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March 2006
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Russ Long Tribute

Photo Gallery

Luke Polipnick interview

Jazz Patriot Jean Reldy

Sam Myers Memorial

Annette Murrell

September 2006
Feature Articles

Music news, interviews, opinion

Tribute to Russ Long at Jardine's

proves a most wonderful night in KC


By Butch Berman


KANSAS CITY, Mo.--Being sent to Wentworth Military Academy for my high school and junior college days in the mid-1960, only 40 miles from Kansas City, I was privy to some wonderful musical acts at a wide variety of venues.


Butch outside Jardine's [Photo by Ruthann Nahorny]I was diggin’ the likes of a very young Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones with Mick Taylor, my first acid trip with Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan before anybody knew about him, Tracy Nelson, Elvis Costello, Al Green, etc. You get the picture. Regardless of where I lived, my musical ventures to KC continued through my rock years to my current involvement with jazz. The list is too long to mention, as I tried to catch everyone I could while living here in Nebraska—Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Shirley Horn, Charlie Haden, J.J. Johnson plus current stars like Karrin Allyson and Bobby Watson, to name a few. 


Ruthann Nahorny [Photo by Butch Berman]With this kinda background, I knew the Aug. 6 tribute for everybody’s beloved icon—pianist, singer and songwriter extraordinaire Russ Long—arranged by my dear friend, BMF consultant, and one of the best bassists anywhere, Gerald Spaits, was going to be a gasser, and how! The magical evening of love and fabulous jazz surrounding this ever-so-talented, lovely man may have been one of the most wonderful nights I ever spent in KCMO. Special kudos goes out to the entire staff of Jardine’s jazz club for working with Gerald to make this blessed event a reality.


Feeling a little like Perry Mason with his trusted secretary and assistant Della Street at his side, I took Ruthann Nahorny to accompany and assist me on this soulful sojourn. My dear wife, Grace, had not yet returned to the states after nearly six weeks visiting her African homeland, family and friends she hadn’t seen in many years. She knew Ruth and I had our act together, and insisted we go when Tom Ineck had to pull out due to other commitments.


Trumpeter Stan Kessler [Photo by Butch Berman]The joint, as they say, was rockin’, swinging ‘n’ swaying, and packed to the gills. It was standing room only for the multitude of fellow players, fans and friends assembled there that evening. Click here for the program naming all of the tunes and astute cats that gelled perfectly. Gerald rounded up an interesting collection of musicians to showcase 17 of Russ’ jazzy creations, including a four-piece horn section led by master of ceremonies and former KC trumpeter Gary Sivis, with his “musical son” trumpeter Stan Kessler, new Westport Art Ensemble sax player Dave Chael, trombone veteran Arch Martin and the amazing reedman Charles Perkins, who I had never heard live before. I was blown away by his astounding chops.


In all, the horn arrangements came off so well that Russ even mentioned re-recording some of his tunes with this lineup and new charts. Drummers Ray DeMarchi and Tommy Ruskin split sets with Gerald remaining on bass, and Paul Smith on piano played his ass off as always.


Russ Long at the piano [Photo by Butch Berman]Everyone stood when Russ got up to do a few tunes and reminisce about his 50-plus years in show-biz. Even though Russ carries oxygen with him when he leaves his home, he played and sang with strength and gusto, bringing his throng of teary-eyed followers to their feet several times. And if this wasn’t enough of a treat, 50 years’ worth of Kansas City’s greatest divas were present to open their mouths and hearts and sing to the man who has provided such beautiful melodies and stories for them to sing, as well as accompany them, probably from coast to coast, covering over a half century—Karrin Allyson, Julie Turner, Carol Comer and Marilyn Maye.


Karrin Allyson, Julie Turner, Marilyn Maye and Carol Comer [Photo by Butch Berman]

Ruth and I were sitting within earshot of these legendary songstresses, which was a trip in itself, seeing everyone from so many eras having such a good time, together all at the same time. Each artist had her own little thing goin’, remembering all the gigs with Russ, often resembling a roast, as the laughter and tears flowed like the wine that night…in abundance.


By the time you read this, my foundation will have wined, dined and met with Gerald and the rest of the Nebraska consultants to discuss our involvement in seeing that all of Russ’ compositions are copyrighted, published and   professionally charted to stand the test of time.


Even though the years and some health problems have taken some of the starch out of Russ Long, he’s still the hippest of hip and the coolest of cool. The Berman Music Foundation will be eternally grateful to Gerald Spaits for getting us involved with helping to produce Russ’ dynamite “Never Let Me Go” CD and, now, this tribute…a night to remember always.



