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Jazz event takes on new meaning this year

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In the still evolving shadow of the Sept. 11 horrific attacks, the Veritas Therapeutic Community and a large contingent of some of the most celebrated jazz artists joined together in this period in an unusually poignant celebration of hope and life.

The artists, members of the media, movers and shakers of industry and the faithful fans of this singularly unique American art form. gathered at City Center on Oct. 1 to partake in the camaraderie and shear magic of world class jazz at the 13th annual Evening With Friends of Charlie Parker.

ABC news anchor Peter Jennings, a hard-core jazz enthusiast and one of the long standing Honorary Chairpersons for the benefit, along with bassist Ray Brown as Host, introduced the evening’s events in a mood of deference to those of prior weeks, beseeching the audience to embrace the music of the artists as an important step in healing and to continue living for the future.

The program booklet was fittingly illustrated with an image of the American flag stating that the event was “In Memory of Those Lost September 11, 2001.”

Also honored was the renowned fluglehorn­/trumpeter from Long Island, Clark “Mumbles” Terry, leader of the Jazz Ambassadors, who received the Veritas Founders Award. Special awards were presented to Gerri Warren-Merrick, vice president of AOL Time Warner community relations and the AOL Time Warner Foundation, and to Mark A. Willis, the executive vice president of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., for their philanthropic work.

The Veritas Therapeutic Community, founded in 1970, continues to deal with the substance-abuse induced problems affecting communities, families, young mothers, their children and those still in the womb.

The Evening with Friends of Charlie Parker began 13 years ago as the brainchild of Veritas Foundation member Doris Sydnor Parker, the widow of legendary alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who was a substance abuser, and a few of her closest friends and fellow members. The jazz community sadly lost Doris and another founder, vibist Milt “Bags” Jackson, within the past few years, but the torch is carried by Jackson’s widow, Sandy. Sandy remains as its producer and musical advisor, while St. Albans’ own Johnny Carry of JazzMobile fame, keeps the flame bright and the tradition strong as its stage manager.

Phil Schaap, born and raised in Hollis, a six-time Grammy Award Winner for Jazz Documentation, considered by many as the authority on Charlie Parker’s music, continued his key roll as the upbeat master of ceremonies. This year, legendary jazz bassists Ray Brown (a Bayside resident for many years), Bob Cranshaw, Ray Drummond, and Buster Williams, trumpeters Clark Terry, Jon Faddis (leader of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra), Stepko Gut, and Jimmy Owens, drummers Ben Riley and Grady Tate (Tate on vocals this eve.), pianists, Kenny Baron, Junior Mance, Harold Maybern, and James Williams, Queens’ tenor saxophonist, jazz educator Harold “The Kid” Ousley, and vocalist Shannon Gibbons shared the stage in various mixed ensembles, with some “young lions” of jazz.

On this night, the jazz men and women gave freely of their time and talents as they have done for the past 13 years. The show played to its expected rousing conclusion as it always has — but there was something undefinable about the general atmosphere. All of us, almost to a person, like no other time in recent memory, seemed quieter, more introspective, and yet much more appreciative of the spirit, the pure artistry and the shear love each musician brought to the evening.

The event reminded us how important it is to come together to share in celebration, to once again enjoy music.

Reach jazz writer Norm Harris by e-mail at JazzShots2000@aol.com or call 718-347-3606.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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