Jim Harrison Tribute Concert
Sunday, October 25th, 2009
On October 25th VTY Jazz once again presented another "Sunday Serenade" this time dedicated to long time Jazz impresario Jim Harrison. Another SRO crowd of hard-core Jazz fans packed the Bassline in Mount Vernon, NY to show their respect to a man that has dedicated his life to this wonderful art form called Jazz. Once again a handpicked band consisting of tenor saxophonist Patience Higgins, Jimmy Cozier on alto and flute with Bruce Harris on trumpet rounded out the front line. The rhythm section consisted of Donald Vega on piano, Santi Debriano on bass and drummer Chuck McPherson.

The concert opened with the Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne standard "It's You Or No One". The band left no doubt they were ready to swing the afternoon away. The next tune was the Thelonius Monk composition "In Walked Bud". Patience had said that it could be renamed for today as "In Walked Jim". Jimmy opened up with a fabulous alto solo full of energy and imagination before turning it over to Patience on soprano saxophone. Patience solo had a fire and edge to it that had the attention of all his band mates. Bruce followed with a solo that you could see and feel he was into the moment. Donald and Santi followed with some amazing solos of their own while Chuck was laying down a solid rhythmic foundation. The next tune was the Tadd Dameron original "On A Misty Night". This had Jimmy on flute and Bruce's muted solo accompanied by Chuck's brush work was an eye opener. Patience's tenor and Donald's piano was followed by a fantastic bow solo by Santi. I might add that Chuck's use of the whole drum kit during this tune was a credit to his sensitivity. The Band followed with the Cole Porter original "Just One Of Those Things". This tune was played at such an upbeat tempo that had everyone at the Bassline ready to leap out of their seats. Patience opened up with a solo on tenor that set the bar very high for each soloist that followed. Bruce followed with a solo that soared like an Eagle high in the Mount Vernon sky. Jimmy's solo on alto followed and took it right through the roof with a frantic solo full of lightning licks, spontaneity and creativeness. I should mention that Chuck McPherson's drum work was a great springboard that kept each soloist wanting to take it higher than the next. I couldn't help, but notice how intently Jimmy, Bruce and Santi was listening to what rhythmic patterns that Chuck was lying down. The first set closed out with the classic "All Or Nothing At All" of which the concert was titled. This tune featured some great solos by Bruce, Jimmy on alto saxophone, Patience on soprano saxophone, Donald and Santi. Couldn't get over how intently Jimmy was listening to Santi's solo and just kept shaking his head in what the gifted one was doing.

The second set opened with the Jackie McLean original "Dig". Jimmy's solo was swinging and you could see Jimmy was into the moment swinging from one run to another. The highlight of this tune was the Santi Debriano solo accompanied by Chuck's brush work. Damn, it was a conversation that had an audience as well as the musicians mesmerized. "A night in Tunisia" was the next tune. Santi's amazing intro had him dancing and swinging from side to side before the head was even played. Jimmy's solo on alto was amazing as he went from one chorus to another. Bruce followed Jimmy's solo with one that you knew the young man had listened to the tunes composer Mr. John Birks Gillespie. Patience on tenor followed Bruce with a solo that might have been his best of the afternoon. I might add that he was fighting the effects of being caught in a rain storm the night before. You couldn't tell listening to him as he tore his solo apart. Then on top of that Donald Vega pitches in with a monster solo of his own that had both hands flying over the keyboard. While listening to this band take "A Night In Tunisia" out I wondered "what could they do to follow that". Then the unthinkable happened as a request from Jim Harrison, Patience brought up the beautiful Diva of song Ms. Antoinette Montague. I want to add she was not only the first vocalist to appear at a "Sunday Serenade", but the only artist ever permitted to sit in. This band was on fire and when Antoinette came on stage there was a raging inferno that was ready to tear apart the Bassline. Ladies and gentleman she tore the "The Song Is You" inside out and had the Bassline audience going wild. She had body language that reminded this listener of Betty Carter. You knew the Bassline audience was not going to let her go after that and she was savoring every moment with her cats. She was then joined on stage by the guest of honor himself "Jim Harrison" and they both did a heart wrenching version of "How Deep Is The Ocean". Let me tell you "Mr. B has nothing to worry about". She took it out with the blues classic "Every Day I Have The Blues". There were no blues on this day as VTY Jazz welcomed Ms. Antoinette Montague to their family. The Concert closed with the Earl Bud Powell composition "Dance Of The Infidels" one of Jim's favorite. What a marvelous choice to close the afternoon.

This concert was very special because it paid tribute to Nat and Arnie's mentor, Jim Harrison. To watch Jim with all of his family and friends you knew they were having the time of their lives. I know somewhere in that room the spirit of the women who stood by him for forty-five years Fanny was definitely there. It was without a doubt a concert that will be talked about for a life time. If you haven't made a "Sunday Serenade" yet all I can tell you is "there is nothing like this happening in Jazz today". "One in mind, one in body, one in spirit, and one in consciousness". "That's Jazz"!
- Arnie Perez
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