Diary of an Event Producer: Jazz Journalists Association Benefit Concert, June 28, 2003, Carmel, California

Diary of an Event Producer
Jazz Journalists Association Benefit Concert, June 28, 2003, Carmel, California

by Bill Minor

copyright © 2003 Bill Minor

When Howard Mandel asked me to organize and implement a Discretionary Awards ceremony or party on the West Coast (in the Monterey Bay area in California), I thought at first this must be a case of mistaken identity. I am the most unlikely entrepreneureal type in the universe. At the same time, I was fully aware of just how fully deserving the two recipients were: guitarist/visionary educator Bruce Forman and drummer/humanitarian surgeon Dr. David Morwood.

Not wishing to let them down, I ran out and purchased a copy of Entrepreneurship for Dummies, and the first thing I learned was that I would need to acquire a "staff," which I did. The staff consisted of myself, my wife Betty, and a student from the local college, Akiko Takagi, who had previously contacted me regarding information for a research paper she was writing on the Monterey Jazz Festival and pianist Makoto Ozone (I had devoted a full chapter to Makoto in a book I'd just finished on jazz in and from Japan). Akiko got an "A+" on her paper and while she is not really an "otaku" (a Japanese slang expression that translates, literally, as "jazz maniac"), I knew she loved the music and I felt she might enjoy meeting and hearing local musicians and helping out with the benefit concert we arranged -- which she did. Our event turned out to be a decidedly home-grown affair, a Mom & Pop Store operation!

Our original intention was to hold the event on the night of June 25, simultaneous with the other events planned in New York City (the JJA Jazz Awards celebration held at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill), Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., and Chicago; but Bruce Forman was performing that evening at a concert that wrapped up a summer jazz camp, so we selected a night -- Saturday, June 28 -- when the Crossroads Community Room in Carmel was available. Gil Wisdom, owner of the Jazz & Blues Company in Carmel and KRML Jazz Radio (which became an Associate Sponsor) arranged this venue in conjunction with the Crossroads Shopping Village, and Gary Hamada of the Jazz & Blues Company was very helpful in assisting me (the novice "dummy" entrepreneur) through the various stages of making such an event happen. As was KRML DJ George Fuller, who instructed me in the best sources for food and beverages for a reception we planned to precede the evening's award granting and music. I would also like to thank the rest of the Jazz & Blues Co., KRML Jazz Radio staff that helped: drummer/DJ Charlie "ChazzJazz" Mewhort, Doug Pinkham, Bob Tintle, Mary Ellen Taylor, and Russ Toutjian.

I'd done publicity for both jazz and poetry events before, so that was one of the more familiar aspects of the process, but I was not accustomed (and actually got a kick out of, in spite of occasional frustrations and failures) to getting down on all fours, with my dad's old cloth tape measure, to determine the exact dimensions of the Community Room so that the artist E.J. Gold and the Grass Valley Graphics Group (which provided handsome "Jazz Art" settings and stage installations for the 2003 IAJE conference in Toronto and for a concert featuring Wynton Marsalis and Ted Nash in Grass Valley) could bring down twenty-three fine paintings to transform what was, frankly, a not-too-inspiring venue into one as bright and engaging as the music that would grace its formerly bare cement walls.

And my food treks (I now know the true meaning of the word "legwork") were successful, for Naomi Pollack at Whole Foods generously donated a large array of strawberries and other veggies (for dip), plus Italian fruit sodas and bottled water. My friends at Wasabi Bistro -- Setsuko Minara and Phillip -- provided a huge tray of the popular California Roll sushi, and Nadeem Bahu of Café Stravaganza supplied us with five large pizzas (three "Ultra Combo," one "Athena," one "Cheesy Pesto") -- all of which would be avidly consumed, and appreciated, at the reception itself.

"Chazz" Mewhort condensed my rather baroque-prose press release into short but pithy KRML radio "spots," and I went on that station (Jim Smith's afternoon show) and station KIDD (Magic 63, Kevin Kahl's morning show) to promote the benefit jazz concert. My buddy and JJA member Alisa Clancy at KCSM also plugged the event. Unfortunately, attempts to get advance notice in the local paper didn't work out, and I started getting a tad nervous when -- most of the essential particulars in place (venue, music, food) -- advance reservations hadn't risen above twenty as the actual date began to loom before us. But Monterey Herald Go! Editor Mac McDonald and JJA member Beth Peerless came through on Thursday, June 26 (Beth wrote a handsome two page piece on the Discretionary Award recipients, Bruce Forman and Dr. David Morwood) and Brett Wilbur at Coast Weekly selected the occasion as one of that paper's "Hotpicks" (Dr. David Morwood had once, apparently, sewed a finger back on her daughter-and "left no scar").

