Golden Boy opened the Majestic Theatre on October 20, 1964 starring Sammy Davis Jr., Billy Daniels, Paula Wayne, Johnny Brown, Lola Falana and Lou Gossett. Charles Strouse & Lee Adams composed the music from which Night Song was plucked to become a jazz standard for a show that ran 568 performances.
The Story: The play reflects the struggle of an ambitious young black man in America and focuses on Joe Wellington, a young man from Harlem who, despite his family’s objections, turns to prizefighting as a means of escaping his ghetto roots to find fame and fortune. He crosses paths with a Mephistopheles-like promoter Eddie Satin and eventually betrays his manager Tom Moody when he becomes romantically involved with Moody’s girlfriend Lorna Moon. In his quest for glory loses his soul and his life.
Broadway History: These innovations in lighting also made advertising on Broadway much more effective. The world’s first electrically lit large commercial billboard was erected over Madison Square in 1892. It read, “Buy Homes On Long Island/Swept By Ocean Breezes” and was paid for by the Long Island Rail Road. Though the sign had disappeared from the New York skyline by 1895, its brief exposure caught the eye of every business owner on Broadway, which by then included the square intersection at W. 42nd, Broadway, and 7th Avenue (the tourist-glutted hotspot we all know and love, “Times Square”, which was named after The New York Times in 1904, when the publication moved into its new headquarters building there, had decided to advertise with the new “spectaculars,” so called because of their large, complex light displays and intricate designs, some flashed, and some even had animated sections that moved.
Benjamin Gordon Powell Jr. was born on March 1, 1930 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He first played professionally at age 14 and by 18 he was playing with Lionel Hampton. In 1951 he left Hampton’s band and joined Count Basie, where he remained until 1963. Powell takes the trombone solo in the bridge of Basie’s 1955 recording of “April In Paris”.
After leaving Basie, Benny freelanced in New York City and from 1966 to 1970 he was a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, playing Monday nights at the Village Vanguard. Among other engagements, he played in the house band of the Merv Griffin Show, relocating to Los Angeles, California when the show moved to the West Coast in 1970.
During this period Powell did extensive work as a session musician working with Abdullah Ibrahim, John Carter and Randy Weston. In the 80s he moved back to New York and added educator to his resume becoming part of the Jazzmobile and later, in 1994 teaching at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Benny Powell, tenor and bass trombonist, died following back surgery on June 26, 2010 in Manhattan, New York City. He was 80 years old.
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Donald Rafael Garrett was born on February 28, 1932 in El Dorado, Arkansas but was raised in Chicago, Illinois. While in high school he first studied clarinet and then bass under Captain Walter Dyett. By the late 50s he was working closely with Muhal Richard Abrams, becoming a member of his Experimental Band in the Sixties.
It was during this time that he worked with Ira Sullivan, Eddie Harris, Dewey Redman and Rahsaan Roland Kirk but by the mid-sixties he relocated to San Francisco and formed a band called Sound Circus. He stayed on the West coast into the 70s working with such jazz greats as Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders and numerous more including performing and recording on four John Coltrane albums – Om, Kulu Se Mama, Selflessness and Live In Seattle.
In 1971 he formed the Sea Ensemble with Zusaan Kali Fasteau and embarked on a world tour for the next several years, the duo funding their travels with Fasteau giving music lessons and Garrett skillfully making bamboo flutes. Throughout his career he studied Turkish music, added flute to his instrumental repertoire, became an educator, writer, researcher and continued to perform and record with Johnny Griffin, Sonny Stitt, Joe Henderson, Billy Bang and other great jazz musicians.
Donald Garrett, multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with John Coltrane and the free jazz musicians and improvisers of the 60s and 70s, passed away on August 17, 1989.
Dexter Gordon was born in Los Angeles on February 27, 1923 to a doctor who counted Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton among his patients. He played clarinet from the age of 13, before switching to saxophone, initially alto then tenor at 15. While still at school, he was playing in bands with such contemporaries as Chico Hamilton and Buddy Collette.
By 1940 he was on the road with Lionel Hampton playing alongside Illinois Jacquet and Marshall Royal. In 1943 he made his first recordings under his own name with Nat Cole and Harry Edison. During the next two years he was featured in the Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson bands before joining Billy Eckstine. In 1945, Gordon left the Eckstine band and was resident in New York performing and recording with Charlie Parker as well as recording under his own name. Dexter was a virtuoso particularly famous for his titanic saxophone duels with fellow tenor Wardell Gray, that were a popular live attraction and that were documented in several albums between 1947 and 1952.
In 1960 he signed with Blue Note Records, a collaboration that produced some of his highly regarded recordings such as “Doin’ Alright”, “Go”, “Dexter Calling”, and a “Swinging Affair”. After that he spent 15 years in Europe, mostly in Paris and Copenhagen, where he played regularly with fellow expatriate jazzmen such as Bud Powell, Benn Webster Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Drew, Bobby Hutcherson and others. He occasionally returned to Blue Note creating such masterpieces as “Our Man In Paris”, “One Flight Up” and “Getting’ Around”.
His stature of 6’6” earned him the nicknames of “Long Tall Dexter” and “Sophisticated Giant” and he is one of the most influential and iconic figures in Jazz and is largely credited for establishing the classic, modern sound and stylistic concept for the saxophone in general, and the tenor in particular. His studio and live performance career were both extensive and multifaceted; spanning over 50 years in recorded jazz history. Dexter Gordon passed away on April 25, 1990 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Yōsuke Yamashita was born February 26, 1942 in Tokyo, Japan. He first began to play piano professionally at the age of 17 in 1959 and attended the Kunitachi College of Music from 1962 to 1967. It was during his college matriculation that he released his first recording in 1963, becoming a pioneer of avant-garde and free jazz.
In 1969, Yosuke formed the Yosuke Yamashita Trio, which has been through various incarnations, each introducing and highlighting the skill of the new member. In the 1980s, Yosuke formed the “New York Trio” with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff.
In 1994 he was invited to perform at the 50th anniversary concert of the Verve jazz label at Carnegie Hall. Yamashita then moved into film scoring in 1998, scoring “The Girl Of The Silence”, Dr. Akagi”, “Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands” and the Shohei Imamura film “Kanzo Sensei”, earning him the “Minister of Education Award,” amongst others.
As an educator he has been a visiting professor of music at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music, Nagoya University of Arts and the Kunitachi College of Music in addition to published work on improvisation and music. He has been nominated for the Japanese Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
Yōsuke Yamashita, jazz pianist, composer, essayist and writer has been praised by critics for his unique piano style and in 2003 he was conferred the Imperial Medal of Honor by the Japanese government for his contributions to the arts and academia. He continues to perform and record.
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