The Jazzcat

KPFK 90.7 RECOGNIZES A HERO: A TRIBUTE TO BILLY HIGGINS Hosted by LeRoy Downs and Mark Maxwell

by on Apr.27, 2011, under Events

1st Annual KPFK Hero Awards and Tribute: Billy Higgins@Catalina’s 05.01.11

By George W. Harris

I’m not sure which was more crowded at Catalina’s, the floor filled

with tables of well-heeled jazz devotees, or the stage with musicians

whose lives were touched by the musicianship and friendship of the late

Billy Higgins, the subject of KPFK’s tribute. Hosted by the indefatigable

team of LeRoy Downs and Mark Maxwell, and directed by pianist John

Beasley, the 3+ hour musical extravaganza included auctions, video,

taped and written tributes by fellow musicians, and a rotating concert

that appealed to every musical taste.


Presentations included a video tribute by Cedar Walton, a call in by

Bobby Hutcherson and an email from Ornette Coleman, while the music

focused on the friendship and inspirational encouragement provided by

the respected drummer. John Beasley commented how Higgins told him,

“you’ve got to smile more often,” while pianist Eric Reed reflected that

he was taught that “It’s your job to make everyone else sound good.”


Musically, it’s pretty hard to beat having Charles Llloyd delivering

an a cappella reading, or delivering a duet with drummer/vocalist John

Densmore. Vocalist Kamau Daaood delivered an inspiring poem about

Higgins, mixing names of drummers with quotes from the Bible, while

Smitty Smith laid down some serious stick work. It was definitely a

night for drummers, as Clayton Cameron elicited some astonishing

brushwork supporting Kenny Burrell, Reed and Trevor Ware on a pair of

scintillating tunes dedicated to Higgins. Reed’s piano work got the

crowd into a Pentecostal mood with some spirit filled chords.


The front line of Charles Owens/ts, Phil Ranelin/tb and Richard

Grant/tp delivered some classic hard bopping in front of Smith’s shuffle

rhythms, preceding Will Calhoun, who mixed his synthesized djembe an d

synthesized flute with an avalanche of drumwork behind the traps.

Beasley and Daaood joined into the excitement, with some of the

adventurous spirit creating some of the most outside music of the



George Duke teamed up with Stanley Clarke and drummer Ronald Bruner

Jr for some catchy fireworks, particularly on a dreamy take of “Autumn

Leaves,”while vocalist Dwight Trible followed by joining with Beasley,

Ware, Dextor Story and Leon Mobley for some musical exuberance. Mobley’s

riveting solo spot lead into a collective jam with just about everyone

from the preceding hours, making a perfect cherry on the top for a

delicious Sundae performance. If this is the portend of events to come

from KPFK, count me in!


Jazz legends Charles Lloyd, George Duke and Stanley Clarke headline

this all-star line-up of performances celebrating Billy Higgins and

benefiting Pacifica Radio KPFK.

Billy Higgins

Click either picture above to purchase tickets

$75 General Admission:
$125 Admission and VIP Reception:

Including performances by

Clayton Cameron, John Densmore, Poncho

Sanchez, Leon Mobley,

Kamau Da’ood, Dwight Trible, Will Calhoun, Phil


 and featuring John Beasley, Musical Director.

April 5, 2011 – North Hollywood, CA. KPFK

90.7 is Pacifica Radio for Southern California, known for its mission to

further peace and social justice and to uplift the community and

celebrate excellence through music and the performing arts. This

commitment is further realized through the launching of the 1st Annual

KPFK Hero Awards and Tribute Concert on May 1, 2011 at Catalina Bar and

Grill, 6725 West Sunset Blvd., Hollywood California 90028. The event

will begin with a VIP reception at 5:30pm followed by a Musical Tribute

that starts at 7:00pm. This groundbreaking and long overdue celebration

of the life and work of Billy Higgins has prompted an outpour from other

legendary Jazz icons who will come together on stage and perform to

celebrate Higgins’ legacy. The concert line-up includes such greats as

Charles Lloyd, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Clayton Cameron, Poncho

Sanchez, John Beasley, Leon Mobley, Kamau Da’ood, Dwight Trible, Will

Calhoun, Phil Ranelin, Charlie Haden and many other special invited

guests. John Densmore, one of the founding members of the Doors, will

also be on hand to dedicate a poem to Billy.

The entire night will be

hosted by KPFK’s own Mark Maxwell and  personality LeRoy Downs.

KPFK DJ Carlos Niño, host of Spaceways Radio, will spin during the VIP


The KPFK Hero Awards and Tribute is the result of a heartfelt on-air

discussion between Charles Lloyd and KPFK Music Director Maggie LePique

about Billy Higgins. During this conversation, LePique realized that we

were nearing the 10th anniversary of his death and thought how relevant

it would be to celebrate his life and body of work. She enrolled Kasey

Lovelace, Music Consultant and friend of the Higgins family to develop

the idea into a full-scale event. Catalina Popescu, owner of Catalina’s

Bar and Grill, honored her long-term friendship by donating her world

renowned venue for the salute from Higgins’ esteemed contemporaries. All

instruments donated for the performance will be given to The World

Stage as a gift in honor of Billy Higgins.

Higgins, from Los Angeles, played on Ornette Coleman's first records,

beginning in 1958. He then freelanced extensively with hard bop and

other post-bop players, including Donald Byrd, Dexter Gordon, Joe

Henderson, Milt Jackson, Jackie McLean, Pat Metheny, Hank Mobley,

Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, David Murray, Art Pepper, Sonny Rollins,

Mal Waldron, and Cedar Walton. He was one of the house drummers for Blue

Note Records and played on dozens of Blue Note albums of the 60s. On a

whole, he played on over 700 recordings, including recordings of rock

and funk. In 1989, Higgins co-founded a cultural center, The World

Stage, in Los Angeles to encourage and promote younger jazz musicians.

The center provides workshops in performance and writing, as well as

concerts and recordings. Higgins also taught in the Jazz Studies program

at the University of California, Los Angeles.

KPFK 90.7 FM is a member station of the Pacifica Radio network,

established in 1949 by peace activist Lew Hill in Berkeley, California.

The Pacifica network consists of five radio stations throughout the

country: KPFA in Berkeley, CA; KPFK in Los Angeles, CA; WBAI in New

York, NY; WPFW in Washington D.C; and KPFT in Houston, TX. In addition

to the active radio stations, there are over 100 affiliate stations

around the country and abroad and the Pacifica Radio Archives,

preserving the voices of artists, activists and progressive journalists

since 1949.<>;<>

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