This last minute publicity helped immensely, much to my relief (I really did not know, as late as Saturday afternoon, just how many people we might draw, for we were also competing with the very popular Monterey Bay Blues Festival!), because on that fateful night, June 28, the room filled rapidly -- the audience hungry for not just the food, but honoring two fully deserving musician as "jazz activists," and hearing the music they would provide.

On the previous night, Friday, I had attempted to assuage my nerves by helping my wife Betty cut and slice Whole Foods vegetables (celery, carrots, cauliflower, radishes, red peppers) to accompany the dips (artichoke and spinach) we'd purchased at Cosco; and I even joked -- at the concert itself -- that the experience was so stimulating that, now, if and when I ever grow up, I think I would like to be a surgeon like Dr. David Morwood. Whole Foods had also contributed a large watermelon, which Betty carved into a beautiful basket (complete with a handle and serrated edges) and filled with tasty slices. Compared to the Discretionary Award ceremonies held elsewhere, perhaps, ours was a decidedly home-grown, amateur, Mom & Pop Store affair or operation -- but it was great fun shaping the necessary ingredients, from scratch!

Saturday afternoon, waiting for the Grass Valley "Jazz Art" to arrive, I set out packets of information (for each person who would attended, and I was still praying there would be attendees!): the program for the JJA New York City event, a brochure on the JJA, a complimentary JJA pen, and envelopes for donations to the Jazz Foundation of America.

Beverly Korenwaser (with whom I'd had what seemed daily --sometimes hourly--phone conversations) and Matthias Schossig of the Grass Valley group arrived at 2:30 p.m., and I helped them bring in what proved to be very handsome art work indeed: life-sized portraits of Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday, a fine "Take the 'A' Train" triptych, and a monumental jazz combo scroll. At four o"clock, as instructed by Betty, I went to Safeway for ice and wheeling a cart full back, I saw Charlie Parker standing at the end of the mall, outside the Community Room door, life-size, wearing a light blue suit, set against a dark blue background. "Bird Lives!" -- in art. Betty and Akiko arrived at about 4:45, with the food and, around 5:30, we began to set it out. Everything looked good enough to eat, on the spot, and again I prayed there would be people arriving to do so.

Which they did, but too soon! The doors weren't supposed to open until six o'clock, but people came early, claiming they'd heard, on the radio, that the reception started at 5:30! Betty successfully juggled multiple chores, helping Akiko arrange the food and pour sodas, and also sold tickets (!), while I sprinted over to Wasabi Bistro for the huge tray of sushi, and then to Café Extravaganza for the five large pizzas. Betty stamped the hands of those who bought tickets at the door with a (smiling, with arched back and tale) "whale" rubber stamp we'd had since our grandkids were small -- and the jazz fans arriving seemed to get a kick out of that.

The reception was a success (the somewhat unique instrumentation, the "combo" of sushi, pizza, and veggies and dip, as novel as the whale stamp perhaps), and the room, which looked resplendent now with its "Jazz Art" (I've never seen it look so lively), did -- as I said --fill! I truly meant it when, a little after seven, I stepped up to them ike and said what I'd written in the press release: that this evening we would not only honor the fine musicianship and large hearts of Bruce Forman and Dr. David Morwood, but the large heart of the jazz community of the Monterey Peninsula as well -- as collective "jazz activists."

I thanked the many people who deserved thanks and introduced Bruce Forman, who offered a beautiful and brilliant (like his playing) explication of his four part JazzMasters Workshop program, which includes "club" atmosphere workshops in which students interact with top professionals, learning by playing with them; The Music Performance Developmental Workshops (a pilot-program of entry-level music performance with "at-risk" kids offered at the Boys and Girls Club in Seaside); The After School Jazz program (a general school assembly event that features presentations by established musical artists, followed by an ensemble workshop); and the Guitar Workshop, which provides materials and instruction to the large and often untapped population of student guitarists eager to improve their skills. Bruce Forman's efforts have expanded from a handful of wannabe guitarists to 500 weekly workshops (offered free of charge to students) held in New York, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Mountain View, Big Sur, Carmel, and Seaside.

Then Bruce played solo, equally beautifully (relaxed, intimate, appreciative, in gratitude--it seemed--for all the good, and there has been much, that has come out of this program), "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," a bop-laced "Blues for Bird," and a handsome original piece called "Sea Sweet." Bruce invited a young (York High School) student who has emerged from his program up, and he and Bryce Hall played "Alone Together," the excellent results of the JazzMasters Workshop very much in evidence in the playing of Bryce. Saxophonist George Young joined Forman for a tune which Bruce called out as "It Could Happen to You," but George set off on a different, alternate route, and they ended up creating a tune that could be called "If You're Young at Heart, It Could Happen to You." Dr. David Morwood joined them on drums for the set's close (again, an appropriate title): "No Greater Love."

