Article and photos by Jimmie Jones
East Moline's native son, Jazz pianist and educator, Bill Bell (the Jazz Professor, Jazz Now June 1995) was the artist in residency for the Mississippi Valley Blues Society during the week of April 19 - 24. Bill conducted workshops at ten elementary, intermediate and high schools, performed three for free open to the public performances and was interviewed for broadcasts at three radio stations. Accompanying Bill on all of his performances were Ron Wilson on Bass and Chris Brooks on drums.
Bill Bell currently resides in El Cerrito, California in the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Area where for over thirty years he has taught music at schools and colleges, performed, recorded and toured with many of the Jazz greats.
Bill Bell's theme for his workshop was "Birth of the Blues." He began his workshops by teaching the students about the pentatonic scale, which he explained was the basis for all African American music. Bill went through the history of blues related music first by discussing spirituals developed during the period 1840 through 1965; Bill's trio performed "Give me that Old Time Religion" as an example. He next discussed marching bands which became popular around 1940 for which the trio performed "When the Saints Go Marching In," Bill then said that blues music was developed after slavery. Blues was demonstrated by the trio performing a slow blues composition by Bill entitled "Pentasonic Bell-a-phonic Blues." After blues, Bill talked about the migrations of African Americans from plantations of the South to the big cities of the North where boogie woogie was developed at rent parties; Bill then demonstrated a boogie woogie. The next blues related music discussed was the Shuffle which he said was performed by Jay McShann and Count Basie. The trio performed "St. Louis Blues" as an example of the Shuffle.
Bill ended his workshops with blues related music; "All Blues" by Miles Davis, "C Jam Blues" by Duke Ellington and "Straight No Chaser" by Thelonious Monk.
Bills open to the public performances were attended by over-flowing enthusiastic audiences resulting in all of his CDs being sold out.
by Jimmie Jones
Jazz Now Interactive June 2004 Vol 14 No. 2 - Table of Contents
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