Year 2001 zipped by faster than I can imagine. Just when I got used to writing and typing 2001, I have to change my mind and mode to do 2002. So during the last month of the year, we played, partied, celebrated and lamented. One of these parties was at our friend John Tibbetts's house in Daly City, California, a suburb of San Francisco. He gathered his friends together, maybe because his friend, pianist James Williams, (cover subject of Jazz Now 's last print issue, March 2000,) was in town from New York. Also maybe it was because John's birthday was the next day. For whatever reason, it was a gathering of friends, and to us, it was "the party" of the year.
Jazz Now had parties like that before, where a group of musicians would show up and play. Dr. John Tibbetts, doctor of education, is also a producer of Jazz CDs. He produced Lemuel West's CD, Lemuel West: In Good Company, the New York Sessions (available at the Jazz Now Direct CD Store) and he is working on a project with some of the most renown players of our time. Different than the Jazz Now parties, John prepared the food all by himself. He is a great cook, and what a treat!
What a treat to have James Williams, Frank Jackson, Alan Steger and Roberta Mandell play the piano for us! The piano was there, left open, enticing those who wanted to play. It has its magic. It beckons. There was no pressure for anybody to play. It is just an open invitation. It would be left there for half an hour or so, and pretty soon, somebody will inch up there and tinkle a few songs. Then Lemuel stood by the piano and said to James, "How about doing 'Stardust'?" and off they went into the music world. After a couple tunes, occasionally belting out in his rich baritone sound, West asked Frank Jackson if he would do a piece. Frank who both sings and plays accompanied Lemuel and himself. But I can see that he enjoyed singing the most. No matter what piece was called for, Frank knew the tunes, the changes, and the lyric. Haybert Houston (Jazz Now editor-in chief) asked Frank's wife how many songs Franks knows. She said she stopped keeping track after seven hundred fifty.
One of the major singers of today, Mary Stallings, was also present at the party. When she started singing, Oh, what a treat! James Williams played for her for a while, but when her own pianist, Alan Steger, showed up at the party, she was in her own environment. She was then relaxed and starting to enjoy herself. She sang some of the songs from her latest CD MARY STALLINGS: live at the village vanguard on MAXJAZZ vocal series. She beckoned Frank Jackson to harmonize with her. They would find the notes, sometimes ending up with the same one, then one of them would slide off to another note so harmony could be made. They had a lot of fun.
We had a wonderful time and will post pictures of the event here later.
by Stella Cheung Houston