Welcome to News & Views on BillyKerr.com. The purpose of this section is to have a place for Billy to post articles, news about events pertaining to him, his quintet or any other group with which he’s involved. In addition, you might find some comments about a musician or group that Billy finds interesting.

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March 30 , 2010 Volume 1 - #4

At the moment, I’m in the comfort of my office at home, not in a plane or on the run, which seems to be my normal venue for writing my News & Views articles.  It’s not that I have been sitting around staring at the four walls for the last few weeks, but instead I have waited until the dust settled to sit and write a few words.

The year started out with a bang beginning with the annual Vandojam at the Jazz Kitchen at Disneyland, in Anaheim.  Vandoren throws this pre-NAMM Show bash every year, inviting all jazz players to come, hangout and do their stuff.  This year saxophonists Bob Franceschini, Kirk Whalum and Jerry Vivino hosted the party.  I got to do my jazz thing with local saxophonists, Kim Richmond and Adam Schroeder.  As usual, the party was terrific and a great way to start a pretty crazy weekend. 

After NAMM I started to settle into my “normal” routine. At the end of January I played at the world famous Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach, with the Lou Rovner Small Big Band, and the debut of my own Quartet.  This was the first gig with the new quartet, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.  The members of the band include Andy Langham – piano, Chris Conner – bass and Kendall Kay – drums.  I have to thank Gloria Cadena for giving me a chance to launch the group at this landmark club.  There are plans to play the club again in the next few months, this time with a quintet, please stay tuned for updates. 

On February 27, the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA held their annual Robert Downs Jazz Festival. The festival, which has been going strong for over twenty years, invites local high school and college bands to perform.  This year I was asked to adjudicate the festival and perform as guest soloist with the COC Big Band.  Playing with the COC band was a blast, and I got to hear some really terrific bands. The waters in the Santa Clarita Valley must be very special because the young musicians living there are really doing things right. 

The next day, we got on a plane with the Ron King Big Band for Jakarta, Indonesia and the sixth annual Java Jazz Festival.  The three-day festival includes approximately 1,000 artists and attracts about 75,000 patrons.  Our involvement in the festival (our third year in a row) is as resident big band. 

The festivities began with an afternoon press conference in which members of the Indonesian press corps, representing print, T. V., radio and cyberspace, were in attendance.  Besides receiving information pertaining to the festival, the members of the press were treated to a short performance by several members of the festival’s talent pool.  Later that evening a “Gala Celebration” took place at the residence of the U. S. ambassador to Indonesia.  At both events, The Ron King Big Band sat center stage.  This year we backed up singer Eric Benet in a Sinatra tribute concert, a “Rat Pack” trio from Las Vegas and a truly sensational concert with “Manhattan Transfer.”  In addition we performed our own concert on the final day of the festival. 

Getting to and from Jakarta is pretty rough, over twenty-four hours door to door from L. A., but once you get there you get the Royal treatment.  The first class accommodations include private rooms, all meals and a festival staff who can’t do enough for you.  If you even looked distressed in the slightest, a staff member would be at your side doing their best to put a smile back on your face.  This year for the first time, the Java Jazz Festival took place at the Jakarta International Expo in Kemayoran, a gigantic venue that had 21 stages.  The stages were kept busy with concerts by Hubert Laws, Randy Brecker, Bill Evans, Bob James, George Duke and Ivan Lins to name a few; quite a festival to say the least. 

We got back to L. A. the evening of Monday, March 8, and on Tuesday I picked up my old New York buddy, Joel Kaye at LAX.  On Wednesday, Joel, my wife Nancy and I began a weeklong tour with The Stan Kenton Alumni Band directed by Mike Vax.  Although neither Nancy nor I are actually alumni of the Kenton band, we have played with the band on many occasions at festivals organized by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute.  I guess that makes us “charter members.”  The tour took place in Southern California, which made it easier on us in terms of travel, but between rehearsals and performances, we kept pretty busy. 

The tour included clinics and concerts at Palm Springs High School, Chapman University, Glendale Community College and the Typhoon Restaurant in Santa Monica.  One of the highlights of the tour was playing at Bell High School in southern L. A.  We did a couple of concerts and an open rehearsal for the music students.  What made this performance so special was that this high school was Stan Kenton’s alma mater.  Kenton graduated from Bell in 1930, and the school has memorabilia connected with him on display.  Even more impressive is the fact that the students actually know all about him.  Needless to say, it was nice to play to such an appreciative audience. 

The tour ended on March 15, everyone went back to his or her respective homes and things have turned back to a sensible “abnormal” around here.  While it was a pretty hectic couple of months, it was a complete ball and I can’t wait for the next onslaught. 

Please check the events page from time to time to see what we’ll be doing. That’s it for now, and remember, please continue to support live music because dead music is no fun at all!

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