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Jazz Masters deliver knockout tribute to Powell

Last month’s virtually sold-out show at Flushing Town Hall was billed as “The NEA Jazz Masters: A Tribute to Benny Powell.” The concert, held Nov. 19, was a wonderful celebration of Benny Powell, the late, great trombonist and original member of the returning Flushing Town Hall act originally billed as the Jazz Masters.

Past members of this illustrious troupe were the late bassists Earl May and Percy Heath, Jimmy’s Heath’s older brother, and the now-retired fluglehorn/trumpet icon Clark “Mumbles” Terry.

Performing on tenor and soprano sax during the two-set show was the indefatigable Jazz Masters band leader/composer, past chair of the Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music Jazz Studies Program and a 2003 NEA Jazz Master Fellowship winner, Jimmy “Little Bird” Heath.

Heath was accompanied by the internationally renowned jazz pianist Dr. Barry Harris, another NEA Jazz Master, and Grammy nominated guitarist Jim Hall, with Heath’s younger brother Albert “Tootie” Heath doing honors on drums. Filling the position that tenor and bass trombonist Benny Powell had held since the inception of the FTH Jazz Masters many years ago was the trombone virtuoso and Count Basie Band and Art Blakey Jazz Messengers alum Curtis Fuller.

Accompanying these senior Masters of the genre was a regular Jimmy Heath ensemble member, the journeyman, future great jazz bassist, a graduate of the LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Julliard School of Music, David Wong.

Hearing classic songs such as “Mellow Tone” by Duke Ellington, with Jim Hall soloing on the delicate selection “Sentimental Mood,” the upbeat ensemble piece “Blue Bassa” followed by the Milt Jackson vibes classic “Bags Groove,” the patrons were treated to an eclectic demonstration of captivating jazz performance only the Jazz Masters of Flushing Town Hall could have pulled off.

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