Jazz icon Benny Golson made a special appearance at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music on Oct. 16 to celebrate the inauguration of the new Global Jazz Studies program. What unfolded was a lesson in jazz history as the 89-year-old tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger shared his personal stories featuring Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, among others. Through his stories, he also taught the packed house a thing or two.
“You don’t rehearse what you are going to say before you sit down with your friends,” Golson told students. “It’s the same thing when you improvise.” You don’t pre-determine what you are going to play.
Golson was born in Philadelphia and played in the bands of Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Hampton, Earl Bostic, and Blakey. He is the only living jazz artist to have written eight standards for the jazz repertoire, including “Killer Joe,” “Along Came Betty,” “Stablemates,” “Whisper Not,” “Blues March,” “Five Spot After Dark,” and “Are you Real?” The eighth, “I Remember Clifford,” honored the life of Clifford Brown.
A small combo of Global Jazz Studies students had the opportunity to perform “Stella by Starlight,” by Victor Young. Golson drew out the crowd and highlighted the strengths of each of the musicians.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble at UCLA then launched into “Take the Coltrane,” by Duke Ellington.
With that, Golson told the students, “I will take you back to New York in my head, my heart, and in my ears.”
Special thanks to the Friends of Jazz at UCLA, a UCLA Herb Alpert Support Group, for making this program possible.