Eubanks, King to salute ladies of jazz at Schwartz

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Noted trumpeter Duane Eubanks, who has played in venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and the Kennedy Center, performs Jan. 16 at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts. (Submitted photo)

Vocalist Denise King and trumpeter Duane Eubanks both have a deep-seated love of jazz. Yet they discovered it in much different ways.

For Ms. King, it was quite by accident.

“My uncle was always a big supporter and fan of jazz and had these very expensive collection of LPs in the family room,” she said.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copy“One day I was on punishment for something or other and I went down there and decided to go through his collection. The first recording I heard was (trumpeter) Lee Morgan’s ‘Sidewinder.’ From there I was hooked.

“I had always listened to different types of music but this appealed to me on a different level. It was more listenable than any other music I had ever heard before.”

For Mr. Eubanks, it was just always around.

His mother Vera was a pianist while his older brothers became renowned jazz musicians in their own right.

Robin, a trombonist, played with Art Blakey’s Messengers, and trumpet player turned guitarist Kevin became the band leader for Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” for 15 years, among his other accomplishments.

“My brothers actually pushed it on me and my twin brother, Shane,” Mr. Eubanks recalled.

“They sat us down and said ‘This is jazz. You need to know it and you need to know who certain people are.’ And it grew on us over time. Robin basically put his foot down and we followed suit.”

Ms. King and Mr. Eubanks will spread their love and knowledge of the music when they present “A Tribute to the Great Lady Legends of Jazz” Jan. 16 at the Schwartz Center for the Arts to kick off a new season at the venerable Dover theater.

The 7:30 p.m. performance showcases songs from music greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson.

Mr. Eubanks and Ms. King, both Philadelphia natives, have known each other for quite some time and say they enjoy performing together.

“(Ms. King) has a very strong voice and her personality comes through in her singing,” said Mr. Eubanks.

“She really makes a song her own. She can be singing a classic and you’d swear that she was the one who wrote it.”

For Ms. King, the feeling is mutual.

“He’s one of the most talented and also humble cats I know,” she said of Mr. Eubanks, who has performed with artists as diverse as Alicia Keys, hip-hop’s Wu Tang Clan and gospel’s Kirk Franklin.

The two will be joined by Aaron Graves on piano, Lee Smith on bass, Abraham Burton on tenor sax and Khary Abdul-Shaheed on drums, all talented musicians in the own right, said Mr. Eubanks.

For Ms. King, it’s a been a 30-year odyssey from being a single mother in Philadelphia, working assorted jobs including medical technician, to being a

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Philadelphia-based jazz vocalist Denise King will sing songs made famous by some of her idols, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, at the Schwartz performance. (Submitted photo)

celebrated jazz singer, who has performed in New York, Paris, Turkey, Brazil, Africa, Germany and Japan.

And, like her love of the music, it all happened unexpectedly.

“I was out on my front steps sweeping and a man just happened to walk by and heard me singing and said ‘Girl, you can sing.’ I said, ‘Can I?’ ” she said.

“He said ‘I got a gig. Let me audition you.’ I didn’t even know what a gig was. But it worked out and suddenly I had extra money to buy my kids tennis shoes and all those things that they really needed.

“Six months later, I got what was supposed to be a three-month gig in Japan that turned into six months and I was off.”

Like Mr. Eubanks, Ms. King is committed to carrying on the jazz tradition for younger generation. In Philadelphia, she says the number of jazz clubs has dwindled significantly in recent years.

“I really think the music is underrepresented. When you go abroad, the music is almost revered as holy. The level of respect is so great, you can play a concert that draws 2,000 people. Around here, sometimes you have to work a little harder to get people to come out, which is a shame,” she said.

“Jazz does seem to be on the back burner in America. Perhaps some of the other things that other genres do to bolster their music could help with jazz. There needs to be more attention paid to the music whether it be an ad campaign to increase listenership or something else to introduce young people to this truly American art form.

