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Tim Mayer! Jazz woodwind specialist & educator from Boston, Massachusetts

March 25, 2008

Tenor Battle Royale!

Don’t miss it! ¬†This Saturday, March 29, at Newton South High School, 140 Brandeis Road, Newton Centre. ¬†Downbeat at 8pm. The Rusty Scott Quartet: Rusty Scott, pianoKeala Kaumeheiwa, bassLuther Gray, drums. The Three Tenors:

Bill Easley¬†has had a diversified career, as a professional musician, spanning more than forty -five years. Bill represents the fourth generation of a family dedicated to music.Over the years he has played in bands led by such notables as Ruth Brown, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Bobby Short, Louie Bellson, Nicholas Payton, Charles McPhearson, James Williams, Roland Hanna, Earl May, Illinois Jaquett, Ron Carter, Frank Foster,¬†Mercer Ellington, Warren Vach√©, Panama Fransis and Grady Tate among many others.In addition to his extensive discography as a sideman, he also has four recordings as a leader;¬†Wind Inventions,¬†First Call,¬†Easley Said and Business Man’s Bounce.¬†His arsenal of woodwind instruments includes; Tenor, Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Clarinet, and Bass Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute and piccolo.Bill Easley started playing professionally in 1959 with his parents at the age of thirteen. The Bob Easley Combo played country clubs, dances, and night clubs in and around his hometown of Olean, N.Y. This early experience gave him the foundation on which to build a long and rewarding career.He moved to New York City in Sept. of 1964. He was a part time student at the Julliard School of Music while getting his feet wet in the uptown Jazz Scene. The U.S. Draft Board had other plans and Bill did his military service with the 9th Army Band in Fairbanks Alaska.Easley joined The George Benson Quartet in Jan. of 1968 and traveled with the great guitarist for the remainder of the decade. This band worked in such legendary jazz spots as Minton’s Playhouse in N.Y., The Plugged Nickel in Chicago, The Jazz Workshop in Boston, and The Hurricane in Pittsburgh.After a brief residence in Pittsburgh, Pa., Easley followed his instincts to Memphis, Tenn. In Memphis he did a variety of things including: performing and recording with Isaac Hayes, other studio work, big bands, show bands, and jazz clubs. He also continued his formal education at Memphis State University. It was in the mid 1970s that Easley first toured with the Duke Ellington Orch. under the direction of Mercer Ellington. In January of 1980 Bill moved back to N.Y.C., with the promise of a job on Broadway.His Broadway Credits include;¬†Sophisticated Ladies,¬†The Wiz,¬†Black and Blue,¬†Jelly’s Last Jam,¬†Swingin’ On A Star,¬†Play On,¬†Fosse, and most recently,¬†The Wild Party. ¬†Bill has been a part of the Jazz Repertory Movement, playing in The American Jazz Orchestra (John Lewis); The Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra (David Baker); and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (Wynton Marsalis). He was a guest soloist with The Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra (Jon Faddis) in its tribute to Benny Goodman on Nov. 21, 1993.St. Bonaventure University, which is near Olean, NY, presented its first Artist’s Award to Bill Easley on April 19, 1997. The Bill Easley Quartet returned to¬†St. Bonaventure University¬†to play for a packed house at the the Regina A. Quick Arts Center for the Performing Arts on April 29, 2006.¬†The last ten years have been spent doing a combination of all the fore mentioned activities; working on Broadway, recording, touring, teaching, and playing with the finest musicians in the world.¬†

Bill Pierce:

At Berklee during the late 1960s, Pierce went for total immersion in music, studying jazz during the day and gigging at night. For two years, he played steadily at the Sugar Shack, a now defunct club on Boylston Street opposite the Boston Common where all of the top r&b acts used to play. “That place was the r&b Mecca of Boston,” recalled Pierce. “The house band had a bunch of great musicians in it, some of whom later became well known. Back then, Motown artists and acts like the Stylistics, the Dells, the Temptations, and the Supremes used to work clubs. ¬†It was wonderful to play the real thing the way I think that music is supposed to be played with the audience right there. I really learned how to be a musician then, attending Berklee during the day and getting hands-on experience at night.”

Pierce interrupted his studies for a short time to tour with Stevie Wonder. He subsequently returned to graduate and then became a part-time member of the faculty in 1975. He focused on playing jazz locally until the night he sat in with drummer Art Blakey’s group. “I had some friends in Blakey’s band who told me I should come down to sit in,” said Pierce. After hearing him, Blakey asked him to join the band. That gave Pierce stature in the jazz world and kept him on the road about 10 months a year for nearly three years. “It was one of the best times of my life, being young and playing music all night and then hanging out all day. We went all over the world, North and South America, Asia, and Europe.”

Pierce later teamed up with the late great drummer Tony Williams and made five recordings with him. “Playing with Tony was the highlight of my musical career in a lot of ways,” Pierce said. “He was an idol of mine when I was younger so playing with him was special. I don’t think I have ever played with anyone more intense than him. When he got behind the drums he was nothing but business, and the business was music. Having worked with Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Alan Dawson, Elvin Jones, and Tony, I’ve gotten to play with some of the best drummers in modern jazz. They had a certain special thing that only comes around now and then. These guys were masters and originated a lot of things that continue to be a big part of what is going on in jazz. I was very fortunate to be able to play with them.”¬†

We will be playing arrangements of some of the classic material from the Tough Tenors, Johnny Griffin & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and the Boss Tenors, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. ¬†These were the premiere dueling tenor groups from the early ’60’s. ¬†The tradition of the dueling tenors comes from the big band era; there was often a point in the show where the two tenors were featured, trading solos and phrases with each other, egging each other on, baiting, and battling, calling and responding. ¬†The energy was often terrific, making it one of the highlights of the evening. ¬†In the post-big-band period, when groups were smaller, the bands would often adapt big band arrangements of tunes to have two or three horns cover the parts, but with more extended solo sections. ¬†The idea was to have a show that had all the energy and flair of a big band, but without all the horns. ¬†We will recreate that style on Saturday, so come and see us!boptenor√ā¬†

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