In Loving Memory: 2015

In Loving Memory:

Katharina Angela Walker (Artist Manager & VP Of King Edward Music Group)

Stephanie Haynes-Gutierrez (Jazz Vocalist)

Joel Scott (Pianist/Arranger/Musical Conductor)

The Los Angeles Jazz Community and the music community in general has been stunned by the number of beloved jazz spirits who have made their transition in 2015. In the month of October alone, we lost pianist/arranger/producer/ composer, Joel Scott, Pianist Lee Shaw and vocal master, Mark Murphy. I spent a weekend celebrating the life and times of two amazing women who also made their transitions recently; Stephanie on September 27th and Katharina on October 7, 2015.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tina Walker
Tina Walker

An artistic jazz aficionado who left us this year was Katharina Angela Walker, who many of us affectionately referred to as “Tina”. (September 6th, 1965 – October 7th, 2015).

Tina’s musical tribute took place at the LA 3rd Church Organization in Leimert Park, ministered by Reverend Lisa Meggs on October 30th at 1pm. The list of entertainers who sang the praises of Tina began with James Arnold, who performed “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Tina had long been the wind beneath the wings of her beloved son, Alex, and her dear friend and artist, Jean Shy. Tina managed Jean’s career for nearly 4 decades. The trio, who accompanied Mr. Arnold, was made up of Karen Hernandez on piano, Gary Gibbons on drums and Michael Saucier on bass. Vocalist Cheryl Barnes performed next, changing the words to Percy Sledge’s famed “Please Send Me Someone To Love” to fit the occasion singing ‘Please Send The World Some Love’. It was appropriate because Tina Walker was full of love and as Jean Shy testified, “…didn’t have a prejudiced bone in her body.” She was always spreading love with her sweet smile and warm disposition. It was Tina who arranged several world tours for singer, Jean Shy and she was the person behind the recording and release of Jean’s CD deals. Other notable singers who performed were Sherwood Sledge, Henry Jackson, pianist Liz Kinnon, Madeline Thompson of the Clara Ward Singers, Linda Alvarez, pianist extraordinaire Tony Coleman and Mel Carter. At the conclusion of the musical tribute, Reverend Meggs suggested that their musical tribute was strong enough to take on the road and bless the nation. I agree.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Stephanie Haynes
Stephanie Haynes

I pulled into Catalina Jazz Club parking structure around quarter to one in the afternoon. It was practically full with cars. I knew the life celebration of Stephanie Haynes would be packed and I was right. The all-star opening band was already on-stage, led by host and trumpeter, Bobby Rodriguez. He was joined on the bandstand by composer/arranger/trumpeter Steve Huffsteter, Paul Kreibich on drums, Richard Simon on bass, Ron Escheté on guitar and Mark Gutierrez on piano. They opened appropriately with “The Greatest Love of All.” Huffsteter’s tone on his trumpet solo melted across the audience like warm honey-butter. Rodriguez was full of energy and pizzazz, while Escheté was cool and laid back. On his solo, Simon bowed his way across the upright bass with precision and finesse. Kreibich always shines and swings hard on his drum set. Tonight was no exception. Thus began a stage of revolving doors, where musicians entered and exited in tribute to a great lady of tenacity and song. When Rodriguez spoke of Stephanie’s love of Latin music and especially the Brazilian side of song, Robertito Melendez joined the stage on congas and the rhythms thickened and soaked us in Latin energy. People were dancing in their chairs. Afterwards, Paul Gormley switched places with Richard Simon on the upright bass and Joe LaBarbera manned the trap drums.

Bobby Rodriguez told the audience how he used to play at a now defunct club in the Venice Beach area called The Come Back Inn and that a young pianist used to come watch and listen to the jazz. That young jazz musician was none other than the great Billy Childs. The amazing arranger/composer/producer and prolific pianist took to the stage, tinkling the keys and tickling our interest with the melody of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and then leading the band into a stellar version of “Alone Together.” When the Grammy Award winning Childs relinquished the piano bench, another Los Angeles icon, arranger and producer, Billy Mitchell took his place. He was joined by Quentin Dennard on drums. Vocalist Barbara Morrison was invited to the stage to great applause. Morrison said her memory of Stephanie Haynes happened a decade ago in Dana Point when they performed in a concert titled, “Ladies Sing the Blues”. Seated like the queen of song that she is, wearing a crown of white hair and touching our hearts with her timeless voice of beauty, Morrison sang “My One and Only Love.” You could have heard a pin drop in the crowded room. Billy Mitchell tore the piano up playing that blues song.