I presented the awards (small transparent glass steles shaped like a Washington Monument that couldn't resist carbohydrates) and read the tributes I had written for each recipient. David explicated the Rotaplast program, for which he serves as volunteer chief surgeon, providing free plastic and reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lips, cleft palates, burns and congenital hand deformities in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Vietnam, and China. David illustrated this humanitarian project by way of a slide show that brought home, vividly, just how powerful, and wonderful, the transformation is (some people may have found it difficult to take the "before" photos--children with, literally, half of their faces eaten away by birth defects--but the "after" photos were inspiring, nearly miraculous: human features restored or "created"), and the slides of appreciative families were equally moving. It was time for intermission.

After the break, Beverly and Matthias (of the Grass Valley Graphics Group) gave each of the recipients a painting by E. J. Gold, and then the Monterey All-Star Band performed: Bob Phillips on piano, Bryan McConnell on bass, David Morwood on drums, George Young on saxophones, and Lee Durley, vocalist, who came over from the Blues Festival to raise the energy level to fulgent pitch with "Rather Drink Muddy Water" and another fortunate confusion of tunes that resulted in a rousing spontaneous creation or amalgamation: "Secret Love on the Street Where You Live." George Young played, on soprano sax, a beautiful ballad-a gorgeous melody instantly indelible in one's mind, and heart--he'd written for his grandson; Bruce Forman's wife Pam, who has a lovely voice, and was handsomely perched on a stool beside her husband who'd joined the band, sang "Don't Fence Me In," and this set closed out with (again, highly appropriate given the triptych that stood behind the group) "Take the 'A' Train."

The rich, and very moving (I feel) evening ended as it had begun-with compliments to the audience who attended as "jazz activists" with large hearts themselves. Most people agreed that the evening had been a complete success, and-as novice "entrepreneur" -- I was pleased (we even managed to bring the event off $440.41 below budget!) and the recipients were pleased by the amount of money their respective programs received).

Perhaps the best way to summarize is to include the "tributes" I wrote for these two fully worthy musician/jazz activists. Here they are:


I was first introduced to the music of Bruce Forman at the Monterey Jazz Festival, in 1987. I heard and saw him perform first on the Garden Stage, then on the Main Stage, where he wore a white coat and white tie reminiscent of Jay Gatsby, over a bright red shirt that would prompt the bulls to start running at Pamplona.

In both settings, he exuded his own brand of class, and I was attracted to the "cool" liquid burnished copper sound of his guitar, one I had grown up on as a kid just outside of Detroit (Kenny Burrell, but Tal Farlow with Mingus and Red Norvo as well, and Johnny Smith, and Barney Kessel), yet this music was enhanced by an added dimension of time: harmonic and rhythmic potential introduced by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and Joe Pass.

I was hooked. I had a new favorite jazz guitar player, but I was to learn that there were even more dimensions to the amazing Bruce Forman, beyond and within the melodic, harmonic (fundamental and overtones), rhythmic multi-dimensions of his playing. He was a genuine human being, a "good guy,' down to earth, accessible, articulate, witty and wise in a way artists--jazz or otherwise--are not necessarily, outside their work, required to be.

"I like to scream but I don't like to be blood-curdling or hair-raising," he told me, when I interviewed him for an article that appeared in Coda magazine. "When you're hearing me, you're hearing the pure sound of the instrument. I like the personal quality that allows. I'm working inward, rather than outward." That sounds like something I just read in a novel called Trust Me (but more about that in a moment). In Bruce Forman's case, blazing speed and awesome pyrotechnics are often offset by a warm, nearly whispered confidentiality--and always within a framework of loving, even passionate, virtuosity. Or to quote from the novel I just read: "All the things he never allowed himself to acknowledge ... pouring out of him -- as though he were an innocent bystander-through the guitar."

I discovered still other sides to Bruce Forman. The daughter of friends of mine went to summer jazz camp at RLS and returned raving about a teacher there whom, apparently, every "kid" at camp revered and adored. Sitting in on one of his clinic sessions and interviewing him again (this time for the "educational program" section of Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years), I found out why. As an educator, Bruce Forman practices what he preaches, and what he preaches is: "The key to success is giving them victories. You don't make a kid memorize the dictionary. You let him speak a sentence. Then you show him another way to make that sentence better. Then you tickle him with still another way to say the same thing. These are the little victories, but you let the kids bring them out of themselves. You set them up to make the change. All you've got to do then is stay out of the way." It's no wonder the JazzMasters Workshop program has proven to be the overwhelming success it has. The philosophy is as solid as its implementation-and both stem from Bruce.

