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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June 25, 2009 Volume 1 - #2

Hello again, it’s been quite a while since my last entry into News & Views. I will try to be timelier from now on, but don’t hold my feet to the fire on that one. Plenty has happened since last March including the Ron King Big Band returning to the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia for a second action packed year. The trip to and from Jakarta is murder. From L.A. door to door, the journey takes between twenty-five to thirty hours, but once we arrive we truly get the royal treatment.

We stay at the Sultan Hotel, which is connected to the actual festival site and although we were kept pretty busy between rehearsals and concerts, there was still plenty of time for hanging out and relaxing. In fact, we arrived mid-afternoon on Monday and did not have to work until Wednesday, so on Tuesday we put a foursome together and played a round of golf at a local course. I must admit that I find golf a bit frustrating and not always a lot of fun, but for some reason my buddies were hysterical with laughter most of the time, particularly after I hit, can’t understand why.

As for the festival, we played for several preliminary events including a press conference, a wonderful party at the palatial home of festival chairman, Peter Gontha, and the pre-opening night gala show. At the festival we did our own packed-house concert, as well as concerts with the great New York Voices and Gary Anthony with his tribute to Frank Sinatra once again. It was a great festival, which included artists such as Mike Stern, Dianne Reeves, Harvey Mason, Eliane Elias and Tom Scott among others.

Speaking of the Java Jazz Festival, at last year’s festival Manhattan Transfer was so knocked out by the Ron King Big Band, that they asked us to perform with them in concert at the famous Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, CA last July. The concert was a blast and we hope to work with the Transfer again. Wouldn’t it be nice to do a joint concert with the band, Manhattan Transfer and The New York Voices, wow what a great idea…..hmmm!

Last September I signed on with Pearl Flutes as an artist/representative, and have been having a great time playing my new flute, alto flute and piccolo. Check the equipment page on this site for details. In connection with my signing with Pearl, I’ll be attending the National Flute Association convention in New York City this August. I’ll be performing my own concert on Thursday, August 13 with an old buddy from my NY days, the sensational pianist, Joyce DeCamillo on piano and Yoshi Waki on bass. In addition, there will be a performance by the NFA Flute Big Band under the leadership of the great flutist (jazz and otherwise) Ali Ryerson. I’ll be playing with that ensemble and as a matter of fact, the group will be performing two of my compositions. There will also be concerts and master classes by jazz flute great, Lew Tabackin and the amazing James Galway. If you find yourself at the convention, please stop by and say hello.

On a sad note, we lost some great friends this past year beginning with noted pianist, composer and bandleader, Bob Florence. I first met Bob when I was living in NY and he conducted for Julie Andrews. We remained in contact, and when I moved out to L.A. Bob made me the first call saxophone sub in his big band, The Limited Edition. I wound up subbing for four of the six saxophone chairs in the band, and as a result played with the band on many concerts and club gigs. There was a wonderful tribute concert in Bob’s honor in July 2008, at Catalina’s in Hollywood. Many people connected with Bob over the years performed in his honor including The Limited Edition (sans piano, flying in missing man formation). Several of those performances can be seen on You Tube by typing in “Bob Florence tribute concert.” Besides being a first rate composer/arranger and pianist, Bob was a “pussy cat” of the highest order; all of us miss him very much.

We had to say goodbye to Freddie Hubbard, baritone saxophonist Jack Nimitz and alto saxophone great, Charlie Mariano. We also lost an old buddy of mine from NY, Gerry Niewood. Gerry was born in Rochester, NY and went to the Eastman School of Music, where he became a member of Chuck Mangione’s band. He left Chuck in the mid 1970’s and moved to NY. Gerry and I played together for almost twenty years in a wide variety of settings including recordings, saxophone quartets, shows and jazz gigs. Gerry was the consummate professional and just a great guy to have around. He was on the plane that crashed in Buffalo, NY in February 2009.

Since my last entry on News & Views I’ve added another college to my roster, Shepherd University in Los Angeles. The department is small but growing, and my duties include running a small jazz ensemble, instructing saxophone and flute as well as teaching classes. Last year I taught Jazz Harmony and Jazz Arranging, and next term I’ll be teaching Jazz History. In the last News & Views I mentioned my intention to start my jazz quintet again. Well sadly that has not happened yet, but my plan is to put it together starting this fall.

In the meantime I continue to play with the Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra (BEJO), the Ron King Big Band and Gary Tole’s “Legends of Swing. In addition, I’ve been subbing for my alto buddy, Kim Richmond, in Lou Rovner’s band. We just did a gig at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach and will be doing another one at a great new jazz venue, the Typhoon Restaurant at the Santa Monica airport. So, as you can see, I get to stay busy, and as we all know in the music business, “busy is good.”

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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