Cheryl Barnes came to the stage with husband Phillip Cabasso accompanying her on the piano. Barry Zweig took to the guitar. Barnes told us that she loved Stephanie and her “…straight-ahead, no bullshit attitude…”. Before singing Percy Sledges’ standard blues song, “Please Send Me Someone to Love” she read a letter that Stephanie’s good friend and fellow vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia has sent. Cathy is currently performing and teaching in Japan and could not attend in person, but her letter to Stephanie, who she considered one of her best friends and as close as a sister, touched all of our hearts. Carl Saunders brought his trumpet mastery to the stage along with the remarkable Justo Almario on tenor saxophone. Bassist Paul Gormley said that he, Karen Hammack and Paul Kreibich had recorded a live CD with Stephanie Haynes some time ago and it had never been pressed up – to help defray hospital costs, they were selling a limited number of that CD at the back of Catalina. Rodriguez announced that Stephanie’s husband, Steve Gutierrez, had been hospitalized that morning and was unable to attend the event, but Bobby would try and call him later; perhaps allowing his well wishes to be mic’d and shared with everyone in the crowded room. (Note: We were unable to reach him that afternoon, but thankfully Stephanie’s husband Steve is now home and recuperating).

Billy Mitchell played and sang “What A Wonderful World” and followed this with a jazzy blues, letting the horn players do their thing. It was great to see Quentin Dennard behind the drums again after a long illness, and swinging with the best of them. The lovely Andrea Miller sang “Skylark.” She was joined by Luther Hughes on bass and Marshall Otwell on piano. Andrea recently was the opening act for an Al Jarreau concert in Orange County. Tiernney Sutton came to the stage and sang “Alone Together”. You can tell when a seasoned veteran takes the stage. Even though we had heard the song earlier in the day, it was brand new when Sutton sang it. She started with just bass and drums, scatting like a horn and morphing into the song lyrics until Gerry Schroeder stepped onto the stage and joined in on piano. Sutton is always a joy to experience. Next, Rodriquez invited a stage full of Latin stars to replicate the famous Tito Puente song “Oye Como Va” including Jimmy Espinosa from the Midnighters on electric bass and Yvonne De Bourbon-Rodriguez on guido percussion instrument. Mark Gutierrez was back on piano, Ray Carrion on guitar and singer George Balmaseda pumped up the crowd with enthusiasm. Of course Bobby Rodriguez was playing notes of happiness from the bell of his horn. We all sang the familiar Puente song along with the band, like an old fashioned house-party.

Dewey Erney followed, taking to the stage with Gerry Schroeder back on grand piano and Ron Escheté returned to the guitar spotlight. While they set up, Merle Kreibich, who produced this royal celebration of Stephanie’s life, told us that it was Stephanie who introduced Merle to her husband. Stephanie was the first jazz act that Merle booked when the singer asked Kreibich to help find her a gig. After Stephanie’s successful show, Merle planned to give a party for the band. However, at the last minute, Stephanie and all the musicians backed out of the party; all but one. Paul Kreibich said he would come to Merle’s party and the rest is history. She praised Stephanie for being the one who started Merle on her path of booking jazz acts for more than twenty years. Perhaps Merle summed it up best when she read the words of legendary composer Richard Wagner: “The human voice is really the foundation of all music and whatever the development of the musical art, however bold, the composer’s combinations, however brilliant … in the end, they must always return to the standard set by vocal music.” This was followed by Dewey Erney’s performance, a vocalist who often worked with Stephanie who sang three songs including “Stardust” and “Once You’ve Been in Love.” The event was overtime when the dynamic Sherwood Sledge walked stage center, standing next to Escheté on guitar. Gary Gibbons took over on drums and I believe that was Jack Prather on electric bass. The final song of the evening was “For All We Know,” emotionally and beautifully performed by Sherwood’s captivating tenor voice. The lyrics echoed in my head – “So love, love me tonight. Tomorrow was made for some. Tomorrow might never come. For all we know.”


Sunday – November 8, 2015

Joel Scott
Joel Scott

Joel Scott: Pianist/Arranger/Producer/Musical Conductor

Joel Scott was a master musician, pianist, arranger, musical conductor, producer and he sang like a bird. He was one of those musicians who could bridge the valley between R&B and jazz; blues and pop, with ease and agility. His passion and love of jazz was obvious, but he often took gigs outside of the jazz world; gigs that also fueled his creative spirit. For example, he became Musical Conductor for The Jacksons, and also for Dionne Warwick.

On Sunday, November 8, 2015 the black-owned and operated H.O.M.E. (House of Music & Entertainment) restaurant and jazz club hosted a celebration of Joel Andrew Scott’s life. He was born July 22, 1956 in Buffalo, New York to the late Dr. Billy and Anne Scott. Joel was one of seven children. His brother David spoke at his celebration of life and told the packed congregation of friends and family that Joel started playing at three years old. He said his brother’s talent was obvious early on. Lester, the third son next to Joel, said that in high school Joel loved the band rooms. Back then you could take instruments home. He said Joel would borrow an instrument, take it home and in a few hours learn how to play it. Lester Scott said Joel had perfect pitch. He could hear music in his head and learned to notate it, writing the notes and chords fluidly.

Joel’s passion for jazz and pop music afforded him many lucrative opportunities. He worked with such greats as The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Dionne Warwick, Freda Payne, Marlena Shaw, Carmen Bradford, O.C. Smith, and El Debarge. Many locally-based vocalists loved his accompaniment including Melodye Dewine, Wendy Barnes-Farrell, Michole Brianna White, Ava Dupree and too many more to list here. Joel was greatly respected. At the tender age of nineteen, he was already playing in jazz clubs and at that time he was approached by The Jackson family to become their musical conductor. Joel’s brother said he was torn, because he wanted to be a respected jazz musician. But his older brother encouraged him to take the gig and continue to grow; telling him to be the best that he could be and to learn from the best. The rest is history.

