune he calls Mboya’s Midnight Cocktail. Liner notes indicate the Mboya is Delfeayeo’s autistic younger brother. There is a one-way conversation in a crowded bar between the cocktail waitress and the mute patron. And, on the last cut on the album, the composition is played again without the speaking part.

If well executed New Orleans party music is on your wish-list, this is a recording for you, but you’ll need to wait for the February release.

February 2020 issue of The Syncopated Times features Jazz Pensacola friends

The February issue of The Syncopated Times has a number of Jazz Pensacola friends and artists featured.

The lead article is by drummer Hal Smith and features New Orleans pianist John Royen. Vocalist Rebecca Kilgore’s photo heads the Festival Roundup pages. And, finally, a column on early jazz recordings by David Sager, trombonist and jazz historian who works at the Recorded Sound Research Center at the Library of Congress.

Now, for those who may be new to Jazz Pensacola or for some longtime members who may need a memory refresher, I’ll review for you the Pensacola connections.

Hal Smith

Hal Smith, drummer and jazz historian, now lives in Searcy, Arkansas, which he says is “central to all parts of the U. S.” He lived in the New Orleans area for about 10 years and connected with the traditional jazz musicians there. He’s also lived in the San Diego area and is still connected with America’s Finest City Jazz Society and returns yearly for their Thanksgiving weekend jazz festival. Hal has played two of our Pensacola JazzFests. One year, he brought Portland, Oregon, vocalist Rebecca Kilgore and on a subsequent visit he brought West Coast jazz pianist Carl Sonny Leyland. One year, he and a New Orleans group was scheduled but on highway I-10 at Pascagoula he was stopped by traffic tie-up and motorist behind him crashed into his car and banged up (bad pun) his drum kit and Hal’s shoulder. His New Orleans group performed with guitarist providing the rhythm instead of Hal on drums. Most recently, two years ago for our Foo Foo Fest event, he organized a group performing the music of trombonist Kid Ory. Hal is a regular performer at many jazz festivals, jazz house parties around the country. His YouTube videos are numerous including ones from his Pensacola appearance with his On The Levee Jazz Band.

Jazz pianist John Royen is featured on front page of The Syncopated Times (TST) and there is a listing of his recordings elsewhere in the paper. He recounts to Hal Smith, in Hal’s role as writer/historian, his early experience with jazz through his father’s influence by attending live performances as well as perusing his father’s extensive jazz collection. The Pensacola connection was a piano extravaganza performance about 4 years ago at UWF Music Hall. Royen, along with Lynn Arriale and our own Bobby Van Deusen gave a wonderful concert to enthralled audience. Our own Crystal Joy Albert was in the role of impresario for that event.

Rebecca (Becky) Kilgore is a regular at jazz parties and jazz cruises. She’s both a singer and guitarist who has regular gigs in the Portland, Oregon, area when she’s not traveling. As mentioned earlier, she appeared at our 1999 Pensacola JazzFest, the first year that Jazz Pensacola was sole sponsor of JazzFest. (For newcomers, the first six years were sponsored by Pensacola Arts Council; the next 10 years were successfully sponsored by WUWF Radio with our jazz society again in a support role.

Finally, David Sager’s article about early jazz recording leads me to mention that David, in his role as trombonist, brought a group of New Orleans musicians for our November Foo Foo Fest event about three years ago. The evening before, he led a discussion about early jazz recording at the downtown West Florida Public Library, and backed by some of our own Jazz Society musicians, he performed as well.

So, this month’s TST is loaded with material which relates directly to Pensacola. In addition, there is a long article about Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in the 1920s and 1930s. Whiteman hired many jazz musicians to perform with his enlarged orchestra. These included Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, Jack Teagarden and Bunny Berrigan. Bing Crosby got a boost in his career by performing with Whiteman.

The Pensacola connection to this story relates to our Jazz Room at the downtown West Florida Public Library. There is a two-volume work on Whiteman’s career by Don Rayno and also DVD of the 1930s movie called King of Jazz. This DVD is of interest because it was produced in early Technicolor and has some early cartoons where Whiteman reacts with a cartoon character. There is also a book, with color illustrations, about how that movie was produced.

On a personal note, I have been a reviewer of jazz CDs and books since before the name and ownership change from The American Rag to The Syncopated Times in 2016.

And speaking of the library jazz room, there are subscriptions to Downbeat, JazzTimes and TST for your information and reading pleasure. There are books, CDs and DVDs as well as play-along books and recordings currently valued at $20,000 for library members to check out.

One may subscribe to The Syncopated Times through syncopatedtimes.com or email the editor Andy Senior at [email protected]

CD Review: ‘Light Blue,’ Julien Hucq

Light Blue
CD features alto saxophonist/ composer Julien Hucq
Early Bird Records
© 2019

This is a delightful straight-ahead CD by alto saxophonist Julien Hucq. He has assembled an excellent small group that includes veteran performers Claudio Roditi, trumpet, and pianist George Cables. Completing the group are bassist Marcos Varela and drummer Victor Lewis.

At the time of this writing, I was sad to learn of the recent death of Roditi.

There are 44 minutes of delightful music on this CD. Two of the compositions are by Hucq — “Light” and “X,” Two are by familiar composers, “Light Blue” by Thelonious Monk and “Here’s that Rainy Day” by lyricist Johnny Burke and composer Jimmy Van Heusen. And, each performer is adequately show-cased.