Photo Gallery

Snapshots of Russ Long tribute at Jardine's

Marilyn Maye and Karrin Allyson [Photo by Butch Berman]

Julie Turner and Tommy Ruskin [Photo by Butch Berman]

Marilyn Maye and Karrin Allyson

Julie Turner and Tommy Ruskin

Russ Long and fans [Photo by Butch Berman]

Russ Long and fans

Leslie Spaits

Russ Long signs autograph [Photo by Butch Berman]

Karrin Allyson in conversation [Photo by Butch Berman]

Karrin Allyson in conversation

Ginny Coleman [Photo by Butch Berman]

Russ Long signs autograph

Ginny Coleman



Artist Interview

Guitarist reunites with Twin Cities "home boys"


By Tom Ineck


Transplanted from Minneapolis to Lincoln a couple of years ago, guitarist Luke Polipnick reunited with a couple of “home boys” June 3 at the Zoo Bar, when the trio—under the name Luke Polipnick and Volcano Insurance—showcased some of the guitarist’s many jazz compositions.


The concert was presented with the support of the Berman Music Foundation.


I caught up with Polipnick while he and his wife were traversing rural Iowa by car recently. From behind the wheel, he chatted by cell phone about his musical ongoing journey. At the tender age of 25, it already has evolved through numerous styles as he seeks a medium of musical expression.


A student of classical piano as a child in Minnesota, he first was drawn to the guitar by the sounds of late ‘60s icons Jimi Hendrix and Cream-era Eric Clapton. His ears were first opened to jazz in a big way when he got a copy of John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” at age 15.


“That was a big revelation for me. From that point on, I started doing my own research. I got into a lot of the greats of the ‘50s and ‘60s, kind of by trial-and-error. I didn’t have a lot of people telling me, ‘Oh, you should check this out.’” Among his serendipitous discoveries were Charles Mingus and the entire Miles Davis oeuvre, but jazz still was a “foreign language” to the musician in Polipnick.


“I always had a fair amount of facility, but trying to figure out what was going on with the harmony and how they would develop the melodies” took time, he said. “It was a really organic process. I didn’t start trying to do it until I was ready. It’s been a really slow process to get where I am now, and I’m still really working on it.”


Polipnick moved to the Twin Cities area while still in high school to attend St. Cloud University, majoring in trumpet. He later transferred to Hennepin Technical College in suburban Minneapolis to study audio recording. But at age 19 he was ready to pursue his growing jazz impulses. He already had done some transcription, but had not devoted himself entirely to the effort until then. He soon dropped out of school, and made some important connections with like-minded musicians.


“I got in with a crowd of musicians when I was about 20. That’s when I dropped out of college to just practice. I was working in a restaurant and practicing all day. It was kind of the young Minneapolis vanguard,” he recalled. “They inspired me to take it really seriously. It was the first time I really had someone to hang out with. They encouraged me to listen to everything.” It was, as Polipnick says, a “real-world music education, rather than a conservatory education.”


Among that Minneapolis vanguard that helped to shape the young guitarist’s direction were bassist Chris Bates and drummer Joey Van Phillips, who joined Polipnick at the Zoo as Volcano Insurance. Bates, a decade older than Polipnick and a first-call player in the Twin Cities, first performed in Lincoln with The Motion Poets in an October 1997 concert at Westbrook Recital Hall, sponsored by the Berman Music Foundation. He returned last year with trumpeter Kelly Rossum for a BMF-sponsored performance Nov. 10 at P.O. Pears. Polipnick and Phillips are near-contemporaries who have been friends since their teens.


Minneapolis remains a music hotbed that welcomes all styles of jazz, from the most accessible mainstream sounds to the free-jazz fringes.


“There’s always been a strong patronage of the arts there,” Polipnick said. “I don’t know if it’s because the winters are really harsh or what. There’s always been a scene. It’s a really hot spot right now because of bands like The Bad Plus,” referring to the popular trio blending jazz with pop, hip-hop and rock influences for crossover success.


It was the Twin Cities-inspired freedom of expression that impressed Polipnick.


“That was the real fire for me, getting to see these guys on a nightly or weekly basis, who were really pushing it, that were working in all aspects, from the traditional to the avant-garde.”


When Polipnick landed in Lincoln, word got around quickly that a talented young guitarist was in town. He met some of the city’s longtime jazz players, including guitarist Peter Bouffard and pianist John Carlini, with whom he landed a few duo gigs. He joined the local funk outfit Electric Soul Method, appearing frequently in the area and playing on the band’s debut CD. He has since left the ESM, but still explores musical ideas with some of the former bandmates.


