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Honoring jazz greats

Don Redman's legacy grows with fourth concert

Don Redman's legacy grows with fourth concert

June 23, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Frank Wess was playing tenor sax with the Count Basie Orchestra when Basie learned Wess also played the flute, an opportunity Basie and Wess seized upon in future concerts.

At the time - it was the '50s - flutes and jazz were a rare combination.

"It was at one time, but it's not now. There's flute players all over now," said Wess, 83, in a recent phone interview from his home in New York City.

Wess and Vince Prudente will perform, backed by the Howard Burns Quartet, at the fourth annual Don Redman Heritage Awards & Concert on Saturday, June 25, at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The event is sponsored by the park and the Harpers Ferry Historical Association.


It was Redman who informed Basie of Wess' talent with the flute, Wess said.

"(Redman was) one of the premium musicians of his day. Great composer. Great player. He had some great bands," Wess said.

Redman (1900-64), considered the first great jazz arranger, was one of Storer College's most successful graduates, said Todd Bolton, supervisory park ranger. Storer College, which is part of the national park, was one of the first schools formed after the Civil War to educate freed slaves.

Compared with other famous West Virginia musicians' impact on their genres, Redman's "pebble in the pond had a greater ripple in West Virginia history than anyone else," Bolton said.

Wess and Prudente will be honored Saturday with Don Redman Heritage Awards. The awards honor individuals who were influenced by Redman or carry on Redman's tradition of integrity, quality and jazz, and of being a jazz ambassador and educator, Bolton said.

Prudente, 67, of New York, wrote arrangements for Duke Ellington's band, playing with Ellington the last two years of his life, 1972-74.

When writing arrangements, Prudente said he incorporated band members' improvisational ideas, which is what Redman did when Louis Armstrong joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra.

"I think, not really knowing it, but I think he influenced the way I did some arranging," Prudente said.

Prudente, who has performed with Wess, will play the trombone this Saturday.

"I'm honored to be getting an award with Frank Wess," he said.

If you go ...

What: Fourth annual Don Redman Heritage Awards & Concert

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 25

WHERE: Lawn tent on the grounds of Mather Training Center. Fillmore Street, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

COST: Free

Rain or shine

Seating will be provided, but concertgoers are welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

Directions from Hagerstown: Take Md. 65 south to Sharpsburg. Turn right on Md. 34 west. Continue through Sharpsburg, across the Potomac River into Shepherdstown, W.Va. Turn left on German Street at four-way stop. Go through town, and turn right on Princess Street. Turn left on W.Va. 230 and follow to U.S. 340. Turn left onto U.S. 340. Turn left on Washington Street to Harpers Ferry, continue through town of Bolivar for one mile as the road rises, and turn right on Storer College Place. Free parking is available in lots behind training center.

For information, call 1-304-535-6298 or go to on the Web.

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