Diane Witherspoon in Concert
with The Billy Higgins Legacy Band
Diane Witherspoon is arguably one of the best living female jazz vocalists in our time. She has had a long career performing in the U.S., but has spent her recent years performing mainly abroad. This concert is Ms. Witherspoon's real comeback to the Bay Area where she has a fan base who has missed her dearly.
Norman Landsberg (Musical Director, piano)
Myron Cohen (drums), Carla Kaufman (bass)
Jesse Levit (reeds)
Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 8pm
at Piedmont Piano Company
1728 San Pablo Ave. (at 18th), Oakland, CA
STANDING ROOM ONLY!
$20 - To reserve tickets with your credit card, please call (510) 547-8188
Before the show at 7:15pm, Mindy Fong, owner and creator of Jade Chocolates, will serve up some yummy chocolate delights, and Farina Blanco Winery will be offering tastings of their 2010 Pinot Noir and 2011 Chardonnay from Sonoma Mountain.
Singer, composer, and producer, Diane Witherspoon began singing as a child (with 8 siblings), and often performed in her church choir. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and now residing in Las Vegas, NV, Diane attended Saint Olaf College and the University of Minnesota. Diane has taught music and conducted workshops for students in California public schools and in Tokyo, Japan. Inspired by her sister, Shirley Witherspoon, a former Duke Ellington vocalist, and second cousin, Jimmy Witherspoon, a legendary blues singer, Diane is now an international singer with over 20 years experience. dianewitherspoon.com.
West Coast jazz drummer Myron Cohen was with the late, great jazz drummer, Mr. Billy Higgins very closely for the last few years before his passing. Higgins requested that Myron work with Diane as much as he could after he passed - and Myron has several times. He created The Billy Higgins Legacy Band and has assembled a group of musicians that is more than befitting to accompany Ms. Witherspoon. They will be covering tunes from the re-issued CD, 'You May Never Know' featuring the music of Cedar Walton, as well as new material and fresh arrangements of familiar ones.
Musical Director and Pianist, Norman Landsberg (Pointer Sisters, Lenny Williams); Drummer, Myron Cohen ( Mike Bloomfield, Bobby Hutcherson, Roland Kirk, Charles Mingus, Tony Williams); Double Bassist, Carla Kaufman (Wesla Whitfield, Ed Reed, Denise Perrier, Kenny Washington & more); Reeds, Jesse Levit (James Moody, Wynton Marsalis, Khalil Shaheed, Frankye Kelly & more)
About The Billy Higgins Legacy Band
The BHLB was conceived by Myron Cohen in response to his own experience of musical mentoring by master drummers Louie Bellson, Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, John Rae, Dave Black, Sonny Freeman, Buddy Miles, Subash Chandran, Ed Thigpen, Billy Hart, George Brown, and most notably the late, great, Billy Higgins. In addition to playing music, Cohen also has a disarming talent as a raconteur and collector of jazz stories from his friendships in the jazz community. In the last few years of his life, drummer Billy Higgins gave a great deal to Cohen including some fascinating stories of his life and music. Billy understood Cohen’s commitment to mentoring young musicians–especially drummers–and arranged for Cohen to work with specific West Coast jazz musicians that would appreciate Cohen’s musicality. The one vocalist Billy really wanted Cohen to work with was Diane Witherspoon. It is in the spirit of Billy’s musical mentoring that The Billy Higgins Legacy Band (BHLB) was formed, and it continues to evolve with Cohen as the leader. Debuting tonight is a recent configuration of the BHLB featuring Diane Witherspoon.
NORMAN LANDSBERG, Musical Director, Piano:
Norman Landsberg has been part of the bay area music scene for many years. Though trained in classical piano, he was able to draw upon the cultural diversity of his native New York City to develop a familiarity with a wide range of musical tastes and styles. His professional career started as one of the founding members of the rock group Mountain, featuring guitarist Leslie West. (Samples from songs Norman co-wrote as a member of Mountain have found a new life in current hits by such artists as Jay-Z and Kanye West, winding up in films like Barbershop and The Taking of Pelham 123.) He first came to the Bay Area with his group Hammer to record an album for Bill Graham’s San Francisco Records, and subsequently moved here permanently, becoming vocal arranger and music director for the Pointer Sisters, touring extensively and making numerous television appearances with them. He went on to work with a variety of artists such as pop singer Lenny Williams (known for his work with Tower of Power). Norman’s arranging skills and studio savvy have helped to establish him as an independent producer. Along with his wife, keyboardist Socorro de Castro-Landsberg, they run Landsberg Music Productions, a full service music production company providing music direction and arrangements from custom “minus-ones” to full album production, live performance, as well as scoring for commercials and films such as Ramona S. Diaz’ award-winning documentary, Spirits Rising.