Playing opportunities in Lincoln are rare, but Polipnick likes the city and makes the most of it. He does not consider himself a prolific writer, but 90 percent of the tunes in the Volcano Insurance repertoire are originals and, of those, 90 percent were penned by him. Asked to describe the trio’s music, he called it “really eclectic. It’s modern jazz, for lack of a better handle on it, but we have some stuff that’s fairly rocking.” The band draws on dub, funk, blues, Latin and other influences, for a mix that’s sure to keep listeners interested.

Among his favorite jazz guitarists Polipnick named modernists Bill Frisell, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Ben Monder, as well as the legendary Jim Hall.

Luke Polipnick and Volcano Insurance appeared Saturday, June 3 at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln.


Colorado Correspondent

Reminiscences of a jazz patriot


By Dan Demuth


Author’s note: Jean Reldy, as of this writing, is a friend, historian of both jazz and WWII, jazz writer, jazz booster, and a jazz record and memorabilia collector, all at 87 years young. He has had numerous articles and photos published in jazz publications. In the last few years I have had the pleasure of many great conversations with Jean as they relate to the above topics and at my suggestion he agreed to let me put some of them in writing with which to share with others.


Colorado Springs, CO.—With bullets and shells exploding all around, a young man seeks a safe haven during the Japanese battle against the Americans’ push to retake Manila. While running to safety, he is hit in three places with grenade fragments but survives, only to see hundreds of other men, women and children ruthlessly shot and killed by the retreating, angered Japanese soldiers.


Jean Reldy sits in his office in Colorado Springs surrounded by jazz memorabilia. [Photo by Dan Demuth]It is January 1945. Just three short years earlier, Jean Reldy, a young Frenchman living with his father in the Philippines, was enjoying what had to have been one of the most sublime lifestyles anywhere in the world. Linen suits, broad-brimmed hats, two-hour lunch siestas with evenings alive with clubs, bars and shows. Lazy days enhanced by balmy breezes, a now long-forgotten lifestyle that could be enjoyed by everyone—not reserved for just the rich and famous. In 1941, with the Japanese takeover, Jean becomes an unwilling guest of the Japanese for the duration of the occupation.


His earliest recollections go back to 1924, living in his native France, and listening to English dance bands such as Jack Hylton and Ambrose via the BBC. His first record was a copy of Louis Armstrong’s “Take It Easy” b/w “Jubilee Stomp” (on the English Parlophone label), where his affinity for jazz and Louis in particular had its start. This record remains in Jean’s extensive collection. His serious study of jazz was encouraged upon acquiring a copy of Hugues Panassie’s “Le jazz hot” and their paths were to later cross.


He was also able to attend several jam sessions, some organized by the Hot Club de France and featuring such musicians as Django Reinhardt, Frank “Big Boy” Goody, Bill Coleman, Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins, musicians who were currently touring or living in Europe.


But around 1936, Jean began his Philippine odyssey. A brief interruption in 1939 found him in the French Army in Saigon prior to returning to Manila, during which time he had his first jazz article published—of which he still has a copy.


Curiously, during the occupation, the Japanese allowed the showing of American movies, as well as jazz performances by local musicians. Jean recalls attending a jazz program sponsored by the Red Cross (a black revue named “Drum Boogie”). He recognized Bill Coleman and met up with him afterward at a party that lasted until those fabled wee hours.


Manila was eventually liberated and around 1950 Jean immigrated to the states, living in California, then Texas and finally settling in Colorado Springs. Once in the states, he quickly took advantage of the music available at live performances, while continuing to enhance his burgeoning record and book collection.


In L.A., he met up again with Benny Carter, and as a guest at his home he was surprised to find out that Carter was also an excellent pianist. Guitarist T-Bone Walker was another of the first musicians he recalls meeting, followed shortly by some personal meetings with Duke Ellington, a man he describes as an absolutely extraordinary and beautiful person.


In 1954 he attended a concert in Texas and met Armstrong for the first time. He relates that the band included Trummy Young, Billy Kyle and Barney Bigard. 1957 found Jean living in Houston. Also there at the time was Lightning Hopkins, to whom Jean gave a guitar as a gift. Arnett Cobb was another acquaintance who frequently had Jean as a house guest.


“Freedom” still had a price at this time for some less-fortunate citizens. One of Jean’s earliest recollections has him and a visiting friend from France attending a Lavern Baker performance in Houston. The audience was racially mixed, but with segregated seating—unbeknownst to the new citizen and his guest. With the program ready to begin and some seats closer to the performers in the “colored” section still empty, Jean and his friend attempted to move to them, only to be told by a burly bouncer that “… they weren’t allowed to sit with the niggers.” But, the intolerance shown in situations such as this didn’t dim his enthusiasm for this country.


