More Jazz Heroes–JazzAmerica
On August 9th of this year, I emceed a 90th birthday salute to Buddy Collette. The kids from his JazzAmerica program opened the show and knocked my socks off! A terrific big band, now under the direction of bassist Richard Simon, full of great soloists, with a lot of poise, maturity, and SWING! They’re high school students from all over Los Angeles. The program is extra-curricular, which means they do it out of love for the music, and a commitment to their own growth. That’s inspiring. And one can tell that they’re having a good time doing it! Check out this video from this year’s Central Avenue Jazz Festival.
One of the band’s graduates is an incredibly talented clarinetist/saxophonist named Chloe Feoranzo. She just recorded as the featured guest with Richard Simon’s band. The album is entitled “Poor Richard’s All-Man Act, Plus One.” (as with most of Richard’s puns, one can only groan as one laughs!)
Richard is taking the JazzAmerica Big Band to the Sweet ‘n’ Hot Jazz Festival on Sunday, September 4th. Don’t miss them!
The JazzAmerica Story
In 1994, fear and unrest plagued some of the middle schools in the Hollywood area. Then-city council person, Jackie Goldberg, realized that the children needed some meaningful, supervised activity to engage them between the end of school and the end of their parents’ work day.
Her call for help went out to Buddy Collette, one of the genuine Los Angeles heroes. He summoned some of his long-time associates to LeConte middle school. They took over and rehabilitated a roomful of dusty, deteriorating instruments, and almost overnight, an after-school music program was born. Kids signed up for lessons on flute, sax, trumpet, drums and bass. Soon the program spread to King, Bancroft and Washington Irving middle schools as well.
On a parallel track, Buddy sought to enhance the musicianship of students who were playing in various high school bands across the city. In collaboration with the Music Center of LA County, he created a program of Saturday Master Classes.
Richard Simon was Buddy’s partner in these endeavors from their formation. The Saturday series–now nicknamed WorkChops–continues to bring together the top jazz students from all over LA County. Under the leadership of Roger Neumann, Ann Patterson, John Stephens, Llew Matthews and Dan Barrett, students learn about the history of jazz, study arrangements from Fletcher Henderson to Duke Ellington to Buddy Collette, deconstruct music theory, learn solo concepts, meet kids from all over the city, and enjoy a positive, collegial experience. JazzAmerica welcomes the participation of new students, as well as financial support; it is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit. Contributions are tax deductible and can be made payable to JazzAmerica, and sent to Jazz America, P.O. Box 661777, Los Angeles, CA 90066. Their website is jazzamerica.org.
Although from one of the birthplaces of America’s music, Kansas City, MO, Richard majored in English in college, winding up with an MA from SUNY-Stony Brook, before discovering jazz in 1980. Moving to L.A., he studied music with Dr. Tom Owens at El Camino College, and privately with mentors Red Callender, Buddy Collette, Plas Johnson, and Al Viola. Over the years, Richard has played all over the world with some of the biggest names in jazz, as both a sideman and a leader. He is currently directing Buddy Collette’s JazzAmerica program, with three bands, sixty kids, and student performances. He is the volunteer leader of the JazzAmerica Big Band, and performs regularly with Dave Pell, Ernie Andrews, Barbara Morrison, Dave Koonse, Richie Cole, and many others! Check out Richard’s website at richardsimon.com.