Friday, September 22

Tribute to commemorate jazz legends


Show will feature faculty pieces performed by UCLA Jazz Ensemble

A&E


  Daily Bruin File Photo Steve Black,
left, and Billy Higgins give a jazz performance in
UCLA’s Royce Hall last year.

By Chris Young

Daily Bruin Staff


On Saturday night Royce Hall will house a tribute to trumpeter
Miles Davis and drummer Billy Higgins.

The concert’s proceeds will go to the Higgins family and a
scholarship will be started in the Jazz studies major in honor of
Higgins, who passed away on May 3.

In addition to featuring songs composed by Davis, a medley of
original compositions will be performed by an ensemble of jazz
studies students in honor of Higgins.

“One of the things the world respects most about America
is jazz,” said guitarist Kenny Burrell, head of the jazz
studies program. “It would be a joy for students to learn
more about it.”

Faculty member Airto Moreira, who played with both Davis and
Higgins, said that the gathering of so many musicians this Saturday
is a momentous occasion.

“Just to have all these names play together, it’s
something that doesn’t happen a lot,” Moreira said.
“For those people to get together to play, it could be once
in a lifetime. Some of them I haven’t seen in 10
years.”

Burrell acknowledged the teaching talent at UCLA.

“I feel we have one of the best programs going,”
Burrell said. “Herbie Hancock, the famous piano player, said,
“˜UCLA has the best jazz faculty in the
country.’”

The UCLA Jazz Ensemble, made up of UCLA students, will also
perform special arrangements by jazz studies faculty.

Corey Hogan, a fourth-year music student, said that one of the
songs composed for Davis by faculty member Garnett Brown,
“Pieces of Miles,” was played by Davis himself years
ago.

Burrell said that Davis was known for his musical
innovations.

“He would pick creative, forward thinking musicians
““ people like John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock,
Chick Corea ““ and every so often he’d get a new group
and they would break new ground musically,” Burrell said.
“He was responsible for a lot of the movements in jazz. He
was also a great musician himself.”

Guitarist, composer and jazz studies faculty member Anthony
Wilson said that Davis’ playing style was very relaxed, slow
and languorous.

“He was an incredible composer,” Wilson said.
“One example of that is a song on his “˜Kind of
Blue’ album, “˜Flamenco Sketches,’ which was
basically five scales. He would improvise on each one as long as he
wanted, then move on to the next one.”

If memories of Davis provide much of the material for the
concert, Higgins provides the spirit. Higgins taught a performance
group and gave drummers private lessons at UCLA.

“Billy was a great musician and a great teacher,”
Burrell said. “That’s why the number of students paying
tribute to him is so big, and most of them aren’t even
drummers. He had a profound impact on all his students and touched
a lot of people in a positive way.”

Other musicians always sought to work with Higgins, one of the
most famous and recorded jazz drummers in history.

“His touch was very light, very elegant,” said
Moreira, who teaches a world performance ensemble class at UCLA.
“He was very thoughtful of the other musicians, he would
never be a show-off.”

Outside of UCLA, Higgins fostered jazz education at the World
Stage, a performance space he co-founded in Leimert Park. The World
Stage is renowned in Los Angeles as a center for music and art
where people of all ages and backgrounds can meet to share their
love of music.

Hogan said that everything about Higgins was positive.

“Kenny (Burrell) told us to write four to eight bars for
Billy Higgins, whatever you were feeling about Billy,” Hogan
said. “I was thinking how happy he always was, and whenever I
saw him he was always smiling.”

Hogan hopes that Saturday’s concert will spark an interest
in people who aren’t familiar with jazz.

“Most people who aren’t familiar with jazz still
know who Miles Davis is,” Hogan said.

“So they can come and see what Miles Davis has done, all
the tunes he’s written, all the people he’s influenced.
At the same time they might take something else away, that this is
really good music and it really hasn’t been given its
due.”

MUSIC: The Tribute to Miles Davis and Billy
Higgins is at Royce Hall Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $36, $20,
$10 at UCLA’s Central Ticket Office, (310) 825-2101.

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