Jazz Avenues

Saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed performs at a CD release party for his “Lessons from the Streets” recording, July 11, for a Nomadic Jazz show.

Honoring Another Billy – Dr. Billy Taylor

“Dr. Taylor had great stories about D.C., like checking out Jelly Roll Morton at the Jungle (above where Ben’s Next is), when [John] Malachi was the intermission pianist for Morton. Bringing attention to Washington jazz history was an important part of Dr. Taylor’s mission … he wanted to find ways to get people to look at Washington as an important center of jazz development.” —Bill Brower, “Jazz in Washington” 

The impressive honor the DC Jazz Festival bestowed on DC native drummer Billy Hart last month, its Lifetime Achievement Award, leads one to recall the achievements of one of our July birthday heroes, Dr. Billy Taylor (July 24), pianist and educator supreme. Taylor (1921-2010), whose family came to DC from North Carolina when he was a child, was a pianist for Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and many others.

“Taylor plays in an urbane, bebop-based style informed by Bud Powell melodically and Art Tatum harmonically,” says the 1989 book “Jazz Portraits” by Len Lyons and Don Perlo, “but his major role in jazz has been interpreting it, and especially jazz piano, through public-radio and television broadcasts.”

In 1965 Taylor helped form the Jazzmobile, a rolling stage and sound system that brought jazz to the streets of New York, then elsewhere to cities across the country including DC. Later he spread jazz to television and radio. “Pianist Billy Taylor became a mainstay jazz figure on TV, from his musical-directorship of NET’s first jazz series, ‘The Subject Is Jazz,’ in 1958, to his ongoing role as arts correspondent” for CBS’s “Sunday Morning” program, says the book “Jazz, the First Century,” edited by the Smithsonian’s John Edward Hasse. The book later notes that in 1977 the show “Jazz Alive” with Billy Taylor” began on National Public Radio. Later came Taylor’s “Jazz Alive at the Kennedy Center,” where he became artistic director for jazz in 1994. After Taylor passed on, pianist Jason Moran continued the legacy of jazz programming at KenCen.

See www.billytaylorjazz.com for more information.

And we say Happy Birthday month! to other July birthday boys like Billy Eckstine, who grew up in DC, Lee Morgan, Sonny Clark, Kenny Burrell, Carl Grubbs, and of course Philly Joe Jones – remember his sets at Woody’s Hilltop Pub near HU?

Nomadic Jazz Back in July

Debbie Hodnett is at it again, producing a headliner jazz concert. On July 11 Hodnett’s Nomadic Jazz features sax man Elijah Jamal Balbed in a CD release party for his “Lessons from the Streets” at 7:00 p.m. at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria, Va. Tickets are $20 online, $22 at the door. See www.nomadicjazz.com.

Over in Prince George’s County the Lake Arbor Jazz Festival is back for its sixth year with a scholarship dinner, cruise, and all-day concert, July 9-11. See www.lakearborjazz.com.

InPerson … DCJF Wows Us Again

Lots of finger-popping, head-shaking, foot-tapping jazz swung through the region when the DC Jazz Festival entertained thousands of fans for its 11th year last month. High points included Paquito D’Rivera’s musical tribute to DCJF founder Charlie Fishman during a show at The Hamilton Live; Esperanza Spalding at the DC Jazzfest at The Yards; Thundercat at the CapitalBop show at the Hecht Warehouse; Nicole Mitchell’s sparkling set also at the warehouse; Sine Qua Non’s show before a packed house at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage; Greg Hatza’s rocking, bopping organ blues band show at the Uniontown Bar and Grill on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast; Bruce Williams’ smoking sax sounds with Allyn Johnson and the UDC JAZZtet at the University of the District of Columbia; Billy Hart and The Cookers at the 6th & I Historic Synagogue; and John Scofield’s hot band at the Hamilton – just to name a few!

July Highlights: … Rick Whitehead/Chris Vadala CD Release Party, July 6, Blues Alley … Greater U Street Jazz Collective, July 7, 14, 21, 28, Bohemian Caverns … Nicole Saphos, July 9, Twins Jazz … Sharon Clark, July 10, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Abdoulaye Ndiaye, July 10-11, Twins Jazz … Elijah Jamal Balbed, July 11, Torpedo Factory Art Center/Alexandria … John Lamkin’s Baltimore Swing, July 17, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Tony Martucci, July 17-18, Twins Jazz … Jamie Baum/Jeff Antoniuk, July 21, Blues Alley … Jordon Dixon, July 22, Twins Jazz … Larry Coryell & Strings Attached, July 23-25, Blues Alley … Collector’s Edition/DeAndrey Howard, July 24, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Project Natale, July 24-25, Twins Jazz … Nasar Abadey & Super Nova, July 29, Blues Alley … Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, July 31, Blues Alley …

July Birthdays: Rashied Ali 1; Ahmad Jamal 2; Johnny Hartman 3; Hank Mobley 7; Louis Jordan 8; Billy Eckstine, Lee Morgan 10; Albert Ayler 13; Philly Joe Jones 15; Cal Tjader 16; Chico Freeman 17; Sonny Clark 21; Billy Taylor 24; Johnny Hodges 25; Carl Grubbs 27; Charlie Christian 29; Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell 31.

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