Jazz Orchestra greeted by legendary musician
By Faith Hampton
On a brisk November night, the Jazz Heritage Orchestra was greeted by legendary tenor saxophonist Benny Golson at the second annual Treasures of Jazz Program.
According to the information on the Cleveland State website, the Jazz Heritage Orchestra is a 17-piece non-profit education group which is officially in the residence of the CSU Black Studies Program.
On November 8, 2008 at 7 p.m. the festivities began. The Master of Ceremonies Bobby Jackson, the music director for 90.3 WCPN, explained that he had been listening to the orchestra for years.
“I think the Jazz Heritage Orchestra has come a long way,” Jackson said. “They’re our finest musicians.”
The show began with Dr. Michael Williams, director of the Black Studies program, giving an introductory opening statement and a welcoming before announcing Jackson to the stage. Jackson would then give the stage to the Cleveland Music Settlement House Jazz Combo, a group of young high schoolers led by the director of the department of music, Eric Gould.
The Jazz Combo was very good for a group of young people. The jazz guitarist seemed to be very nervous, but the lead trumpet seemed to be having a great time.
They also had someone on piano, a cellist, three different students played drums, a tenor saxophone, a trombone, and another saxophonist.
“This is our first partnership with the Jazz Heritage Orchestra,” Gould said.
Next up was a solo by the orchestra themselves. It was amazing to here them play. There was Christopher Anderson on trombone, Wes Anderson on alto sax, Eddie Bayard on tenor sax, Earlie Braggs on trombone, Christopher Burge on tenor sax, Bobby Ferrazza on guitar, Derrick Gardner on trumpet, Paul Johnston on piano, David Kay on baritone sax, Jim Masters on trombone, Jim Pisano on alto sax, Bill Ransom on drums, Todd Stoll on trumpet, and Michael Wade on trumpet.
The cello player was Glenn Holmes, a student of trumpeter Dennis Reynolds who is also the artistic director. The orchestra’s original cellist had a heart attack the day before, but was said to be doing fine at that time.
When Benny Golson came out, he got a huge round of applause before he even played anything. Golson is a composer, arranger, lyricist, and producer. He has been playing jazz for over 55 years. He has composed and arranged music for Count Baise, Miles Davis, and Quincy Jones to name a few.
Between songs he would give a brief about how the songs came to be written. He explained that he wrote the song Along Came Betty about a woman that he formed a “very close relationship” with, Betty Pritchett. When she left him, he wrote the song.
Other songs he played with the Jazz Heritage Orchestra were I Remember Clifford, Stablemates, Whisper Not, Blues March, and Take the “A” Train – a signature song for the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
“I Remember Clifford was about a very good friend of mine that was killed in an automobile accident when he was 25 years old,” Golson said. “He left a wealth of things behind…I wish I never wrote it.”
Golson was great, but it was really about the orchestra. The show went on until all 17 players got a solo, including Holmes.
At the end of the night, Reynolds stepped up to the podium and reminded the people of Cleveland what they really had before them.
“You have a gem right here in Cleveland,” he said gesturing to the Jazz Heritage Orchestra.
As Dr. Williams gave his closing remarks, he mentioned that their would be posters of Benny Golson signed by Golson and the orchestra for sale on Ebay.
The show was fantastic and educational. The audience seemed to leave very satisfied on that brisk November night.