Harpers Ferry NHP hosts 11th annual Don Redman Heritage Awards and Concert

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Celebrating the Heritage of Jazz


June 28, 2012
By Angela Cummings – Special to the Journal , journal-news.net

HARPERS FERRY – One of the many wonderful things about summer is the abundance of free concerts performed throughout the area; however, very few – if any – offer up award winning musical legends like the Don Redman concert and heritage award ceremony held annually at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.Each year, two jazz musicians are chosen as recipients of the award based on their dignity and merit as musicians, and work and education in music that continues the spirit of Don Redman today.”Don Redman was the greatest musical mind to come out of Storer College,” said Todd Bolton, event coordinator with the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. “Redman was a 1920 graduate of Storer College and went on to be known as ‘the little giant of jazz.’ Over the 88-year history of the college, Redman was probably the most significant graduate with an influence on music. We commemorate his life with this award.”

This year’s honorees and performers include legendary alto sax player Lou Donaldson and bassist Ben Tucker.

Bolton said he is extremely excited to see these two jazz greats be recognized and honored with this year’s award.

“Tucker has been a groundbreaker in a lot of areas,” he said. “He’s been playing for over a half-century and was a pioneer in back radio. He was actually the owner of the first black radio station in Savannah, Ga., promoting African American music as well as jazz, and he’s made jazz education a priority. He’s been an incredible contributor (to jazz music). Lou Donaldson, who celebrated his 88th birthday last year, has been one who has maintained a bluesy as well as R &B sound within his jazz repertoire. He’s expanded the genre and bridged that gap through his music and his interpretation. Both men have been innovators in their field as well as ambassadors of the music.”…

…Lou Donaldson, on the other hand, has a much more laid-back approach to educating music lovers about jazz and what jazz means.

With a tone as smooth as soft butter, Donaldson said he believes rhythm and blues is the root of jazz music and listeners can certainly hear it in horn.

“I try to educate ’em and entertain ’em,” he said. “That’s my style.”

During a telephone interview from his New York City home, Donaldson said he just returned from a European tour where he played in Paris, London and Milan – as well as many other cities.

He said he has so many favorite songs, that he can’t pin down just a few, but he’s looking forward to playing for area concert goers and once again meeting up with his protege, Tucker.

Tucker said that he’s excited about coming to Harpers Ferry and sharing the stage once again with Lou Donaldson.

“I’m bringing my big violin with me,” said Tucker with a smile in his voice.

Tucker and Donaldson will be joined on stage by the Howard Burns Quartet where they will perform many of their old jazz favorites.

The 11th annual Don Redman Award Ceremony and Concert will be held outside on the grounds of Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry. For more information, call 304-535-6029.