By Bett Butler
As a music major at Trinity University, I sat through countless required student recitals at the acoustically exquisite Ruth Taylor Concert Hall, bored senseless. But on Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30, those warm, woody rafters will ring with some of the best straight-ahead jazz ever heard in San Antonio. Musical Bridges Around the World and Trinity's KRTU-FM 91.7 present jazz giants Marchel Ivery and Jackie McLean in concert, each accompanied by the crack rhythm section of Cedar Walton on piano, David Williams on bass, and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums.
McLean and Walton are both graduates of that hard-bop academy of the '60s, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (Ivery was hired by Blakey in the early '80s). This is straight-ahead jazz played by the musicians who originally created it. They play hard; they swing hard. Each is a virtuoso soloist in his own right.
Dallas-based Ivery is a true Texas tenor with a big, bluesy sound born in bebop. He counts another Dallasite, Miles Davis quintet pianist Red Garland, as his mentor. In the '70s, he and Garland played regularly at the legendary Dallas nightclub, the Recovery Room, and in New York. His three albums on the now-defunct Leaning House label are critically acclaimed.
Author David H. Rosenthal calls McLean's tone on alto sax "A true cry from the heart, piercing and ragged ..." (Hard Bop, Oxford University Press, 1992). He studied with Bud Powell, was mentored by Charlie Parker, and by age 19 had made his recording debut with Miles Davis. Gigs with Charlie Mingus and Blakey followed, along with recordings under his own name. Embracing progressive jazz in the '60s, today he is a respected educator, recording artist, and activist. He holds the National Endowment for the Arts designation as an American Jazz Master.
Pianist Walton, another Dallas alumnus, played with J.J. Johnson and Art Farmer in the late '50s. He joined Art Blakey in 1961, where he played with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter in what may have been one of Blakey's most influential line-ups. A sought-after side person and leader of his own group, Walton was the first pianist to record with John Coltrane on "Giant Steps" in 1959 (he was followed by Tommy Flanagan).
Bassist David Williams' mile-long list of recording credits includes Art Pepper, David "Fathead" Newman, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Barron, Chaka Khan, and David Benoit. His big, beautiful tone, flawless intonation, and impeccable timing provide the perfect underpinning for this music. Albert "Tootie" Heath, younger brother of bassist Percy and saxophonist Jimmy, made his recording debut in 1957 with John Coltrane. He has a well-deserved reputation for versatility and open-mindedness, and has always been a favorite drummer of great musicians.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to hear virtuoso players play great music in a room designed for listening and a show that will leave no one bored.