(L-R) Gerald Wilson, Freda Payne (in the background), Barbara Morrison, James Moody and Billy Valentine.
Barbara MorrisonPhoto Credit: Jan Easter
Barbara Morrison honored at musical extravaganza
Jazz and blues icons perform at birthday bash
By Kathy Williamson
Hollywood, CA - It was a perfect blend of summer under the stars and lustrous talent as fans, friends and family gathered Saturday to celebrate the 60th birthday of jazz vocalist Barbara Morrison at the Anson Ford Amphitheatre.
Maneuvering about the Ford may seem like traversing a stair-cased maze, but the adventure is well worth it. Since there are no bad seats, the packed house cheered and applauded from every niche and corner.
Radio personality James Janisse served as emcee as he greeted the audience and introduced the gifted music legends and new artists.
The program moved at an excellent pace. And, since each vocalist was limited to only one song, the results were vocals that were pure, strong and passionate.
Between the different sets, Morrison would take the mic and deliver either a jazz or blues favorite much to the delight of her fans.
Yvette Stewart sang "Just in Time" and Cathy Siegel-Garcia offered one of Morrison's favorites "Willow Weep for Me." Mikki Harris delivered Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love."
Other vocal legends included Billy Valentine, Tierney Sutton, Freda Payne, Eve Evans, Gloria Hendry (the event's musical director), Margaret Love, Alistar Tobar, Charmaine Clamour, and more.
Big band, be-bop and accompanists included Houston Person, Art Hillary, James Moody, Wycliff Gordon, Gerald Wilson, Ron Bishop, Stewart Alster, Andre Earles, Albert Alba, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, Richard Simon, Lee Spath, Phil Wright, Garrison Jones, Peter Buck, Bill Liston, Charles Small, Richard Taylor, Glen Jones, Nolan Shaheed and Gail Deadrick.
Among the jazz/blues legends were three young artists who lit up the stage. Mercedes Jarvis York, winner of the Leimert Park Idol, gave an unbelievable rendition of Etta James' "At Last;" Cameron Jones delivered the ballad "If I Could;" and Randy Taylor amazed the audience by successfully tackling the vocalese of King Pleasure's "Goodbye, So Long."
And there was dancing! The Barbara Morrison Swing Dancers and the great tap dancer, Chester Whitmore were an important part of the celebration that also honored all of the jazz and blues artists who were turning 60.
The concert was not only a tribute to Morrison by her peers, but recognition of her big heart as she has opened doors for other artists. Her Los Angeles-based record label, Blue Lady Records, seeks to preserve soul and jazz recordings, along with Barbara's own catalog. Offstage, she is an assistant professor in the Ethnomusicology Department at UCLA, where she has taught for the past 13 years.
Happy Birthday, Barbara!
- Kathy Williamson is a freelance journalist. She can be reached at