As a jazz aficionado, dreaming of a show that brings all my favorite jazz artists together performing all in the same evening is simply that a dream. Now imagine this: on the night of January 28, 2000, at The Bass Performance Hall in Ft. Worth, Texas dreams came true! For artists, fans, promoters, record label owners this was the place to be and no one left disappointed.
Here's a sampling of the artists that presented and received awards and then were good enough to entertain us at the podiums as presenters and narrators of stories! Names like Craig Chaquico, Marc Antoine, Rick Braun, Boney James, Dwight Sills, Jeff Lorber, David Benoit, Peter White, Kirk Whalum, Richard Elliott, Wayman Tisdale, Jango, Bob James and the incomparable Herb Alpert are a few that were being dropped as each of these gave to us!
The evening started off with Dave Koz, MC of the year in my book, opening the evening with his latest "Together Again" accompanied by David Benoit and then bringing on Jeff Lorber, musical director of the show to continue the dynamics! First presenters: Peter White and Rick Braun delivering Best Sax honors to Boney James! Can this get any better you ask? Well, it did!
The next award presented by Slim Man was delivered to Peter White for Best Guitar. Peter went on to win Collaboration of the Year for "Midnight In Manhattan" with Grover Washington Jr., Song of the Year for "Midnight In Manhattan" and CD of the Year for Perfect Moment! Congratulations go out to you Peter from your many fans!
The evening was filled with performances by such combinations as Elliott and Braun in "Chill Factor", Boney and Braun, Culbertson and Cole, White with Benoit and Koz, Whalum with Sills and Tisdale my friends, simply outstanding music all around! In between of course, awards were presented by our favorites to our favorites such as to Boney James for Artist of the Year (by Dave Koz), to Rick Braun for Best Brass (by Ken Navarro), to Fourplay for Best Group (by Kirk Whalum), to Rick Braun for Best Producer (by Steve Reid), to Peter White for Best Collaboration (by Gerald Veasley), to Steve Cole for the Prism Awards, best new artist (by Wayman Tisdale), to Nathan East for Best Bass (by Paul Taylor and accepted by Bob James) to Peter White for CD of the Year (by Herb Alpert) and the list goes on. Honorary video awards were given to Ken Navarro, Keiko Matsui, John Tesh, Russ Freeman and Dave Koz with clips of each winning video shown to the audience. Lifetime achievement awards went to jazz legends Frank Cody, Herb Alpert, Bob James and Russ Freeman. You can see the results at the Oasis Awards website (www.oasisawards.com).
This writer would be remiss however if she didn't relay to you the highlight of the evening when describing performances. It started out with Bob James giving a narrative tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. and sharing some of his history. A large movie screen dropped down over the stage and a short video on the great saxophonist was then presented with much of his musical history displayed. It was then that Mr. James introduced Peter White to the stage to commemorate the Song of the Year and Collaboration Award winner "Midnight in Manhattan". Peter appeared on the stage solo (and you could feel what was missing) delivering the song, in all it's beauty, with the clarity of the strings of his acoustic guitar ringing throughout the theater. Once through the entire song and in the distance, one could hear a lone saxophone approaching closer to the stage. In moments, Richard Elliott was on stage with Peter playing his heart out and the two of them in their famous face-to-face pose. With that, another sax was heard, only to now have Boney James come from right stage to continue where Richard left off! Wow! Again, another sax is heard in the distance and in walks Kirk Whalum, ripping away to the Grover part of this masterpiece while Richard and Boney now observed! And once again, when we just couldn't dance, smile, cry or clap any more, ANOTHER SAX was heard off stage and suddenly appears Dave Koz! After Dave let it all hang out with Peter the four sax masters tore it up, letting go of everything they owned in breath to play with the guitar laureate and create heaven for jazz jammers! These guys were so into it that Peter signaled the band for another chorus! With perspiration running down their faces, smiles from ear to ear, these five jazz masters simply had fun and gave us everything! They all commented afterwards just how much fun that moment was and when Koz returned to the podium, he saw an audience that was exhausted, standing, cheering, crying, smiling, singing the melody all the way through and begging for more. This sequence tore the house down and will probably never be replicated again! Thanks to Peter White for dreaming up the scheme!
From the opening sequences of Herb Alpert performing his incomparable "This Guy's In Love With You", to the two concerts given post awards by The (original) Rippingtons, yes, I mean Benoit and Koz too, and Dave Koz' concert which included Peter and David Benoit, this was a jam-packed, action filled evening of music and glory! The show will be televised either on cable or syndicated to many markets shortly. And of course if you can plan to attend the next awards show to be held at the same venue on January 20, 2001!
Hats off to promoters, Rick Parrish, Bill Paddock and Jerry Thompson a combination of visionaries whose dream has become a reality! Lots of dedication from many with efforts from artists, nominating committees of industry leaders and fans included made this the most memorable evening in Smooth Jazz history! The famous Grover quote comes to mind when thinking about just what has been started here it's only halftime!