A drummer’s tribute to the great Philly Joe Jones

Jazz Arts Initiative’s November edition of The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater will feature renowned drummer Kobie Watkins performing a tribute to drumming legend Philly Joe Jones.

A jazz drummer, educator, and conductor, Kobie Watkins leads the Triangle Youth Jazz Band in Durham between his teaching duties. Watkins has always admired the work played out before him from jazz pioneers like Philly Joe Jones.

“The drum is my voice. It was his voice…It was always about the music for Jones.”

Watkins has been manning drum sets since he was 8-years-old when he began playing the drums at his church. Further exposure to different kinds of music broadened his horizons.

“Whatever genre of music I could listen to or play, I did,"  said Watkins.

A resident of Durham, Watkins has had a remarkable career as a jazz drummer and educator across the Midwest and the Carolinas. After receiving multiple music degrees in Illinois, Kobie and his wife spent time in Idaho before moving south.

Kobie Watkins has always held Philly Joe Jones in high regard, from both a pedagogical standpoint as well as a humble fan.

“Jones’ rudimentary practices introduced me to methodical techniques that I had never heard,” he said. They just took me over.”

Philly Joe Jones’ incorporation of these rudiments into his playing, basic fundamentals behind most percussive music, has captured and inspired audience members and performers alike since his first appearances onstage.

Jones is perhaps most famous for playing with greats like Miles Davis, who employed the drummer full-time in his quintet and was known as Davis’ favorite drummer.

In the 1970’s, Philly Joe Joes led a fusion group, Le Grand Prix, toured with Bill Evans, recorded for Galaxy, and worked with Red Garland. In 1981, he led the group Dameronia.

Watkins is no stranger to performing with legends, as he has appeared alongside musicians such as Arturo Sandoval, Ira Sullivan, and Sonny Rollins.

The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theatre will include the hits that featured Philly Joe Jones, such as classics from the aforementioned artists.

Watkins hopes that audience members will gain an insight into the life of Jones, including his work as a civil rights activist, as well Jones’ R&B side that has influenced countless Jazz performers.

For more information about The Jazz Room shows on Friday, November 17 at 6 pm and 8:20 pm and Saturday, November 18 at 7 pm and 9:15 pm visit www.thejazzroom.org. 

For more information visit www.thejazzarts.org.

Victor "Red" Atkins

Victor "Red" Atkins on his upcoming JAZZ ROOM playing Horace Silver!

Victor “Red” Atkins is known for being a “powerful and unconventional” piano player. Victor is a native of Selma, Alabama and currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. Atkins had an early start with Jazz as his father loved Charlie Parker. At home he learned how to appreciate music and develop an ear for more complex music.

He began his professional career on Delfeayo Marsalis’ “Pontius Pilate’s Decision” record. After recording he moved on to be a professional pianist alongside many notable musicians such as Elvin Jones, Mark Whitfield, Nnenna Freelon, Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, and Leroy Jones. Subsequently he returned to school to finish his Masters at the Manhattan school of Music. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1998. Atkins is well-known for his work with Grammy-winning, New Orleans-based Los Hombres Calientes as well as his re-working of Duke Ellington's "Such Sweet Thunder," a tribute to William Shakespeare.

Not only is Victor Atkins a professional musician but also a tenured professor at the University of New Orleans, where he teaches theory, composition, jazz keyboard, and applied piano. He also works with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on compositions, and has played with them numerous times. Victor Atkins credits Donald Brown as his mentor. His studies with him had the largest impact, and it is when he developed a sincere appreciation for Jazz.

He currently says that Horace Silver is his favorite professional pianist. Victor Atkins says that he is looking forward to the JAZZ ROOM and playing Horace Silver. “He’s a recognized musician and arranger. Horace covered a lot of ground and came along at an important time in history and music. His writing was impeccable and his playing is recognizable; both of which draw from a very sincere place. He had a unique way of combining hard bop and soul…most people wouldn’t marry the two well... Horace Silver is an essential piece of American music history.”   While he is here he will concentrate on quintet arrangements, and says “it will be party.” Victor is looking forward to the JAZZ ROOM audience experiencing music he calls “accessible, but so incredibly melodic, sophisticated, and complex.”

About Gregory Agid

Gregory Agid

We had the unique privilege to be able interview Gregory Agid for his upcoming Jazz Room performance.  Greg, originally from Hawaii, moved to New Orleans at a young age for his father’s work. Although Greg had always loved music it grew once his uncle introduced him to the clarinet.

“Once playing the clarinet for a few years I went to New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. After graduating High School I went to Loyola University to receive my BA in Music/Classical Clarinet.” Immediately after I graduated I went on to be a 5th-7th grade band director for a year after which I took a leap of faith to start a professional career as a clarinetist.  

His love for Jazz started at a young age, when he attended the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp.

“This is where I fell in love with Jazz. It was amazing to go from being a student to an intern to a mentor over the past 15 years.  This is where I met Alvin Batiste who later became a wonderful mentor and teacher to me. The camp has grown substantially, and it has been amazing to be a part of it.” At camp Alvin Batiste provided him with one of the best pieces of advice, “You’re going to figure it out.” Even though he no idea what that meant at the time, and did not understand how that could be good advice…..he has always referred back to the quote from his former mentor.

