Posts Tagged ‘Columbus Jazz Society’

Alex Pershounin Jazz Quartet Packs the Liberty Theater Cultural Center

April 12, 2010

The Liberty Theater Cultural Center was wall to wall with people Sunday evening for the Columbus Jazz Society’s monthly concert and jam session.  They came to enjoy the music of the Alex Pershounin Quartet, and  four Columbus State student musicians, one of whom was awarded a thousand-dollar scholarship, and the various musicians who took took part in the jam session.

Jack Meisburg, Columbus State University music major, won this year's Columbus Jazz Society's $1,000 scholarship

CSU music major and sophomore Jack Meisburg, of Alpharetta, Georgia, who plays bass, won the scholarship.

Starting with Dixieland and coming up to today’s jazz, the Pershounin Jazz Quartet gave the Jazz Society members and guests a jazz history lesson.  The quartet is led by Columbus State  Director of Jazz Studies Dr. Alex Pershounin who plays dazzling jazz bass.  He has quite a resume, playing with such greats at Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Ray Charles, and he has recored several commercially released CD albums and music to four full-length motion pictures.

The other three members of the quartet are also college instructors. Saxaphonist Amy Griffths, teaches saxaphone at CSU.  Dr. Paul Viallancourt teaches percussion at CSU, and guitarist Robert Orr is Professor of Guitar at Auburn University.

I don’t claim to be a music critic, but I do have some background in music, having been a percussionist in high school, college, and Army bands. In 1955-56, I played in a jazz combo that toured U.S. Army posts in Bavaria, Germany, so I guess I have some idea of when jazz is played well.  It was played extremely well Sunday evening at the Liberty. Judging from the thunderous applause they gave, I would say that the rest of the audience completely agreed with me.  If you like jazz, you’ll love the Columbus Jazz Society sessions. The next one is on May 9th.


How I Will Remember Frank Bullard

November 18, 2008

  When someone passes away, we always think about our experience with them. It brings home that each of us is a different person to different people. My son, stepsons, and grandchildren certainly view me differently than, say, a person who watched me every night on TV. The opinions of my children and grandchildren – I have a son, four stepsons, and five grandchildren – of course, trump anyone else’s. Fortunately, I know that our love and respect is mutual.

  People who worked for me when I was a news director at WRBL-TV, no doubt, have a different opinion. Depending on their experience with me, they liked and respected me, or didn’t. Fortunately, some have come back to Columbus after they made good in other, larger markets to thank me for giving them their first break in TV, and for what they learned from me. That sort of balances the ones who thought I was a perfectionist martinet and other things that I won’t mention in polite company.  

  This brings me to the death of Frank Bullard, former executive with Bill Heard Chevrolet.  My experience with Frank was all good. I got to know him through Crime Stoppers.  He was an ardent supporter, being on the board of directors. I wrote, produced and narrated the feature from the time it started on WTVM in 1986 until I retired in 2000. He was one of those guys who just made you feel good every time you were around him. His twinkling-eyes and warm smile had the effect of putting you in a good mood no matter how rotten the day had been before you saw him.  When I retired, knowing that my late wife Melba and I liked ballroom dancing, he had the board of directors give us tickets to the New Year’s Eve Ball at Callaway Gardens – which aint’ cheap – and a room at the Inn so I could have a couple of glasses of wine at the dance and not worry about driving home. That was the kind of creative, thoughtful person he was, in my experience.

  The last time I saw him was a few months ago at a Columbus Jazz Society jam session. I knew that he was terminally ill, but it wasn’t because of the way he acted. The warm smile and the twinkling eyes were there when we said hello. That’s the way I’ll remember Frank.

Big Band Jazz at the Liberty: The Atlanta Seventeen

September 17, 2008

  I had barely come down from the high provided by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s inspired Beethoven concert Saturday night at the Bill Heard Theater, when I was lifted right back up there by the Atlanta Seventeen Sunday night at the Liberty. The locale was appropriate, since the Liberty, back when it was a “colored” theater in old Jim Crow days, featured the great big bands of the 1930’s and 40’s like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. The Atlanta Seventeen played some of the Basie arrangements during the concert.

  It was a totally different type of music from what we heard Saturday at the Bill Herd Theater, but that swinging big band had something important in common with the CSO: it was also inspired. 

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Atlanta Seventeen (Courtesy: Borden Black)

  What’s more, it was exciting.  As the program states, “To experience this dynamic, well rehearsed ensemble in action is a delight for big band enthusiasts of all ages who identify with the kind of exceitemnt generated only by precision playing.” 

  I wish I could describe the way the music affected me, and judging by the thundering applause, everyone attending the Columbus Jazz Society sponsored concert, but it’s something that words just can’t convey. As the saying goes, “You had to be there.” And you really did, because there is no replacing the emotional impact of live music. As good as sound systems are, they still cannot match “being there.”

  While the band is made up mainly of Atlanta area professional and business types – one of its saxophonists is a dentist –  it has a large percentage of former high school and college band directors. Bob Greenhaw, who played with my late nephew Jack Gibson in the Columbus High Band, the teenage rock group “Abstracts,” and the Auburn Knights big band more than 40 years ago , is the leader.

  Greenhaw became a high school band director, teaching at Richards Middle School and than at Hardway High School in Columbus. He finished out his career as director of the music program at Valdosta State University.

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Bob Greenhaw, Atlanta Seventeen (Courtesy: Borden Black)

  When I spotted Paul VanderGheynst sitting on the second row, playing trombone, I thought the retired Columbus State University director of the school’s jazz music program had been brought in to fill in for a trombone player who couldn’t make the trip. Wrong. Though he still lives in Columbus, he is a regular member of the Atlanta Seventeen.  “If I want to play regularly I have to go to Atlanta, Dick. There is nothing here.”  Well, we do have the Cavaliers big band, but they don’t perform a lot.

  The current director of the CSU jazz program, which features an outstanding jazz big band, was sitting in for the Atlanta Seventeen’s pianist, who couldn’t make the trip.  Shirantha Beddage plays incredible jazz piano. He also specializes in saxophone.  He also brought some student musicians with him. They played jazz combo music during the jam session which featured local musicians during the Atlanta Seventeen’s break. He is also president of the Columbus Jazz Society, sponsor of this memorable concert at the LIberty Theater.

  The emcee and president of the Seventeen, Fritz Siler, also taught at Spencer High in Columbus.

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Fritz Siler, Atlanta Seventeen (Courtesy: Borden Black)

   Cecil Wilder taught at Rothchild Middle School and Kendrick High School.

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Cecil Wilder, Atlanta Seventeen (Courtesy: Borden Black)


   So, you can see that Columbus is well represented in this truly impressive big band.

  Having been a drummer for a couple of big bands many years ago, I always pay close attention to the drummer.  Tony McCuthcen, the Seventeen’s drummer, was truly impressive, especially when he played the late, great drummer Buddy Rich solos in the concert’s finale “Mexicali Nose.”  I figured he was probably another Atlanta businessman, but Stiler cleared that up for me. McCutchen is the director of percussion for the University of Georgia’s music program, which includes the more than 300-piece Red Coat Marching Band.    

  If you like jazz, I strongly recommend that you join the Columbus Jazz Society. It’s annual membership fees are reasonable, only $35 for an individual, $60 for a family, and $20 for seniors and students. For that you get to attend the monthly jazz sessions at the Liberty.  Believe me, if you like live jazz, you’ll enjoy these sessions. Also, it’s a friendly crowd. After all, they have something in common; they love music, especially when it is jazz.