Tony Williams and Bill Cosby Team up to Raise Scholarship Funds for Future Musicians

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson > Wow! It's already nearly half past September, and I've go so much to write, I hardly know where to begin. I'm having a hard time keeping up with myself, let alone all the activities that are going on around here. But I can't let this month pass without completing my report on Tony Williams' Labor Day Jazz Scholarship Fundraiser, held August 30 through September 2, at the Embassy Suites-Airport, in Philadelphia, PA. > I have a deep appreciation of, and love for Jazz; but I am by no means an expert or officianado when it comes to all the greats who have made Jazz what it is today. Many of us know of Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Bird Parker, and so many others who have made it the culturally iconic music it is today. Well artists on those levels and more graced the stage in the ballroom of the Embassy Suites, and engaged an audience with their talent, all for a good cause - to raise money for youth who wanted to pursue a professional career in music. > The concept was the genius of Mr. Tony Williams, jazz saxophonist extraordinaire. He started it 23 years ago after it became obvious that the school systems were not fostering the genius of the African American students. > I had met Tony Williams at LaRose Jazz Club in Germantown, where he performs on Monday evenings to a packed house of loyal followers. The club has been in existence for quite some time,and caters to a sophisticated mature crowd. Many of these same patrons were at the Embassy Suites. However, the popularity of this event goes well beyond Philadelphia, with attendees from Delaware, Maryland, DC, and New Jersey. The package deal included hotel rooms, meals, and nearly non-stop music from breakfast in the morning through dinner and late night shows. > The guests and musicians all come together over the Labor Day holiday weekend not only to play great music, but for the good cause of making sure that our youth will have the financial wherewithal to go forward with their careers as they progress through higher education. > Among the artists performing at the event was the great bass guitarist Gerald Veasley. His mastery of the bass is extraordinary. He did things with that instruments that defied comprehension. His jazz saxophonist, Chris Farr, was as smooth as silk. The entire group had the audience held the audience captivated for more than an hour as they channeled Mingus and other jazz greats. Tony TNT Jones, former keyboard artist who played with Nina Simone for ten years, also performed with Frank Bey. When I say the week end was filled with Jazz greats, I mean it. > But greatest thing about this event was that none other that Dr. William H."Bill" Cosby himself, not only performed, but kept us in stitches for the better part of an hour, as he regaled us with his finest stand up comedy routines. We laughed ourselves silly as he chided the audience about trying to chime in on his jokes: "I work alone up here. I don't need you to chime in and tell me my lines." > Now 76 years old (yes, he admitted to being 76), Coz is funnier than ever without a script or a teleprompter! And he was truly on a roll that evening. He has been on the education circuit appearing at schools and colleges throughout the US, with an entourage called "The Reunion Band" - consisting musicians on acoustic bass, trumpet, sax, keyboards, and drums. And while he carried out his comedy routine, he would prompt the band membes to come in at particular intervals to punctuate his routine. Of course they never came in on cue, which in and of itself was hilarious enough. But Cosby's efforts to get them to do so was even more side splitting. > However, when one of the scholarship recipients was called to the stage to demonstrate why he was awarded a scholarship, Cos asked him if he knew Honeysuckle Rose, an old jazz standard that came out probably during his grandfather's era. When he said he didn't know it, Cos went on a tangent that was sheer genius - all off the top of his head, pulling the youth into the joke as well. At the culmination of the chiding, he got on the drums and played along with the Reunion Band, much to the amazement and delight of the entire audience. So who knew Bill Cosby knew how to play drums? And he's not only good, he's great at it!! >Suffice it to say that Bill Cosby is one of my heroes. And I'm clearly not alone in that sentiment. The ballroom was packed, nearly standing room only, with fans who came just for that evening's performance - a chance to see the master at work. And he did not disappoint. Throughout his routine he would interject words of wisdom about the necessity to get a good education; fostering good education; and other value laden messages - much to the delight of the audience. It really was more like an amen corner, since the audience was in full accord with him on the importance of supporting higher education in a hands on manner. The mastery of Bill Cosby is that he couches his messages in his comedic style, making it unforgettable and applicable at the same time. As I said, the brother is a genius! > This was my first year attending Tony Williams Jazz fund raiser, but I can guarantee you it won't be my last. Those of you who were not there, but still want to contribute to the scholarship fund may do so by logging on to: www.tonywilliamsjazzfestival.org. and sending in a pledge. The more we contribute, the more we ensure the future of Jazz, our original cultural music here in the US. > And check out LaRose Jazz Club, 5531 Germantown Ave, in Philadelphia on Sunday and Monday evenings - doors open at 6:00pm. > Also, if you are aware of a young man or woman who is already studying for a music career, please feel free to recommend them for a scholarship, as well. Stay Blessed & ECLECTICALLY BLACK Gloria Dulan-Wilson
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