There are plenty of reasons that the annual Highlights In Jazz concert series has been a favorite among in-the-know jazz fans for almost a half century. For starters, producer Jack Kleinsinger can be counted on to deliver concerts that are certain to surprise and delight savvy listeners. The final event of the 2019 season is no exception, as it showcases the compositional genius and enduring legacy of two of the most beloved figures in modern jazz, pianists Erroll Garner and Randy Weston.
A multi-generational lineup brings together established jazz masters with the best of today’s musical up-and-comers to fete these kings of the keyboard at the June 20 concert. On hand will be pianist Christian Sands, saxophonist TK Blue, trombonist Steve Turre, bassists Alex Blake and Luques Curtis, percussionist Neil Clarke, and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. And, as has been the tradition since the very first Highlights in Jazz event, listeners will be treated to a surprise appearance by a renowned special guest.
The evening is dedicated to the memory of pianists Erroll Garner and Randy Weston. During his lifetime, Garner, who died in 1977, was among the world’s most celebrated jazz musicians, making regular TV appearances, and receiving numerous Grammy nominations. Not only did he write the beloved standard “Misty,” Garner also released an album that remains among the top-selling jazz recordings of all time: Concert by the Sea. The Garner mojo continues to this day. Pianist Geri Allen co-produced a three-CD release The Complete Concert by the Sea, which was nominated for a Best Historical Album Grammy.
NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston was a giant in more ways than one. A tireless champion of African Rhythms-based music, he traveled extensively throughout the continent on State Department tours and later ran a nightclub in Tunisia. He made a practice of seeking out the eldest member of the communities he visited, learning about the musical and cultural traditions and sharing them with audiences around the globe. A remarkable player, composer and raconteur, Weston maintained his curiosity and musical sense of adventure beyond his 92nd birthday, until his passing in September 2018. Renowned as a mentor, he was deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, while always looking joyfully to the future. Harvard University acquired Randy’s extensive personal archive in 2016.
The Erroll Garner Project includes:
As the creative ambassador to the Erroll Garner Jazz Project and co-producer of archival Garner recordings, pianist Christian Sands is immersed in the maestro’s music. Counting Geri Allen among his mentors, Sands has performed with Oscar Peterson, Dr. Billy Taylor, Wynton Marsalis, and Jason Moran, plus scores of others. He has released six albums as a leader and appears on dozens more by the likes of Gregory Porter, Bobby Sanabria, Christian McBride, Ben Williams and Reggie Quinerly, receiving multiple Grammy nominations along the way. Sands is also the musical director of the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour group.
Bassist Luques Curtis is in demand for his amazing skills in straight-ahead jazz as well as the Afro-Caribbean genre, as evidenced by his performances on more than 75 albums, and his numerous Grammy nominations. Luques’ experience includes stints with Eddie Palmieri, Christian Scott, Orrin Evans, Gary Burton, Andy Gonzalez and others. The bassist has also released four well-received Curtis Brothers recordings as co-leader with his sib, pianist Zaccai Curtis.
Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.has made the Rising Star list in DownBeat’s Critics Poll for five straight years, thanks to his work with everyone from Christian McBride, Kurt Elling, Joey Alexander and others. With four albums under his own name, and another four as co-leader of the New Century Jazz Quintet, commissions from Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art and others, expect to be wowed by this gifted musician, composer, producer and educator for years to come.
The Randy Weston Alumni Band consists of:
Saxophonist TK Blue was a mainstay–and musical director–of Randy Weston’s African Rhythms ensemble for more than three decades. TK has well over a dozen releases as a leader, and scores of others with Weston, Sam Rivers, Abdullah Ibrahim, Benny Powell, Jayne Cortez and more. A celebrated composer, arranger and educator, TK has appeared with a pantheon of jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Sanders, Kenny Barron, Joanne Brackeen, Chico Hamilton, Arturo O’Farrill, James Moody, Billy Harper, Paquito D’Rivera, Regina Carter, Jimmy Scott, Mal Waldron and countless others.
Once you’ve heard bassist Alex Blake, you’ll never mistake his sound for anyone else’s. His unique style combines strumming, slapping and singing. Often identified with Randy Weston, thanks to his long tenure with African Rhythms, Alex has also appeared with Sun Ra, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Carlos Santana, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, Yusef Lateef, Betty Carter, Jimmy Buffett, and a genre-spanning roster of musical masters.
In-demand percussionist Neil Clarke forms deep musical relationships that last for decades, including significant long-term collaborations with Randy Weston, Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Dianne Reeves, Dave Sanborn, Paul Winter, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and others. A lifelong advocate of preserving and sharing African cultural traditions, Neil has worked as a consultant and educator, serving as artist in residence and conducting master classes at Harvard, Duke University, the Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and other renowned cultural institutions.
Award-winning trombonist Steve Turre made his mark with Ray Charles, Woody Shaw, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Art Blakey, J.J. Johnson, Lester Bowie, Max Roach, Horace Silver, Van Morrison, Pharoah Sanders, and other legendary band leaders, as well as fronting his own ensembles. A mainstay of the Saturday Night Live Band, Turre is also accomplished at making music on seashells. It will be especially exciting to hear Turre apply his magic touch to charts written by long-time Weston collaborator Melba Liston; a respected trombonist herself, notably with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, Liston’s known for simpatico arrangements for brass, and the bass clef in particular.
Don’t miss the exciting wrap up to 2019’s Highlights In Jazz season, featuring a surprise special guest!