Jazz Notes : Manager Denies Miles Davis AIDS Report; Instruments Donated to Locke High School
Contrary to a story which appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of the supermarket tabloid, the Star, trumpeter Miles Davis does not have AIDS, said Davis’ manager, Peter Shukat, on Tuesday. “It’s totally unfounded, totally untrue,” Shukat said of the Star story. Shukat, who issued a press release denying the story, said the 62-year-old Davis had recently been in the hospital, battling a mild case of pneumonia and having a benign polyp removed from his vocal cords. “He’s now resting comfortably at his Southland home,” Shukat said, “and is in excellent shape for a man his age.” Davis is expected to begin his 1989 world tour April.
Young student musicians are invited to apply for the sixth annual Dolo Coker jazz scholarship, given in memory of the fine pianist who was an integral part of the Los Angeles jazz scene for many years.
Coker, who resided in the Southland from the late ‘50s until his death in 1983, recorded several LPs as a leader and backed such greats as saxophonists Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper, trumpeter Kenny Dorham and drummer Philly Joe Jones.
The scholarship, which is awarded to full-time high school or college musicians--ages 15-25--was created to both assist students seeking a career in jazz and to perpetuate the art form itself. The winners of this year’s scholarships will perform at a benefit concert--headlined by singer O.C. Smith, saxman Herman Riley and pianist Art Hillery--for the Dolo Coker Scholarship Foundation, to be held at the Musicians’ Union in April. Information: (213) 666-3700.
BASSIC GIVING: Blues composer-bassist Willie Dixon, whose classic songs such as “The Seventh Son” and “Spoonful” have been recorded by such jazzmen as Mose Allison and Gil Evans, is donating $3,000 worth of Yamaha musical instruments to Watts’ Locke High School in memory of the late blues singer, Big Joe Turner. Dixon, a resident of Glendale, will make the donation--which includes a matching grant from Yamaha Corp.--through his Los Angeles-based Blues Heaven Foundation at a presentation at Locke on Thursday. To make sure the students have something to play the donated instruments on, Dixon is also giving the high school a stage band arrangement of his tune, “My Babe,” scored by Lisa Webb, a graduate of North Texas State University.
AROUND L.A.: The ebullient trumpeter Jack Sheldon’s musical life used to be something like a lyric from the Dave Frishberg-Bob Dorough tune, “I’m Hip”: “I was hep when it was hip to be hep.”
While a developing player here in the early-to-late ‘50s, native Floridian Sheldon--though originally influenced by swing-era players--emulated the then-in-vogue bop sounds of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
“I loved Roy Eldridge, especially his version of ‘Rockin’ Chair,’ with Gene Krupa’s band,” Sheldon, 58, said the other day. “Then I heard Bird and thought, ‘What is this?’ It sounded really strange. But since I was supposed to like that kind of music, to be hip, I liked it. I did the whole thing, wore a beret, carried my trumpet in a leather bag. I was going with my peers.” Sheldon’s fiery bebop style can be heard on a number of LPs he made with the likes of altoist Art Pepper and bassist Curtis Counce.
But when he joined the band on the Merv Griffin Show in 1960, Sheldon--who appears in North Hollywood Tuesday and Wednesday at the Money Tree and Sundays at Alfonse’s--changed. “We started going to New York to play, and there they have more reverence for old guys, plus I got to hear Roy (Eldridge) and Ruby Braff play that older style, and I saw how good it was,” he said. “So instead of trying to be hip, now I can really appreciate all these people.”
Sheldon’s current performance finds him mixing searing trumpet work on the great standards with vocals and comedic banter. “I started doing comedy and singing when I was working with (singer) Julie London and (pianist) Bobby Troup in 1957-58,” said Sheldon, whose latest LP is “Hollywood Heroes” (Concord Jazz). He says he gets the material from everyday existence. “My life is in utter chaos, so my stories about alcoholism, drug abuse, overeating and bad luck with women come from real true things,” he said, only half kidding. Sheldon has been a recovering alcoholic for several years.
Deciding a year ago he needed help, hornwise, Sheldon began studying trumpet with Uan Rasey, former first trumpeter at MGM Studios. “I had come up with my own way of playing, and he’s teaching me to be a better player,” he said. “Now I’m slowly getting better rather than slowly getting worse.”
RECOMMENDED RECORDINGS: Billy Pierce’s “Give and Take” (Sunnyside) finds the former Art Blakey tenor sax star fronting a quintet of talented young lions that includes pianist Mulgrew Miller and trumpeter Terrance Blanchard. Pierce, who’s gradually shedding the Coltrane influence he’s worn like a second skin, offers “Altered States” which races along at a gallop, “Farewell to Dogma,” a sweet-then-edgy bossa where Blanchard and Miller deliver lucid, winsome statements, and “Aria’s Dance,” a full-of-juice unaccompanied romp.