From Sean Quinn at the South Orange Performing Arts Center:
More than 20 of the world’s top Jazz performers including Jimmy Cobb, Lenny White, and Steve Turre will take the stage to play a medley of classics in tribute to Williams’ nearly six decades in music. It will all culminate in a performance from the man of the hour himself, who will play a selection of original material that is sure to delight genre diehards and novices alike.
For the Camden-bred Williams, being recognized is a tremendous source of pride. But what he finds just as exciting is getting the chance to perform alongside his friends in a show that honors the history of Jazz, a genre he believes should be celebrated
“It’s America’s national treasure,” said Williams, who has participated in several Giants of Jazz concerts through the years. “Jazz music is the most organic art form that we have in this country, and its relevance is shared by the whole world. Jazz is all about the human spirit.”
Williams has certainly made an indelible impact on Jazz in the years since launching his career while still in high school in 1959. The Grammy-nominated bassist has performed with everyone from Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock, two icons he credits for shaping him into the musician and person he is today. He has also earned the reputation of being a mentor to countless young performers, including Giants of Jazz founder and fellow bassist John Lee. In fact, Lee called Williams “one of the all-time greats” for his willingness to offer guidance to those starting out in the music business.
But the evening will not just honor Williams — it will also celebrate 20 years’ worth of Giants of Jazz concerts and the musicians they recognized. Starting out as a fundraiser for South Orange’s free arts in the park series, the annual tradition has paid tribute to a who’s who of Jazz titans including Barry Harris, Frank Wess, and Billy Taylor. It has also become acknowledged as a must-see event for genre aficionados in the New York area, accumulating a wealth of talent for a stellar show at an affordable price.
And Lee promises this year’s festivities will be no different.
“It’s such a unique evening,” Lee said. “It’s like a mini Jazz festival for two or three hours. To hear this many guys in one night is really special.”