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The Hollywood Jazz Connection

The L.A. Jazz Society held its 28th annual awards dinner Sunday night, which I was pleased to host…but chances are you didn’t read or hear about it, in spite of the presence of Quincy Jones, Arturo Sandoval, and other musical heavyweights, along with such music fans as Andy Garcia and Beau Bridges. It’s further evidence that jazz has been marginalized by the mainstream media; you won’t find it on the Grammy Awards telecast or in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, which no longer officially covers it.

Arturo Sandoval and his soaring trumpet. (Photo by William Kidston)

That’s both sad and ironic, because jazz and Los Angeles’ home-town industry of moviemaking have had a long and rich relationship, which was very much in evidence at the Sunday soiree. In presenting the 2011 Jazz Vocalist award to Monica Mancini, Quincy Jones recalled how Monica’s father Henry went to bat for him when—

—he was hired to write his first major-studio movie score—for Mirage, in 1965—and Universal was horrified to discover he was black. That act of kindness cemented a bond between Quincy and the entire Mancini family that endures to this day. (Monica then performed two songs, including an uptempo version of her father and Johnny Mercer’s Charade, which of course was a movie theme.)

Drummer Ed Shaughnessy and his “Cinderella Award” winner, Maddie Petersil. (Photo by William Kidston)

Drummer Ed Shaughnessy, who played for years with Doc Severinsen on The Tonight Show, gave a cash prize to a promising young singer named Maddie Petersil. He called it The Cinderella Award after his late wife, Ilene Woods, who was the voice of the title character in Walt Disney’s animated classic Cinderella.

Andy Garcia bestowed the evening’s ultimate award on Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, whom he portrayed in the HBO movie For Love or Country. Sandoval gave a heartfelt speech—reciting the lyrics he’d written to a song in honor of his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie—and then blew the roof off the house with an hour-long set in which he played with an all-star big band. In fact, he didn’t want to get off the stage. He performed a beautiful piano solo, teamed up with ace trumpeter Wayne Bergeron on Gordon Goodwin’s two-trumpet feature “Maynard and Waynard” and had the band join him for an improvised blues. (Incidentally, Arturo has a recent movie credit: he’s featured on the soundtrack of Rango.)

Arturo Sandoval (r.) and two high-profile admirers and friends, Beau Bridges and Andy Garcia. (Photo by William Kidston)

The tribute also honored veteran trombonist and teacher Ira Nepus and the annual Lifetime Achievement Award went to the prodigiously talented saxophonist Jeff Clayton, who performed with his equally gifted bass-playing brother John. Their partner in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, master drummer Jeff Hamilton, presented the Shelly Manne New Talent Award to a 14-year-old sax prodigy named Max Lesser, who played an impressive set with some of his schoolmates.

Jeff told me he enjoys being associated with an award named after the late, great drummer Shelly Manne, who was one of the first jazzmen to break into the Hollywood studio world. In fact, he lived a double life for many years, playing on soundtracks of movies and TV shows by day and jamming in clubs (including his own) at night—yet another aspect of the Hollywood-jazz connection. Shelly’s ever-youthful widow Flip is the heart and soul of the L.A. Jazz Society. (To learn more about their activities, and watch some great video clips, click HERE.

Yes, jazz was alive and well at the Society’s soiree, which I’ve hosted for the past eight years. Since the Society supports students and up-and-coming professionals with its school programs, scholarships, and a hugely important mentorship program involving the city’s top professionals, I know this music has a bright future as well. If more people had been able to hear Arturo Sandoval and a blazing 16-piece band as I did Sunday night, they might be downloading jazz tracks along with the latest pop hits.

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

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Quincy Jones and his god-daughter, vocalist Monica Mancini. (Photo by William Kidston)

I took this shot of two living jazz legends during the pre-dinner reception: composer/bandleader Gerald Wilson, who’s 93, and vibraphonist/bandleader Terry Gibbs, who’s 87. They’re both heroes of mine—and they’re both still working!

Drummer extraordinaire Jeff Hamilton poses with two other great guys: composer/bandleader Van Alexander and choral director Ray Charles. I’m sure they would all say that music keeps them young.

Wayne Bergeron joins Sandoval to play “Maynard and Waynard”. (Photo by William Kidston)

Andy Garcia sits in with Sandoval. (Photo by William Kidston)

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6 comments

  1. Peyton says:

    Oops! You forgot to mention the family of the great tombonist Thurman Green who gave a cash award in the form of the Thruman Green Trombone scholarship to trombonist Tyler Glover.

    Great party and you did a marvelous job hosting the event!

    Peyton Glover (Just a proud dad!)…. 😉

  2. Dick Bublitz says:

    As a member of the Valley Jazz Club, Los Angeles Jazz Society, The Blues Foundation ( I nominate & judge for The Blues Music Awards ), and West Coast Traditional Jass Club, I was pleased to see my friend, trombonist Ira Nepus, awarded for his jazz education efforts. Ira also is constantly promoting jazz venues throughout the San Fernando & Conejo Valleys, making this part of Southern California alive with opportunites to experience the many varities of jazz music.

  3. Edythe L. Bronston, President, California Jazz Fou says:

    Hi, Leonard….I very much enjoyed your article and join in your conclusion that jazz has been marginalized by the mainstream media. I am equally dismayed by the fact that there was not even a “Grammy Salute to Jazz” this year, which in prior years at least gave a passing nod to our wonderful jazz artists. Incidentally, you do a wonderful job at the LA Jazz Society Awards…….keep up the great work! Best, Edy

  4. mike schlesinger says:

    To Ken: No disrespect intended, but what decade are you living in? The kids have been listening to hip-hop for the past 25 years or so; they consider rock their parents’ [or even grandparents’] music. I was at a Super Bowl party last year, and when The Who took the stage at half-time, the young couple sitting next to me got up to leave. I said, “Where are you going? They’re just starting!” The girl replied, “We don’t wanna listen to that old shit.” And yes, they were serious–they did not come back until the game resumed.

    One or two more generations and rock will be as marginalized as jazz is now.

  5. James Roberson says:

    It was really uplifting to read this article. Musicians and music lovers are working hard all over America to keep jazz alive and to interest young people in the music. The Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society is dedicated to music education and runs a great summer youth jazz camp, sponsors a traditional jazz youth festival, sponsors a youth jazz band and presents about 15 youth jazz bands each year at the Sacramento Music Festival (formerly the Sacramento Jazz Festival). It is a big mission and we need all the help we can get. Readers should encourage their friends and family members to support live jazz and jazz education in their communities.

  6. Ken Barnes says:

    Dear Leonard,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article on The Hollywood Jazz Connection but I find it sad to see jazz – perhaps America’s only indigenous art form – so neglected by today’s
    so-called musical pundits who are so busy embracing rock that they can’t hear anything else.

    I like to think of myself as having Catholic tastes when it comes to music but I can’t understand anyone who dwells on rock to the exclusion of everything else. Rock is the tunnel at the end of the light whereas jazz is constantly evolving and, happily, we have new young artists springing up all the time who fully appreciate the talents of the great veteran exponents. The great Quincy,of course, has worked in rock and in all forms of musical expression but everything he does has an underlying jazz character because that’s where his heart is.

    Let’s try to get jazz back where it rightfully belongs- centre stage in America’s musical heritage. As Louis Armstrong once said “Rock ‘n’ Roll is just cold soup warmed up.”

    In my opinion, it’s rhythm for people who have no rhythm.

    Ken Barnes

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