Alvin Batiste and Delfeayo Marsalis have had a significant impact on Greg’s musical career. “Alvin Batiste was my clarinet mentor for 7 years. I could type a book about my experiences with him. I met Mr. Bat at the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp in 2000. He was also the chair of the Jazz Department at NOCCA while I was a student in High School. He is the reason I play music, he is my musical father, and he showed me everything! All of my interactions with Mr. Bat were absolutely surreal.” 

“Delfeayo Marsalis has been a mentor for the last several years. I have worked with him in his quintet and Uptown Jazz Orchestra. [He] also supervised my first CD, Mystery Blues. “

It is clear that Agid is looking forward to revisiting Charlotte. “December was the first time I had been to Charlotte, and I loved it. I am looking forward to being back in the city and spending some more time with Jazz Arts Initiative and playing with the some great musicians again. The caliber of musicians that is provided for these shows is top-notch, and I cannot wait to be able to work with all of them again.”

About Eileina Dennis

We had the chance to catch up with renowned jazz vocalist, Ms. Eileina Dennis last week as she prepares to grace the JAZZ ROOM with a tribute to the legendary, “divine” Sarah Vaughn (with strings).

Here is what we learned about the talented internationally renowned vocalist…..

When did you start singing? How have you learned to be a vocalist?

Eileina has a strong gospel music background, with much of her earlier experiences singing in church as a child. Several family members are musicians, including her father and siblings. Amazingly, Eileina is a self-taught professional artist. “The stage is my teacher” says Dennis, and “I learn on a daily basis” from being on the stage and performing. As a musician, she says her learning will never end.

Who are some of your most favorite musicians, and musical influences?

Eileina had a large list of those who influenced her music. Some of those notable musicians are “Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Stanley Turrentine, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Wynton Kelly, Roy Haynes, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Betty Carter .... There’s an endless list.  Each adds and brings a high level of creativity, excellence and depth to the art form of Jazz which I strongly admire and believe in.” From her own experience, she does not know who she is truly influenced by until performing on the stage.

What musical genres do you study? Are there any particular ways that you practice?


Eileina studies different musical genres, all while doing other daily tasks. (This would be considered her “practice regiment”.)  Dennis says, “this ranges from Brazilian, classical and of course Jazz.  At best, I go over tunes in my head so it’s more of a mental session, which can be done anywhere.   For example I do not walk around my place singing when I am not on stage. I do not know of any exercises, but I've heard some singers do this but I have no idea what that would entail.” Currently, Dennis does not coach or teach other vocalists, but has been parts of seminars world-wide, including workshops in Brazil, Italy and France.

 

What can we expect from you at the upcoming JAZZ ROOM show?

“I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with drummer Ocie Davis (which is how we met) and we discussed many times of doing a show together and now the opportunity has finally presented itself in the guise of this tribute.   All I can share is that I am an admirer of Sarah Vaughan... there will always and only ever be ONE Sarah.... I'm not in the business of emulating or trying to be ‘Sassy’ ... All I can do is to perform well, and to try to reach the bar of excellence which has been set.  You may or may not be able to pick out a few inflections but I'm looking forward to honoring this amazing American Jazz icon and hope to do justice to the performance.”

Trombonist Mitch Butler: Balancing performance and education.

Bench-Playing-Final-1

“When I went to school I had no idea you could persue a professional career in performing. I was going as a Music Ed major and I was going to be a band teacher.”

Trombonist Mitch Butler, a native of Raleigh NC, has been balancing professional performance and music education at a very high level for 20 years.   He received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music Performance from East Carolina University.

 

“That’s where I got serious about music partly because I had very good teachers, partly because a lot of my peers were really serious about music and there was a really good environment at that time to get serious about music, and the music I got serious about was Jazz….I’ve been fortunate to be around good people and good teachers and then as I got older, to be around other great musicians... It’s a very good community to be a part of, especially in North Carolina, it’s very nurturing…”

 

Later, Mitch earned his Doctor of Music Arts degree in Music Performance from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently the Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at California State University – East Bay in Hayward, California.  He balances his work in higher education with regular perfomances in the Bay Area during the school year.  His regular gigs include weekly sessions with organist Wil Blades, and performing with Marcus Shelby’s Big Band.

 

Though his focus for the last 7 years has been teaching and administration at the college level, next year Mitch plans to focus on performing full time and looks forward to teaching younger kids on an individual level.  For those young musicians he stresses patience.

 

 

“Learning Jazz, there is no easy button at all, whatsoever.. Just be patient, listen to the advice of those that are around you, those that have been doing this….forget about the easy fix.”

 

On what audiiences should take away about JJ Johnson’s music:

 

"There’s a great biography on JJ Johnson called The Musical World of JJ Johnson...It talks about his organizational sense and you can here it in his recordings, in his composition, you see it in the life that he led in music...JJ Inc is a great record for hearing how he puts things together, how he trades solos with drums...and then the Jay and Kai recordings with he and Kai Winding…"

 

Mitch Butler will be paying tribute to JJ Johnson, Friday August 21st at The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater.  Tickets available here for two shows at 6pm and 8:15pm.

 

Connect with Mitch through his website , and on Facebook.


Lastly,look forward to an album Mitch will be cutting next year.