Reldy's poster of the Monterey Jazz Festival, bearing autographs of Duke Ellington, Al Grey, George Duvivier, Clark Terry, Ray Brown, Harry Carney, Cootie Williams, Harold Ashby, Rufus Jones, Paul Gonsalves, Joe Benjamin, Willie Cook, Russell Procope, Harold Johnson and Norris Turner. [Photo by Dan Demuth]He again met up with Ellington, becoming friends with Russell Procope, and recalls going to a night club with  Ray Nance and Cat Anderson, who both got up and played trumpet “….beautifully for a couple of hours.” Another acquaintance was jazz writer and critic Stanley Dance, whom Jean interviewed in Brownsville, Texas, for publication in the Hot Club Bulletin newsletter. At another of Duke’s appearances, Jean met up with Johnny Hodges and Russell Procope, chauffeuring them to the concert. Buster Bailey and Tyree Glenn were also recipients of Jean’s “taxi” service when all three attended a private party.


As Jean reminisces, names of other jazz celebs with whom he socialized are casually mentioned—Clark Terry, Jo Jones, orchestra leader Milton Larkin, Ray Bryant (at Arnett Cobb’s home), Milt Hinton, Billy Taylor, Ellington introducing Jean to Freddie Jenkins. Trumpeter Willie Cook, who was working in a music store, was another acquaintance.


Blues are also a part of Jean’s life as evidenced by his meeting such luminaries as Cleanhead Vinson, Gatemouth Brown (who became a good friend), John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor. His tastes defy his age—Roomful of Blues is another favorite.


In 1978, Jean moved to Colorado Springs, promptly joining the Broadmoor Jazz Club and the Pikes Peak Jazz and Swing Society. He has lent his recordings and knowledge of Ellington’s music to local radio stations for programs commemorating Duke’s birth date. During this period, he again caught up with former Basie sidemen Sweets Edison, Lockjaw Davis, Jimmy Forrest and Al Grey, resulting in another published interview for the Hot Club Jazz Bulletin.


During one of the Dick Gibson jazz parties at the Broadmoor Resort Hotel, Jean and his charming wife, Georgette, hosted at their home, Jackie Williams, George Duvivier, Doc Cheatham, Scott Hamilton, Al Grey and Johnny (Otis) Johnson.  Others he met at these parties included Jay McShann, Vic Dickenson, Ruby Braff, Ralph Sutton, Gus Johnson, Kenny Davern, Joe Newman, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, Peanuts Hucko and Trummy Young. A subsequent interview with Young was published. Gibson also presented a series of programs at the Paramount Theatre in Denver during the winter months, which Jean would attend. He has dozens of cassette tapes recorded at these sessions—perhaps surreptitiously.


During all of this time, Jean kept up a correspondence with Hugues Panassie and in 1974 while in Marseille he was invited to be a house guest of Panassie and his wife, Madeline Gautier. This was just three months before Panassie’s death. Later, the Hot Club of France was to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and Jean suggested to the Montauban (France) civic leaders that a street be named after Panassie and a plaque placed on the home where Hugues and Madeline had lived for so long. They embraced the idea and invited Jean as the keynote speaker at the dedication.


“This music (jazz) has occupied in my life a tremendous place (and) permitted me to meet with jazz aficionados in the Far East, in Indo-China, in the Philippines, in California, Texas and of course here in Colorado,” says Jean.


As would be hoped and expected, Jean has a vast collection of photographs taken during these events, of which he is justifiably proud. He has written for jazz reviews in Spain and in France (the Hot Club newsletter), as well as newsletters in Houston, New Orleans, Denver and Colorado Springs.


As to the word patriot—Jean is as serious, conscientious, unabashed and ebullient a patriot of the U.S. as one will ever meet. He will long remember the Japanese occupation and the subsequent liberation by American forces, which ultimately provided him the opportunity to participate in this wonderful amalgamation of talent we call jazz.




Blues legend Sam Myers was multi-talented


Sam Myers died July 17 at his home in Dallas, after recent throat cancer surgery. Myers was diagnosed with cancer in February 2005 and had been unable to perform since December 2004. Fronting Anson Funderburgh's band since 1986, Sam was well known for his brilliant harmonica playing and unmistakable vocals. I was very proud to call Sam Myers my friend. I enjoyed many enlightening conversations with this articulate, scholarly man, whether at a blues venue or when I'd call him at his home in Dallas. The blues world will miss Sam Myers for what he gave. I will miss him because he was my friend. What follows is an article that I wrote on Sam last year.