Trust Me: That's the name of the novel I just read -- and guess who wrote it? There's even another side of Bruce Forman, and that is author: one as accomplished in this difficult field (exhibiting the same intelligence, imagination and vitality) as he is everywhere else (even on horseback).

When I interviewed Japanese guitarist Yoshiaki "Miya" Miyanoue, whom I'd often heard paired off with Bruce at Bill and Betty Berry's International Jazz Party in Monterey, I commented on their "duels," their cordial "cutting contests" in which I compared Bruce Forman's playing to that of a delightfully manic Versailles Garden set alongside Miya's finely raked Zen grounds; but when I mentioned the word "duel," Miya bowed profusely and said, "On no, Mr. Minor; there is no duel. No duel. I honor and revere Mr. Bruce Forman." That's the way the international jazz community feels about Bruce; that's the way I feel; that's the way the Monterey Bay community at large feels--and that is the way, obviously, the Jazz Journalists Association felt when they selected Bruce Forman to receive this Discretionary Award for his humanitarian service to all communities through his playing and the JazzMasters Workshop.


I first heard and saw David Morwood play drums in a big band setting: a concert at Monterey Peninsula College. Following an impressive percussive break, a friend leaned over and said that David was also a highly esteemed local surgeon. I was impressed. "Wow!" I thought, from scalpel to Pro Mark 7A slim wooden sticks or Regal Tip wire brushes and back again-that is an accomplishment! Same hands, different purpose.

The next time I ran across David Morwood was when I saw a photo of him, in full medical dress, in John McCleary's book Peninsula People, and I learned that David was not just a surgeon/drummer-which was notable enough, but a man with a heart who, having dreamed of serving his country by way of an appointment at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, was diverted -- on a summer Mediterranean cruise -- to more universal concerns: namely helping humankind in general. He resigned his Academy appointment and, having attended the University of Vermont, became a highly regarded, respected plastic surgeon with, in John McCleary's words, "impressive credentials, numerous publications, and prestigious appointments," but also -- and this is what really attracted my attention -- he was a volunteer chief surgeon for Rotaplast: "Rotary International sponsored medical missions to South America." This piece first appeared in 1996 and David, since that time, has expanded his volunteer "turf" to include El Salvador, Vietnam, and China, providing free plastic and reconstructive surgery to children in those nations as well.

David grew up in Vermont, played violin at age four, drums in the first grade, and is a veteran of concert bands, symphonies, theater and show ensembles. At present, he is house drummer and jazz director at the Hyatt Regency. Because of David's inspiration, and invitation, you are now likely to find-following Monterey Jazz Festival performances-Wynton Marsalis or Ron Hargrove jamming' alongside kids from an Australian Big Band at the Hyatt.

Every human being with a heartbeat wants to be a drummer. I know I did and even bought a full set of Slingerland red pearl drums when I was sixteen and played with my own "orchestra" throughout southeastern Michigan. Thank God there are no recordings, but I know that urge that is alive, if not well, in all of us. What's amazing about David is that he has attained excellence, not just an avocation, in both his lives. On Friday nights at the Hyatt, I' ve heard him move with seeming ease and grace from 4/4 straightahead to Bossa Nova to waltz time to heavy duty Salsa. The amazing taiko drummer Kenny Endo has said, "You should never let your technique show. You shouldn't look like you're about to die. What should come out is not the impression that you're fast. What should come out is pure music, the pure spirit." And that's what David -- as sure-handed and keen-minded behind a drum kit as he is in surgery -- allows to happen.

All musical instruments are demanding, but playing drums, proficiently, involves nearly every appendage and certainly every piece of hardware the drummer owns, and the musical possibilities range from small effects performed with the fine fretfulness of high-strung dogs to sudden volcanic eruption: the cool crisp closure of high-hat, the sudden but subdued "pop" and "poot" of bass drum, expert left hand stutter on snare, the religious observance, the insistence, of ride cymbals. It's a celebration of what one poet has called "the multitudinous unity of the organism," that miracle of ultimate coordination and metabolism, the human body itself. Percussion (like its sister art, dancing) celebrates externally what we are internally-our very heart beat, respiration, the brain's own light show (sweet clangor of cells), the intricate working of the central nervous system itself. The body is an extended drum solo, and who is in a better position to understand and make use of that knowledge and practice than a surgeon? And a very generous surgeon to boot-one whose compassion extends throughout the world; one whose musical offerings and humanitarian service attracted the attention of the Jazz Journalists Association and make him a fully deserving recipient of this Discretionary Award: Dr. David Morwood.

The Jazz Journalists Association's Discretionary Awards 2003 were made possible in part through a grant from Pfizer, Inc.

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