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Count Basie Alumni and an Elite Ensemble Salute the Jazz Master’s Centennial

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)January 23, 2004

(Mahwah) – The Count Basie centennial is an event worthy of a unique and memorable celebration. The Earl May Ensemble, with special guests and Basie alumni Frank Wess and Benny Powell, will laud the master of jazz and swing at Ramapo College of New Jersey in A Count Basie Centennial Salute in the Sharp Theater, Saturday, February 7 at 8 p.m.

Led by world-renowned jazz bassist Earl May, quartet members include legendary drummer Eddie Locke and pianist Larry Ham in the rhythm section and alto saxophonist David Glasser. They communicate the music-making joy of the jazz luminary known for his to-the-point and blues-focused piano playing and his simple melodic phrases.

The Earl May Ensemble has been a part of the regular line-up at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, NJ since 1999. Recent engagements include The Charlie Parker Festival, the Princeton Jazz Festival, the New Jersey Jazzfest 2002 as well as numerous sold out appearances at Harlem’s Lenox Lounge.

May honed his craft at Minton’s Playhouse with Lester Young and Mercer Ellington. He was a protégé of Charles Mingus. With the Billy Taylor Trio, his appearances included the Hickory House, Birdland and the Downbeat Club. He has also worked with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and recorded with John Coltrane.

Locke established himself as an all-time great jazz-drummer in New York. His associations include saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. He has worked and recorded with Teddy Wilson, Earl Fatha” Hines, Sir Roland Hanna, Ray Bryant and Willie The Lion” Smith.

Glasser, a member of the Clark Terry Quintet since 1995, was previously part of the Count Basie Orchestra and the Illinois Jacquet Big Band. He performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Billy Eckstein, Junior Mance and others.

Ham fingered the ivory keys with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and was featured as a soloist from 1990 to 1995 with the Illinois Jacquet Big Band. He performed and recorded with Dakota Staton and Junior Cook. Ham performed for dignitaries such as Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and appeared in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Blue Note and The Village Vanguard.

Frank Wess performed with the Count Basie Orchestra from 1953 to 1964. One of the earliest major jazz flutists and a top tenorman influenced by Lester Young, Wess has also been a skilled first altoist as well as composer and arranger. The musician also played alto with Basie’s big band and contributed an innovative sound. His cool-toned tenor contrasted with the sounds of other fellow tenors. Prior to joining the Count Basie Orchestra, Wess toured with Blanche-Calloway, performed with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra, Eddie Heywood and other jazz legends.

Known as a sideman, Benny Powell made significant music contributions to several bands including the rocking swing of Lionel Hampton, the roots-informed avant-garde of John Carter and the Count Basie Orchestra. As a journeyman trombonist, Powell’s bold sound bridges bebop and swing. In his works, the musician engages the vocal color of great swing trombonists and the technical fluidity of bop practitioners. Powell is capable of broadening an ensemble’s colors by his mastery of the tenor and bass trombones.

Tickets for A Count Basie Centennial Salute are $21 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $12 for youth. The Sharp Theater is located in the Angelica and Russ Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts on the Ramapo College campus. For more information call 201.684.7844.

This program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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