by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Milestones in jazz often pass quietly, pharm honored only by the most devoted fans. Not so this month: Jazz icon Duke Ellington, health who composed more than 3,000 songs and performed with John Coltrane as well as many others, became the first African American to appear alone on a U.S. coin. And to mark the 50th anniversary of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” as well as Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue,” pianist Mulgrew Miller and sax player Ted Nash as well as a cappella group Take 6 reworked compositions by the two greats in a night of remembrance and innovation at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
And locally, two events will help music lovers celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month in April: First, Grammy-nominated guitarist Ronny Jordan comes to the Petersburg Regional Arts Center, 132 N. Sycamore St. on April 3 and 4. Sponsored by Cool Guitars and the Southside Virginia Council of the Arts, tickets are $40 for the 7:30 show. Doors open at 7 pm. Info 586-5742.
Then, the Richmond Jazz Society will bring together an all-star line up to perform Tuesday, April 14, at the Capital Ale House Downtown. Internationally recognized pianist and composer Larry Willis will be joined by local favorites James “Saxsmo” Gates on alto sax; Mike Hawkins on bass; Billy Williams, Jr. on drums and, from Hampton, Bob Ransom on trumpet.
After 40 years as a musician, Larry Willis has more than 300 recordings to his credit. He’s collaborated with Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Carmen McRae, Herb Alpert, David “Fathead” Newman and more.
Last year, RJS was honored with the prestigious Governor’s Award for the Art for its work promoting jazz and educating the public about this American art form embraced by the world. RJS outreach programs include the “Make Music with Me Band,” which entertains at area elementary schools, and “Bright Moments Jazz Band” which plays in retirement and nursing homes. In 2006, RJS began the Jazz Preservation Initiative, and is currently documenting Richmond’s jazz history. When the project is complete, it will comprise a book and DVD to be distributed free to public schools and libraries.
Larry Willis, April 14, 7 pm, doors open at 6 pm, Capital Ale House, 623 E. Main St. Free deck parking is available at 6th & Main St. $20 Info contact RJS at 643-1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org