Art Blakey Tribute Band to play Pierce Street Jazz

Legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey
Legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey

October 3, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( The late legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey brought his iconic, driving rhythms to the jazz scene and launched the careers of many famed musicians through his long-running band, The Jazz Messengers.

On Oct. 5, an ensemble of talented stage and studio musicians will celebrate Blakey’s life and contributions with an Art Blakey Tribute Band performance at 7 p.m. at the La Sierra University Alumni Center, 11500 Pierce Street, Riverside. Admission is free. For more information call 951-785-2148.

Band members are Nolan Shaheed trumpet, Francisco Torres, trombone, Gary Matsumoto, piano, Benn Clatworthy, saxophone, Henry “the Skipper” Franklin, bass, and Ramon Banda, drums.

Blakey, born in 1919, was a Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer whose six-decade career included the formation of The Jazz Messengers, a famed group that nurtured the careers of many young jazz talents who later became well-known names in their own right. Blakey was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1982, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001, and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Musically he was known for his hard-driving, bebop rhythms, according to a biographical account. He started off as a jazz pianist in his teens, then switched to drums. As his career progressed and his talent became known, he backed such famous acts as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. In 1947 he recorded with an octet called the Jazz Messengers. In the mid 1950s, Blakey took over the group name and it became Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He led the group for years and remained associated with it for the rest of his life. The Messengers’ revolving roster of musicians included Terence Blanchard, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Garrett, Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Chuck Mangione, Stanley Clark and Kevin Eubanks. During the 1980s, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis joined the group and served as its musical director. Blakey performed with the band during the 1980s and died in 1990 in New York City.

Known in music circles as the Skipper, Franklin organizes the Pierce Street concerts for La Sierra. He is leading the tribute band for the upcoming performance. “Art Blakey was a wonderful band leader and drummer who left a host of popular jazz music to be heard for years to come,” he said.

Franklin’s extensive musical background includes performances on more than 150 albums and compact discs including gold releases, many of which he produced. In March he released his 24th album, “Soul of the World,” recorded with his band on his SP Records lable. His band’s 2009 album, “Home Cookin’,” features the renowned Barbara Morrison on vocals. The project received airplay on KJAZZ 88.1 FM.

Franklin has played his upright bass with numerous jazz and pop greats including 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. When not on tour in various parts of the United States and the world, Franklin performs at The Historic Mission Inn in Riverside, Calif.

Shaheed, a Pasadena native, has performed as a top trumpet player and studio musician in the Los Angeles music industry since 1974, serving as lead trumpet with many famous acts including Marvin Gaye, the Count Basie Orchestra, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Phil Collins and Anita Baker. Shaheed has also performed and toured with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Eddie Harris, the Duke Ellington Orchestra and other top acts.

Torres, a Latin jazz arranger and trombonist, plays with the famed Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band and leads his own Latin jazz group. He is also the music director and leading arranger/composer for the “Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars.” He has performed with such top acts as Tito Nieves, Son Mayor, Celia Cruz, The Banda Brothers and others.

Pianist Matsumoto graduated in 1999 from the University of California, Irvine with a bachelor’s of music degree and in 2002 from the California Institute of the Arts with a master’s degree. At UCI he studied with Dr. Lorna Griffith and with Miles Davis pianist Kei Akagi. He studied with David Roistein at the art institute.

A relative newcomer to the professional jazz music scene, Matsumoto has amassed a lengthy resume of performance and recording experiences including work with film composer Nathan Wang, with famed MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer in his opening performance for Cheap Trick, and performances with international recording artists Coco Lee, JJ Lin, Vivian Hsu, and Jenny Tseng. In 2008, SP Records released “The Matsumoto Trio - Days Ahead.” Other playing credits include work with Franklin, Azar Lawrence, Bobby Rodriguez, Clayton Cameron, Charles Owens, Mark Ferber, Jeff Littleton, Ricky Woodard, Jeff Clayton, Herman Riley, Sam Most, and Phil Ranelin.

Clatworthy grew up in London, England where became active in the London music scene during the 1970s. In 1980 he move to Los Angeles where he studied saxophone, flute and clarinet with the famed Phil Sobel. He has performed with the Horace Silver band, with Cedar Walton, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Cleveland and other top acts. He performs with the Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Band and this year played with Grammy-nominated pianist John Beasley, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and toured the United Kingdom with his own quartet.

Drummer Banda performed 24 years with the Grammy award-winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band. He is a current band member with famed jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco. Banda grew up in Norwalk, Calif., part of a large musical family. He started out on the guitar but switched to drums in 1967. Banda and his electric bass-playing brother, Tony Banda, performed weekend gigs during their school years with several bands including with Poncho Sanchez. In 1996 he and Tony formed their own ensemble, The Banda Bros. Group, with Tony on upright bass. The duo has performed on numerous worldwide tours and with many famous acts. Over the past two decades, Ramon has performed on more than 22 recordings and recorded and played with such music greats as Dizzie Gillespie, Tito Puente, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Arturo Sandoval, Diana Reeves and others.


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  October 03, 2011