Each year for almost a half century, the annual Highlights In Jazz series has produced shows guaranteed to surprise and delight savvy jazz fans. The second concert of the 2019 lineup continues that tradition with Satchmo and Sidney Revisited, an homage to trumpeter Louis Armstrong and clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet.
To celebrate the music of two of the most influential, inspirational, and beloved forebears in jazz, producer Jack Kleinsinger brings together David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band; Bechet’s leading disciple, Olivier Franc; stride-piano master Jean-Baptiste Franc; and Sidney Bechet’s son, percussionist/drummer Daniel Bechet, along with a host of other jazz greats, including a surprise special guest.
The New Orleans-born trumpeter, composer and singer Louis Armstrong was among the most recognizable entertainers of the 20th century. Armstrong, aka Pops or Satchmo, was mentored by hometown cornet hero King Oliver. Raised in an orphanage, he went on to perform for presidents and royalty, traveling the world on State Department tours, and attaining mainstream success with hits spanning “Stardust” to “Hello, Dolly.”
Clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Sidney Bechet was another child of New Orleans with roots reaching directly to the source of jazz. In the words of Duke Ellington, “Of all the musicians, Bechet was to me the very epitome of jazz. He represented and executed everything that had to do with the beauty of it all, and everything he played in his entire life was original.” A skilled improviser, by his mid-teens Bechet had established a strong reputation through his work with popular regional bands, and went on to greater recognition playing with King Oliver, Clarence Williams, Noble Sissle and Ellington. He achieved global acclaim, and was especially beloved in France.
The March 28 lineup of musicians for the Highlights In Jazz presentation Satchmo and Sidney Revisited includes David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, featuring:
Tuba player David Ostwald hadn’t yet reached his teens when he bought his first jazz LP, which featured the iconic jazz pioneer trumpeter Louis Armstrong. It was an appropriate start for a boy who grew up to found and lead the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band. A vital presence on the NYC jazz scene for almost four decades, Ostwald counts Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, and Jelly Roll Morton among his early inspirations. Wynton Marsalis, Dick Hyman, Nicholas Payton, Clark Terry, Benny Waters, Woody Allen, Jon Hendricks, and Leon Redbone are just a few of the legendary artists with whom Ostwald has performed. He’s also taken part in jazz education programs for children at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and at the Louis Armstrong House in Corona, Queens, where he also serves on the board.
Trumpeter Alphonso Horne hasn’t wasted any time in making a positive impression on jazz listeners. The Juilliard grad is a regular at prominent venues including Jazz at Lincoln Center, and has played with Marcus Roberts, Ted Nash, Michael Dease, Catherine Russell, Joey Alexander and other current jazz luminaries. A Grammy nominee, Horne was also a Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Trumpet Competition semifinalist.
Multi-instrumentalist Adrian Cunningham has proved his expertise and creativity on saxophone, flute, clarinet and vocals. Since moving to the Big Apple about a decade ago, the Australia-born Cunningham has appeared and recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Jon Batiste, Vince Giordano, Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton, Ted Rosenthal, Chris Potter and René Marie.
Trombonist Dion Tucker has played for a pope (Benedict) and a president (Barack), appeared on Broadway and at Kennedy Center, on TV (The Oprah Winfrey Show, Harry, and others), and with musical royalty including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, and Clark Terry. A composer and educator as well as an in-demand sideman, Tucker demonstrated his versatility through stints with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Charles Tolliver Big Band, David Berger and The Sultans of Swing, and many more.
Banjoist, Guitarist, Vocalist and Songwriter Arnt Arntzen fell into playing jazz when his grandfather Lloyd bought him a banjo. Learning from his older brother Evan Arntzen, as well as his mother, father and grandfather, he has since begun leading his own band, A Pluckin’ Good Time, and various trios and quartets playing everything from Jazz to pop and rock covers in a jazzed up fashion. After obtaining his degree in music performance from Vancouver Community College, Arnt is now co-leading the Arntzen Rhythm Review, the Brothers Arntzen, and Three Generations of Jazz. Arnt has also produced his own album of original material, called Banjo Hymn.
Philadelphia-born drummer David F. Gibson has performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, the Sun Ra Arkestra, the Odean Pope Saxophone Choir, the Diane Schuur Trio, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Woody Herman Orchestra and others.
The concert’s Bechet contingent includes:
Soprano saxophonist and composer Olivier Franc aka Bechet’s leading disciple, who plays Bechet’s saxophone as well as music from this classic repertoire along with originals. A favorite at festivals and international venues, Olivier has performed with Wynton Marsalis and other greats.
Stride-piano master Jean-Baptiste Franc is a second-generation Bechet expert who frequently performs with his father, Olivier. In addition to the great saxophonist and clarinetist, the pianist’s influences include James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. Jean-Baptiste has also released several well-reviewed albums as a leader.
Percussionist/drummer Daniel Bechet is the son of the early jazz icon Sidney Bechet. A master of his father’s repertoire, as well as funk, fusion and straight-ahead jazz, Daniel is also the author of Sidney Bechet: My Father.
This concert is produced in association with the Sidney Bechet Society.
With the Highlights In Jazz series nudging the half-century mark, Kleinsinger is justly proud of his ongoing legacy as a producer. Since the very first Highlights in Jazz event, “Every concert in the series has been integrated, has included a variety of younger artists and veterans, and has featured a renowned surprise guest. And every year we honor a living jazz great—let’s honor them while they can smell the roses,” he declares. This year’s honoree, Randy Brecker, will be feted at the May 16th concert.
The HIJ series is a favorite destination for New York jazz fans and in-the-know out-of-towners. Besides the lineup of jazz icons onstage, there are often stars to be found in the audience as well—sports greats Venus Williams and Willie Randolph, actors Bette Midler and Alan Alda, and author Kurt Vonnegut, to name just a few.
The secret to the longevity of the beloved Highlights In Jazz series? “We’re doing the concerts other producers don’t do,” Kleinsinger says, “and in the process we’ve outlasted everyone who’s ever done jazz concerts in the history of New York.”
You won’t want to miss a single event in this new season of Highlights In Jazz!