Sunday, October 20, 2013

Don Durkee's Favorite Concert - D.C. Festival!

Pianist Don Durkee is a Palm Coast resident who's been mighty busy over the years, working with familiar Florida jazz names like Linda Cole, Ray Guiser, Bill Doyle, Pat D'Aguanno, Ron Gillotti, Bill Prince, Jan Crawford, Roland Fleming, Barry Kelsey and many, many more! His attractive playing is characterized by both thoughtfulness and verve. Last year he released a wonderful trio album called "Our Delight".

Don with Pete Gemski 2012
Don attended an almost unbelievable happening during one of the greatest peaks of jazz: a festival sponsored by JFK's Music Committee of the People to People program. The festival took place at the Uline Arena (now the Washington Coliseum). Below is Don's telling of the incredible experience!

1st International Jazz Festival May 31 - June 3 1962

I went to this concert my senior year in High School... I was just getting into jazz, buying 33 1/3 rpm records and listening to them on an inexpensive record player which I had bought at a drug store for about $24.95.

I went to the Saturday evening event and it was a barn-burner. It looked like a sellout crowd because I
did not see many empty seats.Oscar Peterson Trio led
Oscar Peterson Trio, early sixties
off the set with guest artist Roy Eldridge followed by Gerry Mulligan Quartet. Horace Silver Quintet was next and then Herbie Mann. Dave Brubeck had his quartet, and then up stepped Monk with his unmistakable harmonic style and his quartet. The Clara Ward Singers provided a nice change of pace. Duke Ellington Orchestra led off with "Cottontail" at a very high tempo. I remember it had the whole place jumping. "Mood Indigo" followed by "Satin Doll" were next. I went down to the stage after the concert and spoke with several of the Ellington sidemen: Johnny Hodges, Aaron Bell, Cat Anderson and Paul Gonsalves. I got them to autograph my program as well.

Basie Band in 1962

I returned for the Sunday, June 3 concert. The Count Basie Orchestra opened to a packed house. I remember the fantastic trumpet section featuring solos by Thad Jones and Snooky Young. And yes, the drummer was a powerhouse named Sonny Payne. I think Frank Wess and Eddie Newman were also there in the sax section along with Marshall Royal. I remember Basie trying to wave the spotlight off him and onto the soloist then performing. He tried several times and the lighting man finally got the message. An uptempo chart called "Whirlybird" had the crowd going and then, of course, they ended with the immortal "One 'O Clock Jump". The Slide Hampton Octet was next followed by Gloria Lynne and the Earl May Trio.
Thelonious in NY 1962
Then the George Shearing Sextet.

I had a great two days there and saw/heard a lot of the top masters and legends of jazz. By the way, I don't
remember how much tickets cost, but they were not expensive. A lot of things were cheaper back then.

Thanks so much Don - for giving us a glimpse into such a momentous occasion for jazz and the world! You can check out some of Don's music and playing at his very stylish blog. - PCJ

Woody Herman at the Uline Arena;
photo courtesy of 1959 BHS Mustangs.

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