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, 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.