Chaka Khan, Ray Parker Jr., Patrice Rushen, Rita Wilson and Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman were among the stars who performed in honor of jazz legends Joni Mitchell and Wayne Shorter last evening (Nov. 10). The occasion was the third annual Q & You dinner/fundraiser on behalf of the Jazz Foundation of America (JFA), hosted by Quincy Jones at Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill Jazz in Bel Air, Calif.
Heralding Mitchell and Shorter's "transcendent art and boundless imagination" in his opening remarks, JFA executive director Joseph Petrucelli introduced Jones. Noting that "jazz means freedom," Jones added, "It's been amazing to see how jazz has gone all around the world. So let's get ready to get it on."
Up next, keyboardist/vocalist Davell Crawford prefaced the honoree tributes with a performance of "Somewhere" to salute recently deceased U.S. Representatives Elijah Cummings (Maryland) and John Conyers (Michigan). Then for the next two hours - under the guidance of musical director/drummer Steve Jordan - a top-flight crew of session musicians backed the aforementioned performers in paying homage to Shorter and Mitchell. The players included percussionist Alex Acuna, pianist Rushen, guitarist Parker Jr., saxophonist Antoine Roney, bassist John Patitucci, trumpeter Michael Hunter, bassist Larry Klein, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, acoustic guitarist/singer Melvoin and pianist Coleman.
Two classics were chosen to represent Shorter's diverse canon of work: "Speak No Evil" and "Beauty and the Beast." Doubling as the evening's emcee, actor Danny Glover presented Shorter's award. Speaking from his table, Shorter thanked the JFA, adding "Music has a way of bringing people together." Shorter's wife Carolina was then presented with a surprise award - Loves Saves the Day - by JFA vice chairman Wendy Oxenhorn who remarked, "We should all have a wife like Carolina."
"We have been really challenged with huge health and financial challenges," Carolina shared after accepting the award. "And Herbie Hancock suggested that we reach out to the JFA. They are the most amazing people ... what they do is unbelievable."
Mitchell's tribute segment began with Melvoin singing the former's "A Strange Boy." At the prospect of performing in front of her idol, Melvoin said, "I could pass out right now as I try and express to you what you have meant to me." After her performance, Melvoin gulped down a glass of red wine onstage: "I deserve this," she explained to audience laughter. "I've been waiting all day for this."
Actress/singer Wilson sang her self-penned song "Joni" before walking over to Mitchell's table to present her award. "Stand up," Wilson exhorted the packed house. "This woman has given us everything."
The Mitchell tribute concluded with a special performance by Khan of Mitchell's "Man from Mars" and "Hissing of Summer Lawns." Noted Khan as she came onstage, "Wherever Joni goes, there I am."
The evening's finale featured Crawford rejoining the band, along with Parker Jr., Melvoin and Oxenhorn on harmonica, for a rollicking take on "Blues in G" that had Jones and the rest of the audience dancing in their seats. Among the artists and industry execs spotted in the room were Clarence "The Black Godfather" Avant, Earth, Wind & Fire's Verdine White, actor/writer/producer Keegan-Michael Key, Global Music Rights CEO Randy Grimmett, noted photographer Henry Diltz, drummer/producer Vince Wilburn Jr. and singer/songwriter Eric Benét.
Various auction lots - including photos of Shorter, photos of Mitchell signed by her and Diltz, lunch with Jones and a four-night stay at the Golden Door Spa - plus pledges donated during the event raised a combined $160,000. The Jazz Foundation of America (www.jazzfoundation.org) provides housing and emergency assistance, pro bono medical and disaster relief, among other services. "You can't say no ... and you can't stop," said Oxenhorn as she underscored the organization's mission statement: "Saving blues, jazz & roots ... one musician at a time."
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