Mr. Eubanks, a faculty member at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Brooklyn Music School, was a a recipient of the 2013 Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award.

He too believes that continuing the tradition of jazz is essential and thinks the genre is making a mistake by focusing too much on younger musicians and not enough on the veterans.

“The industry took the emphasis off of the older musicians and what they have to offer the younger generation,” said Mr. Eubanks, who has played in venues from the Hollywood Bowl to New York’s famed Birdland and the Kennedy Center to Europe and Japan.

“They are overlooking the true masters and not tapping into their knowledge to ensure the proper flow of information.”

Turning just 47 later this month, Mr. Eubanks is far from reaching retirement age. But even he says he has a responsibility to carry on what he’s learned to the younger generation in order to carry on the tradition of jazz.

“I have a great responsibility to share what I’ve been through. In its heyday in the 1930s and ’40s, older musicians always showed the younger ones how to carry themselves and how to play and just took care of them on and off the bandstand,” said Mr. Eubanks.

He originally went to college for business until deciding to join his brothers in the music world after performing in his school band at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. Upon graduation, he went to Temple University to study music.

“I was very influenced by my dad who was in the corporate world. I would see my brothers laying around all day and didn’t think they had a viable way to make a living when actually they were very successful,” he said with a laugh.

“I played music as a kid but then stopped before college. When I started playing again, I got that passion back.”

Ms. King said next weekend’s Schwartz show will be a celebration of the artists whom she grew up loving.

“They are the singers who have impacted my career — those I have listened to and learned from over the years,” she said.

“I’m really looking forward it.”

Tickets, from $22 to $28, can be obtained by visiting schwartzcenter.com, calling 678-5152 or visiting the box office at 226 S. State St., Dover.

New season, new website

Along with a new slate of shows for the season, which we previewed last week, The Schwartz Center unveiled a new website this week.

The new site, still at www.schwartzcenter.com, has a fresher look than the old one with a new content management system.

Schwartz officials say that means they can engage the community faster related to the theater’s programming, with more background on the shows and embedded video to give patrons a sampling of the performances.

Launching soon on the site will be a new “News” page where to share news on cultural arts in Central Delaware and stories about the history of the Capital Theater and how it has evolved into the center, as it exists today.

Chapel Street tonight

The Delaware Friends of Folk continues its partnership with the First State Heritage Park in sponsoring a series of monthly winter concerts at the

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Chapel Street Junction, a Newark-based bluegrass group, will play tonight as part of the Friends of Folk winter concert series at the Old State House in Dover.

historic Old State House Museum on The Green.

Tonight’s concert features bluegrass band Chapel Street Junction at 7:30.

They are a five-piece group, based in Newark, featuring guitar, banjo, upright bass, mandolin, fiddle and harmonica.

Although rooted in bluegrass, the band has many traditional country and Irish songs, as well as ragtime and cover tunes.

Admission is free. For more information, call (302) 827-FOLK or go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/delfolk.

Cooldog show Sunday

SONiA disappear fear with special guest Joe Cahill will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday as part of the Cooldog House Concert Series near Kenton.

Suggested donation is $20 per person or $14 for ages 10 to 18 and active military.

From the Opera House in Sydney to the bomb shelters in Israel to the Woody Guthrie Festival, multiple first-round Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter SONiA disappear fear performs with her Santa Cruz guitar, piano, harmonica or a full band.

She is frequently described as the “female Bob Dylan.” SONiA (Rutstein) sings and writes in Hebrew, Spanish, English and Arabic. Her songs are drawn from rock to blues to reggae to folk to Latin to Judaic to pop and country brimming with stories of passion and hope.

For more information or to RSVP, visit www.cooldogconcerts.com.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the Leonardo DiCaprio action-adventure film “The Revenant” and the horror film “The Forest.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is Matt Damon in “The Martian,” the animated “Hotel Transylvania 2” and the thriller “Sinister 2.”

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Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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