The BAHÁ'IS of the Bay Area, along with Todd Barkan/Keystone Korner Yoshi's and Kimball's hosted a musical tribute and memorial for Jazz great Dizzy Gillespie on February 8 at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. The free concert was so packed with some of California's finest Jazz musicians, that I can only mention some of the highlights.
Some of the stellar musicians were: The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Erie Andrews, Randy Vincent, Ed Kelly, Ellen Hoffman, Mel Martin, Jeff Chambers, Vince Lateano, Margie Baker, Bill Bell, Dave Berson, Jules Broussard, Larry Dunlop, Bobbe Norris, Ann Dyer, Madeline Eastman, Warren Gale, Darrell Green, ISA, A. J. Johnson, Calvin Keyes, Robbie Kwok, Mark Lignell, Kitty Margolis, Eddie Marshall, Jeff Massanari, Buddy Montgomery, Kenichi Nishio, David Kings North, Robert Porter, Dave Rickenberg, Wendy Rose, John Santos, Allen Smith, Robert Stewart, Harley White, Ed Williams, S. Howard Wiley, John Wittala, Harold Yen, etc., etc..
The evening was opened up by prayer, and Mary Gibson talked about her friend, Dizzy. The first group that performed was the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and they brought the house down? The energy, the feeling, the calling to God and faith, Terrance Kelly's and Pharoah Saunder's heart wrenching solos touched every heart that was present. When Ed Kelly provided music for the choir to go back to heir seats, the audience was inspired to clap and eventually the choir burst into song again.
A gigantic screen displayed Dizzy's pictures all through the evening. Todd Barkan was the Master of Ceremonies. In between sets, there were pictures, film clips, and videos of Dizzy. There was the mention of the Bahái faith. A little girl about nine or ten recited (her fluency made her sound like she was just talking to a friend) to the audience about humanity, and a little boy about the same age, spoke about racism and unity. Both are philosophies of the faith. The children were impeccable in their pronunciation and delivery. They had such confidence in speaking in front of a big crowd they put us grownups to shame.
Then there is IWA. A little boy about 8 or 9, carrying the torch, played the trumpet. Not only did he play "Night in Tunisia" with Eddie Marshall drumming in the background, he later joined the 'big guys' like Mel Martin, John Santos, and Warren Gale etc. on a couple other pieces with his only solo improvisation.
A real young group had Darrell Green, who was only fourteen, on the drums. The guitarist, about the same age, ran a wonderful solo stretch, but I didn't catch his name. Thirteen year old Howard Wiley played so well on the tenor, with his sliding tones, wailing sound, good articulation, and improvisation that the audience gave him a standing ovation. To have a group of youngsters this young, playing Jazz so well, and most of them black, brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. I am sure those who were there felt the same way because they all stood up and applauded with enthusiasm and encouragement.
A slightly older performer, around twenty, who is not unknown to some of us, and who is doing very well and we all feel has a very promising future is Robert Stewart. This evening, he performed with A. J. Johnson on trumpet, Mark Lignell on drums, Harley White on bass and Ed Kelly on piano.
Another person that needs mentioning was Margie Baker. Her magnificent voice and quick change of tongue brought out "Birk's Works." It was fiery. Then she did "Star Dust." Absolutely mesmerizing! She reached to the heart and squeezed it. She brought the audience to its feet.
There was also the introduction of and information on Dizzy's favorite charity: The Laurinburg Institute of Laurinburg, North Carolina where Dizzy graduated in 1935. Founded in 1904, Laurinburg Institute is the only surviving college preparatory boarding school in this country, independently owned and operated by African Americans. Laurinburg boasts several distinguishing qualities: its long, uninterrupted tradition; its adherence to the "old fashioned" values of discipline in intellect, in deeds, and in spirit; its well-prepared graduates, 95 percent of whom not only go on to four year colleges, but go with keen appreciation of the richness of African American history, struggle and achievement. The esteem with which Dizzy regarded his high school alma mater is expressed in his most ambitious dream: A $2.5 million Jazz institute and hall of fame, to be built on the campus of Laurinburg Institute. Whoever is interested in the institute and/or contribution to Dizzy's dream can write to :
P. O. Box 1787
Laurinburg, North Carolina 28352
Hats off to Todd Barkan, the Bahá'is, Yoshi's and Kimball's for bringing together such a wonderful tribute to Dizzy! The program was very well put together. The time during set changes were filled with film strips, announcements, a few verbal tributes from Dizzy's personal friends, etc. So there were no silent gaps and the audience was continuously entertained. The most important thing is that children were also involved and allowed to perform with the big names and the experienced.
The Bay Area is so full of excellent Jazz musicians that, even though a group played only two pieces, the program extended well into the night. By the time we left at twenty minutes to one in the morning, the performances were still going on, and we are talking about quite a few Bay Area musicians who were not included in the program. I am thankful that there are so many, and I hope that more venues can be opened up for them to play.
by Stella C. Brandt