By Phil Chesnut


Texas guitar slinger Anson Funderburgh and his band, the Rockets, are always a huge crowd pleaser during blues festival season. With Anson's superb guitar, along with the tight ensemble playing of the Rockets, this band by itself would be a treat for any blues fan. But the band has a ringer. That ringer is Sam Myers.

Sam Myers [Illustration by Phil Chesnut]Sam Myers is a truly unique personality in the blues community. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Myers is very articulate and scholarly and is known as the "Deacon of the Delta." His mid-set sermons are an experience in themselves. He's always been very free with a story or with his own wisdom, including his encyclopedic knowledge of the interstate highway system.


Sam's harmonica is a brilliant combination of Chicago and dripping Mississippi mud, which complements the impeccable phrasing of his vocals. At 69, Sam is not only sharp as a tack; he's also one of the truly nice guys in the business.


Born in Laurel, Miss., in 1936, Sam showed his musical talents early, earning him a scholarship to the American Music Conservatory in Chicago. This move was the genesis of his life in the blues. Sam was soon showing his multiple musical talents on the south side with the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Hound Dog Taylor and Robert Jr. Lockwood. It was, however, with the legendary Elmore James that Myers first created blues history. These days, Sam is the frontman, with his finely honed harp style and unmistakable vocals, but back then, he was an equally adept drummer. From 1952 to 1963, through the golden era of Elmore James' career, Myers was his drummer. That's Sam's smooth shuffles that one hears on virtually all of Elmore James' classic recordings. After Elmore's death in '63, Sam became a true itinerant blues musician and fan favorite on the Chicago and chitlin' circuits, until 1986. That's when Sam met Anson.

Playing the same venue in Jackson, Miss., Anson asked Sam to join his band. Thankfully for the whole blues world, Sam said yes. This was the beginning of one of the most prolific partnerships in blues history. Since then, Sam and Anson have toured the world many times over, spending 300 days a year on the road. I figure they've done close to 6,000 performances together! And they just keep gettin' better, as Sam, Anson & the Rockets proved last year, winning a Handy Award (their 10th) for best traditional recording for their CD "Which Way Is Texas?" on the Bullseye label.

The Rockets, with a super solid rhythm section, and the hot B3 and piano of John Street, along with Funderburgh's true blue guitar, set the perfect groove for this legendary bluesman, Sam Myers. After a three week tour of Europe, ending in June, this Texas-, Chicago-, Delta-influenced band will begin another American blues festival tour, to the delight of the many blues fans lucky enough to see them. Sam Myers, along with Anson and his Rockets are a testament to how a band can be successful and still true to the blues.


Phil Chesnut, a former Lincoln resident now living in Seattle, is an occasional contributor to the Berman Music Foundation newsletter.



Annette Murrell retains hope after tempest


Lincoln, Neb.—Annette Murrell and the survivors of Hurricane Katrina have something in common. Both had their lives destroyed by catastrophe.


Hurricane Katrina survivors saw their lives destroyed by weather; Annette’s was destroyed by illness. Yet this jazz stylist and blues woman, who is a fixture of the Lincoln music scene, proclaims in the liner notes of her latest CD, “May I testify that after the tempest, there is calm and hope among the debris? . . . May I testify that at age 47, even though I live in the eye of a whirlpool, it is well with my soul?”


Recorded Sept. 7, 2005, "Annette Murrell: Live at the Zoo Bar!" celebrates Annette’s birthday and the inauguration of her arts company, Dr. Diva Productions, which produced the CD. The occasion was so special that Lincoln’s Mayor, Coleen Seng, proclaimed that date Annette Murrell Day.


Annette’s CD puts the listener right in the middle of her swinging birthday bash at the Zoo Bar. Her band (consisting of local favorites Jim Williamson, Mac McCune, Peter Bouffard, Ed Love, and John Scofield) rocks hard and soulful, providing Annette the support she needs to belt out blues tunes such as “Long John” and “Hey Bartender!” Annette and her fellas also know how to deliver subtle and lyrical jazz ballads like “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” and “Crazy He Calls Me.” However, the pièce de résistance of the recording is Annette’s heartfelt, a cappella rendition of the gospel standard “It Is Well with My Soul.”


Annette is donating a percentage of her CD's profits to the Zoo Bar, KZUM Radio, and various charities assisting the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. For more information about Annette and how to purchase her CD, check out her website: www.annettemurrell.com.



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