Legends to swing in Oro Valley - The Explorer: El Sol

Legends to swing in Oro Valley

Big names in jazz benefit local arts council

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Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

He’s played trumpet solos with the Count Basie Orchestra and the Boston Pops, and he’s appeared on PBS. In 1988, he played the role of Louis Armstrong in the nationally touring musical “Satchmo.”

On Sept. 13, Byron Stripling will take to a different kind of stage — the poolside of a Northwest resort — and he’ll have with him five other jazz musicians of high acclaim.

“We really plan to set the place on fire and do some soulful stuff,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen with these crazy guys.”

The occasion is “Jazz Legends in Concert — Live,” a program to benefit the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council.

This annual event began nine years ago in the backyard of arts council vice president Al Cook. The first year, it brought in 40 attendees, and now more than 500 people attend. Last year, for the first time, the arts council added lawn seating to accommodate people who love jazz but aren’t in a position to shell out big bucks for it.

It worked well.

“When (now executive director) Kate (Marquez) became marketing director, she decided we needed to have a fully universal audience, so it was developed so people of any income can come,” Cook said. “That was very important to us and also important to the community.”

Cook has connected with well-known American jazz musicians for years during his travels. But he met Stripling, this year’s lead man, at University of Arizona.

Stripling was judging a national trumpet competition at the school last winter when they met. Thirty years seperates the musician from his winning performance as Louis Armstrong, but he still remembers playing the part.

“I think with him there’s potential to be a caricature, and (the producer) was trying to avoid that and just capture the spirit of what he was, and I think that was happiness. He always said he was here for the cause of happiness.”

When Cook asked Stripling to participate in this year’s jazz legends concert, he said he’d be happy to. Together, Stripling and Cook put together a list of other musicians who could put life into the concert theme: some blues, a whole lot of swing, some Count Basie and some Duke Ellington.

There’s pianist Bobby Floyd, who has performed or toured with the likes of Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughn and Glen Campbell and is in recording studios regularly.

“He really talks through his instrument,” Stripling said of Floyd. “He can make the piano talk.”

There’s saxophonist Rickey Woodard, who has played overseas with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and spent seven years as a member of the Ray Charles band, and there’s bassist Lynn Seaton, who toured with Tony Bennett and the Jeff Hamilton Trio and has played on more than 100 recordings with Who’s Who of Jazz. Drum player Butch Miles performed with the Count Basie Orchestra for almost 30 years and has played on nearly every continent in concerts and festivals.

And Wycliffe Gordon, the trombonist, has played with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Winton Marsalis Septet and appeared on PBS as a commentator, guest artist and performer.

“When we play, we try to echo the human voice, and (Gordon is) one who really can do that,” Stripling said.

Cook said the concert is sure to give attendees an exciting dose of a genre of music that is American-grown and is somewhat like American freedom.

“You play in collaboration with others,” he said. “You do compete, but you also play together to give the best possible sound you could think of.”

And with these guys, that’s a pretty good sound.

If you go

What: Jazz Legends in Concert — Live

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13 (dinner starts at 5 p.m.)

Where: Hilton El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort, 10000 N. Oracle Road

Cost: $25 for lawn seating, $65 for poolside seating, $100 for poolside seating with three-course dinner and wine

Phone: 797-3959

Online: www.govac.org

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