Lest one think that this is a “one shot” recording for Hucq, this is indeed his first CD produced in the U.S. but he has six previous CDs in Europe. He’s a Belgian native who has been performing in the States since 2012. In conversation with him, I learned that he and Roditi had a working relationship in that Hucq has performed in Roditi’s group and there was somewhat of mentor-mentee relationship as well. And there was a similar relationship between bassist Marcos Varela and the elder pianist George Cables.

For more information, see Hucq’s several YouTube offerings and also his bio on the internet.

Interview: Camara Kambon, pianist and composer

Camara Kambon, pianist and composer, has performed for Jazz Pensacola both at our Jazz Jams and Jazz Gumbos. Many of our members and guests do not have knowledge or appreciation of the extent of his talents. Imagine jamming with jazz greats even before entering high school and winning an Emmy Award at age 23!

Camara Kambon—unusual name.  What’s the background?

Camara Kambon is an African name, full name Camara Yero Kambon, which, in Swahili translates as “teacher, warrior of the people.”  I guess you could say I definitely grew into my name.

Riff a bit about your schooling. I know your home was Baltimore and that you were enrolled in Peabody while in high school.  How did that work? How did you get to Berklee?

I was born in Northwest Baltimore. From an early age, my education was twofold, attending one school for academics and another for music. My studies at the Peabody Preparatory of Johns Hopkins University began at age 10. Although my high school years started at St. Paul’s School for Boys, I transferred in my junior year, accepting a scholarship and graduated from Friends School and Peabody with honors in both musicianship and classical/jazz piano. I received several scholarships to subsidize my academic and musical studies, namely the Eubie Blake Scholarship. 

Besides piano, what instruments are you proficient on?

Piano is my main instrument, but I am also a percussionist.

Were you in a band or other musical group during youth and schooling?  Riff a bit about Berklee, inspiration, drawbacks, your fellow music students.

I was in my first band at age 6, playing at local fairs, skating rinks, etc. around Baltimore. At age 11, I performed with several musicians, Dizzy Gillespie, Gary Bartz, Greg Thomas, Max Roach, as well as local musicians, but I performed as a soloists more during my grade school years. Ever since being introduced to Berklee as the alma mater of many of my musical heroes, I was convinced I’d also attend one day.  In fact, when it came time to apply for colleges, although I’d visited several, I only applied to Berklee. I was the recipient of the Jesse Stone Scholarship, sponsored by Atlantic Records and funded my schooling by composing music for documentaries.

How did you get started in working for films, composing?

I’d been composing music since I was 5 years old. I attended Peabody for musicianship, theory and performance. During the summers in my middle school years, I attended The Walden School for Young Composer’s camp, which was a wonderful platform introducing me to the music of Roger Fripp, Brian Eno, John Cage, Penderecki, George Crumb, Steve Reich, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, and the list goes on. My first experience writing for TV was on the NBC TV hits, “The Cosby Show” and “Living Single,” starring Queen Latifah, while I was a high school student. After moving to Boston to attend Berklee, I began writing music for documentaries.  

Give a couple of examples of your work with films/composing. For example- one really challenging project and another which is more routine—just busy-work.

In the fall of my senior year in college, I was contacted by HBO Sports, after producers heard my score for the Emmy-winning PBS documentary, “Malcolm X: Make it Plain,” to compose the score for a film entitled, “Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life of a Champion.” I composed this score while completing my last year in college, so life was quite hectic between senior projects and deadlines. I would later receive an Emmy Award for this score, becoming the youngest composer to have received a national Emmy Award at age 23.

After moving to Los Angeles, I’d always questioned how to embark on my career as a film composer. Although I had credits on my resumé, I didn’t have the credits needed to turn heads, so I hoped I would cross paths with someone who recognized my potential and acknowledge my track record as proof of reliability and ability to deliver. That opportunity came when Oliver Stone was producing and directing his film, “Any Given Sunday,” starring Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz, James Woods and many others. It was during a conversation with Oliver that he expressed the importance of “living” because of its influence on how the artist expresses himself.  This was a concept I would hold onto as I maneuvered my way through the business.  Oliver is known for adopting a process that is extremely unpredictable, playing off of the daily interactions of creative minds. During this project there was a composer cattle call in a sense, and each composer had to prove his value through the work he produced. Composers were eliminated left and right. Attending screenings was a bit uneasy, never sure if my music was still in the film, constantly uncertain whether it had “made the cut” just like a football player in a game. I realized Oliver’s process was conceptual and applied to every aspect of his filmmaking. Nevertheless, I kept producing music, never knowing if it was “right” or “wrong.” Oliver was really excited about Macy Gray at the time (she was also an acquaintance of mine), so I pitched the idea of bringing her on to write a song for the film.  So, I co-wrote and produced a song for the film entitled, “Dinosaur.” At the end of it all, there were five composers credited in the film and I was one of them. It was such a liberating feeling to see my name on the silver screen of a studio film. When working with such a filmmaking genius, people will always have varying experiences with Oliver Stone, but I can truly say, mine was awesome. Although the process was ambiguous at times, Oliver was never wishy washy about whether something was working or not. It either was or wasn’t so there weren’t any gray areas with his opinion. So, I knew where I stood in all the ambiguity that defined my experience. This approach of brutal honesty allowed me to present not what I thought Oliver was expecting, but what I thought was best to give him. This was an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.

How did you get to Pensacola? Your statement:  Now I can work anywhere.  So tell me about that and how you spend your time at Pensacola Beach.

Ironically, my work as a film composer actually brought me to the Pensacola area. And the fact that I can perform my work and have since the beginning of my career makes it easy to work anywhere. As technology has developed, it’s also made the ability for film composers to create on-the-go just as easily as in a home studio. This also gives the composer the chance to experience different environments during a process that can be very insular and isolating at times.