Joel Scott’s church service (inside the comfortable club venue) was presided over by Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates. Steven Fuller read from the Old Testament and vocalist/pianist Yve Evans read from the New Testament. Wendy Barnes sang “Precious Lord” and lifted us up with her powerful rendition. She had worked with Joel the night before his transition and took a picture of him waving good bye as they left the club, never realizing it would be the last time she saw his infectious smile and heard his mastery on the keyboard. Friends and family lined up to sing Joel’s praises. Everyone talked about his warm and giving nature, his brilliant smile and caring heart. Adam AeJay’e Jackson sang “Stand” and had the audience testifying and shouting like we were in church instead of a jazz room. Mark Cargill played a most beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the violin accompanied by Herman Jackson on keyboard. His violin solo took my breath away. The on-stage band for the afternoon consisted of Joel’s good friend Del Atkins on bass, Herman Jackson on piano, Darrell Crooks on guitar, Derrick Edmondson on saxophone, and Felix Pollard on drums. The room was stuffed with musicians and singers. Joel’s dear friend bassist James Leary was there, and speaking of James-es, the host with the most James Janisse was in the house to introduce the jam session that would follow the service. Kim Foley, Jody Jaress and Ava Dupree were also on hand, while Reggie and Lamont Dozier Jr sat at a table near the back. Nedra Wheeler waved at me from across the room and singers Melodye Dewine, pianist/singer Sonjii Kimmons, and vocalist Marguaret Love were among the many who came to praise Joel and acknowledge their love and respect for his talent. The founder of the Jazzabration Living Legends Foundation, Ms. Linda Morgan, was also present.

Joel’s spirit was released on October 4, 2015 but his legacy remains. You can hear his arrangement on Dionne Warwick’s hit “Always Something There To Remind Me” as part of her 1998 album, “Dionne Sings Dionne” and you can enjoy him playing piano in the movie The Fabulous Baker Boys. He was a perfectionist who strived to be the best and encouraged those he worked with to follow suit. Joel Scott will be missed, but not forgotten.


Other jazz masters and Los Angeles legendary musicians we have lost in 2015 include:

Albert Aarons: Jazz trumpeter with Sinatra and Basie died in Laguna Woods, CA. – Nov 17, 2015.

Orthea Barnes-Kennerly: Jazz /R&B vocalist and minister in Detroit, MI died while touring. – May 15, 2015

Harold Battiste: New Orleans Jazz Great who propelled Sam Cooke’s career. – June 19, 2015

Bob Belden: Grammy winning jazz musician, arranger, and A&R head of Blue Note Records – May 20, 2015

Marcus Belgrave: Detroit trumpeter & member of original Ray Charles Orchestra – May 24, 2015

Ornette Coleman: Innovative saxophonist and Pulitzer Prize winner – June 11, 2015

Andre Crouch: Grammy-winning Gospel artist who pastored in Los Angeles. – Jan 8, 2015

Wilton Felder: Jazz Crusaders saxophonist – Sept 28, 2015

Derrick Gilbert: Writer/performer,Ph.D aka: Poet D-Knowledge produced by Quincy Jones and son of noted jazz bassist, Stan Gilbert; Wrote for the NAACP Image Awards from ’93 – 2001. – Nov 1, 2015.

Stephanie Haynes: Jazz recording artist popular in the Los Angeles area – Sept 27, 2015

Augie Johnson: Los Angeles based vocalist and founder of the group Side Effect – Oct 10, 2015

Louis Johnson: L.A. Bassist discovered by Quincy Jones ie: The Brother’s Johnson. Fondly called ‘Thunder Thumbs’, who played for a variety of R&B, Funk & Pop stars. – May 21, 2015

Orrin Keepnews: Iconic Jazz Record producer – March 1, 2015

B.B. King: Legendary Blues performer – May 14, 2015

Bruce Lundvall: Longtime President and CEO of the Blue Note Record Label – May 19, 2015

Mark Murphy: Jazz vocalist extraordinaire – Oct 22, 2015

Gene Norman: Owned GNP record label; worked at LA radio station KFWB at one time. Nov, 2015

Reynaldo Rey: A mainstay comedienne/actor & opening act at Marla’s Memory Lane jazz club. May 28, 2015

Larry Rosen: jazz music visionary pioneering music with technology – Oct 9, 2015

Lee Shaw: Pianist referred to as the First Lady of Jazz had a recent 2014 documentary made of her life. – Oct 25, 2015

Percy Sledge: Amazing composer of songs sung by jazz , pop and R&B artists alike. – April 14, 2015

Clark Terry: Iconic Bebop trumpeter and NEA Jazz Award winner – Feb 21, 2015

Allen Toussaint: Legendary New Orleans musician and composer. – Nov 10, 2015

Phil Woods: NEA Jazz Master, arranger/composer – Sept 29, 2015