Legendary jazz bassist’s band to kick it up, unveil album at Pierce Street concert
February 23, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) He’s played his upright bass with jazz and pop greats Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Count Basie, Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson and was part of the legendary Hugh Masekela’s band during the late 1960s. And after more than 40 years honing his craft on stage and in the studio, Henry “The Skipper” Franklin keeps on jazzing it up.
On Feb. 23, The Skipper and his crew will perform in La Sierra University’s ongoing Pierce Street Jazz series, which Franklin organizes, and celebrate the release of their latest album, “The Soul of the World.”
The Henry Franklin Quartet will perform at 7 p.m. in the La Sierra University Alumni Center, 11500 Pierce Street. Admission is free. A campus map is at http://lasierra.edu/resources/campusmap/. For more information call 951-785-2148, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Franklin’s group has performed and recorded together more than four years. The band includes Franklin; Ramon Banda on drums, a former 24-year member of the Grammy award-winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band; worldwide performing pianist and composer Theo Saunders; and renowned saxophonist Chuck Manning, who has shared the stage with such acclaimed artists as Bill Cunliffe, Branford Marsalis, Jon Mayer and many others.
The band’s 2009 album, “Home Cookin’,” recorded on Franklin’s SP Records label, features the renowned Barbara Morrison on vocals. The project received airplay on KJAZZ 88.1 FM. “The Soul of the World,” recorded last December in Pasadena, also on SP Records, features Saunders on piano, Manning on saxophone, Banda on drums, Franklin on bass, with vocals by Mon David and Karen Wilson. Franklin produced both projects, the latest of numerous albums that he has directed or on which he has performed.
Franklin has brought together top line musicians and organized the Pierce Street Jazz concerts at La Sierra University since their inception as a summer jazz series in 2009. The summer series concept emanated from the university’s Summer Programs director, Marvin Payne, who also serves as Chemistry and Biochemistry department chair. He and former university provost Warren Trenchard assisted in coordinating the events.
“One of the goals of the Summer Program is to enhance the cultural life of the university and the extended community,” Payne said.
The Pierce Street concerts have attracted a local following and its organizers have seen attendance grow from 50 or so listeners to roughly 150 at the last event in January that featured the Francisco Aguabella Memorial Latin Jazz Ensemble.
Franklin, together with other artists, has performed more than 11 years at The Mission Inn in Riverside, Calif. The Los Angeles native’s storied background includes recordings on gold albums and work with many high-profile musicians. He has performed on more than 100 albums, many of which he produced. “I strive and work hard to do the best for jazz,” Franklin says in his biography. “It’s America’s only art form.”
Drummer Banda grew up in Norwalk, Calif., part of a large musical family. When Banda was a boy, the family performance group, The Latin Boys, played at parties and weddings around Southern California. Banda started out on the guitar but switched to drums in 1967 when his cousin Mike Chavarria Jr. was called to serve in Vietnam. Banda and his electric bass-playing brother, Tony Banda, performed weekend gigs during their grade school years with several bands including with Poncho Sanchez.
Saxophonist Manning has made dozens of appearances and collaborations with other musicians such as the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet and with Swiss multi-instrumentalist Isla Eckinger, according to his biography. His key musical influences include John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Joe Henderson, Bobby Bradford, Sonny Rollins and North Indian classical flautist Pannalal Ghosh. He has played and recorded with a long list of famous and skilled musicians including those mentioned above plus Gary Foster, Horace Tapscott, Eric Reed, Albert “Tootie” Heath and others.
Saunders has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and concert halls with distinguished artists including Hubbard, Carla Bley, David “Fathead” Newman, Barbara Morrison, Charles Lloyd, Claudio Roditi, Victor Brasil, Raul De Souza, Bobby Rodriguez, Gladys Knight, the Four Tops and many others.
He has directed music for opera productions and international musical theatre. As a composer, Saunders has numerous compositions to his credit as well as original scores for theatre, radio and multimedia production. Artists Franklin, Ray Armando, Benn Clatworthy, Bobby Matos, and Bruce Paulson have recorded his compositions.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University