For past several years, Norman has been part of the pop piano-duo team “Landsberg & Yount,” frequently performing with their quartet and as guest soloists at symphony pops concerts with both major and regional orchestras around the U.S. They had the distinction of being one of the first artists to be asked to participate in the prestigious YAMAHA Concert and Artist program, exclusively performing on Yamaha concert grands at all their engagements. He also leads a 9 piece latin-jazz / funk band under the name “Manny Moka.” landsbergandyount.com
MYRON COHEN, Drums:
As a baby sitting in a high chair, Myron Cohen astounded his mother by tapping out syncopated rhythms with his spoon. Progressing to a field drum by fourth grade, Cohen strapped on his drum daily and marched to school – even through the snowy Wisconsin winters. This self taught innate 'enthusiasm' led Cohen at fourteen years old to be hired as the drummer for The Mary Jay Trio, a very popular jazz group led by vocalist Mary Jaber who performed in clubs throughout Wisconsin in the 1950s and early 1960s. At fifteen, he spied an advertisement for the Slingerland Drum Co. sponsored Gene Krupa’s National Amateur Swing Drummers’ Contest and persuaded his high school buddy to ‘appropriate’ his aunt’s car to drive Cohen to Chicago so that he could enter the drum contest. Louie Bellson was the judge and Cohen ended up placing second out of about 300 drummers. What was most significant about this event, other than the consequences of taking the car, was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Louie Bellson, who recognized Cohen’s passion for the drums.
Moving on to his student years at University of Wisconsin, Madison, Cohen joined an R&B band, The Fabulous Imitations, featuring the renowned blues singer Tracy Nelson. Nelson encouraged Cohen to move to San Francisco and from there he went on to play with such luminaries as Michael Bloomfield, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Otis Spann, Ron Stallings, Azar Lawrence, Ravi Coltrane, Donald 'Rafael' Garrett, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter, to name a few. Whether in sessions, live performances, recordings, or just informal jams, these musical experiences have given Cohen a huge vocabulary to share on the bandstand.
CARLA KAUFMAN, Double Bass:
Carla Kaufman is an active bassist in the Bay Area. She has worked with many great musicians including Calvin Keys, Mike Greensill , Wesla Whitfield, Ed Reed, Clark Terry, Frank Morgan, Yolanda Nickel, David Udolf, Frankye Kelley, Donald "Duck" Bailey, Ed Kelly, Smiley Winters, Jules Broussard, Noel Jewkes, Pete Yellin, Vince Lateano, Pete Magadini , Benny Watson, Eddie Marshall, Denise Perrier, Frank Jackson, Kenny Washington, Vernelle Anders and many more. She has also played in the California Symphony, The Women's Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony and other orchestras and big bands.
JESSE LEVIT, Reeds:
A native of Oakland, California, Jesse Levit is one of the hottest up-and-coming saxophone players around. After winning numerous honors and being chosen for both the SFJAZZ High School All-Star Band and the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Star Band, he has had the opportunity to share the stage with such greats as James Moody, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Daniels, Peter Erskine, Sam Rivers, Lenny Pickett, Khalil Shaheed, Mark Levine, Benny Green, Stefon Harris, Frankye Kelly, Seamus Blake, and Rufus Reid. By the time he was eighteen, he had been recorded on three CDs: Oaktown Jazz, Pocketized, and Excursions. He performs regularly on sax and keys with the JRo Project and with his group, the Jesse Levit Trio, in numerous venues around the Bay Area and beyond. He is currently in the process of recording his debut album at Live Oak Studios in Berkeley, California.