Dr. Bebop leads stellar quintet to VJC

Thursday May 16, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Dr. Bebop says his new theme song these days is "Don’t Get Around Much Anymore," but the truth is he’s doing fine.

At 86, Howard Brofsky, aka Dr. Bebop, professor emeritus at Queens College and pillar of the Vermont Jazz Center family, still teaches jazz history and ensembles and still plays cornet with younger musicians every other week at a little bar in Queens. And this Saturday, he will be performing at 8 p.m. at the Vermont Jazz Center in the Cotton Mill, with four other star players.

"They’re all first-call New York musicians," said Brofsky, aka Dr. Bebop. "I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really fortunate to have them with me.

For Saturday’s show, Brofsky will be joined by the bass and drum team of David Wong and Billy Drummond, pianist Ray Gallon and tenor sax titan Jed Levy.

"I know these guys are going to kick my old ass," said Brofsky in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "I bring what I can to the music, and I love it. ... The only thing that’s not falling apart (with me) is my mind and soul."

Brofsky said the group will play a couple of originals by sax player Levy, a couple of Brofsky originals, a little-known Bud Powell tune called "No Problem" and a bunch of standards, all in the bebop vein.

"My students didn’t start calling me Dr. Bebop for nothing," said Brofsky, who first picked up the trumpet in the 1940s after hearing bebop legends Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge. He joined the burgeoning jazz scene, playing and recording in Paris, before eventually turning to classical music and a career in academia. But jazz beckoned him back. He picked up his trumpet again when he was 46 and has stayed at it for 40 years.

"It’s such a big part of my life. I have to do it," said Brofsky, who enjoys his semi-weekly gigs with younger musicians. "I like playing with these 26-year-olds because not only do they like to play with me, they get a sense of the roots of the music. There are not many people around now who saw Charlie Parker play. ... And I like their 26-year-old energy."

Brofsky is particularly pleased to be playing with the four other musicians who are coming, all of whom are pros with top credentials.

Drummer Billy Drummond has played on more than 250 albums with some of the world’s best, including Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Carla Bley, Ron Carter and Eddie Gomez. He is also an acclaimed bandleader.

Tenor sax player Jed Levy has been a mainstay on the New York jazz scene for more than 20 years and has played with Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Eddie Henderson, Don Friedman, Cedar Walton and others.

Pianist Ray Gallon has performed, recorded and toured with Ron Carter, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, T.S. Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Less Paul and others. He has also accompanied many jazz vocalists, including Sheila Jordan, Jon Hendricks and Grady Tate.

Emerging bassist David Wong studied classical music at the Juilliard School, and developed his jazz chops with Ron Carter, Ben Wolfe and John Clayton. He plays with Roy Haynes’ Fountain of Youth band and the Heath Brothers quartet.

Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students with ID, and are available at In the Moment in Brattleboro or www.vtjazz.org. Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line at 802-254-9088, ext. 1.

-- Jon Potter


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