Not everyone goes out to celebrate New Year's Eve, and if you happen to be a jazz fan and a stay-at-home this year, there's some mighty good listening to be had on your radio.
JAZZ ALIVE! -- National Public Radio's highly popular performance program -- will launch 1981 with a seven-and-a-half hour musical marathon, live via satellite, starting at 9:30 p.m. New Year's Eve and continuing until 5 a.m. (Eastern time -- check local listings).
Jazz Alive! has been helping to keep jazz alive and well for the past four years, bringing to the jazz listener live programs that would otherwise not be heard. The focus has been on all the various styles of jazz, including some of the best-known performers.
The New Year's Eve program will be broadcast from four jazz clubs across the country and features an unusually fine cross-section of players and singers from the various styles of jazz.
Trumpeter Randy Brecker and brother saxophonist Mike Brecker open the show with a live performance from Seventh Avenue South in New York's Greenwich Village. The Breckers, leaders of the new breed of jazz, are some of the most versatile exponents of that music, combining fushion with avantgarde and even hard bop. The eclecticism of these two attracts a wide variety of musicians, and the resulting sounds are intriguing indeed.
Detroit is the next stop on the tour, where we meet the big, warm tenor sax sound of Houston Person and the powerful vocals of Etta Jones at a new club called Dummy George's. Also on deck will be the marvelous Shirley Scott at the organ -- one of the most original players of that instrument, infusing her basically bop style with a distinctly modern approach.
Then, on to Chicago -- one of the jazz centers of America -- to Rick's Cafe American, where singer Johnny Hartman, master of the jazz ballad, will be holding forth. Hosted by pianist Billy Taylor, the Chicago offering will also include veteran trumpeter Clark Terry, alumnus of both the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands. Terry is enjoying much success these days, both with personal appearances and a number of recent recordings for Pablo. On this set, we hear Terry not only playing his horn, but doing some crazy bop and blues vocals, too.
Final stop on the Jazz Alive! itinerary is San Francisco's Keystone Korner, where listeners can tune in to a most impressive collection of jazz names: bebop tenor saxman Sonny Stitt, guitarist Kenny Burrell, piaist Red Garland, and trumpeter Woody Shaw. As if these weren't enough, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, recently elected to Down Beat magazine's Hall of Fame, will make an appearance with his quartet. This final addition to the tour will be co-hosted by educator-composer-trumpeter Gerald Wilson and jazz historian-critic Leonard Feather.
Much to its credit, Jazz Alive! has also brought some lesser-known talents and events to the attention of the jazz listening public, including broadcasts of the Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival; a musical portrait of pianist-composer Jaki Byard; and a program featuring three of the 1980 Down Beat International Critics Poll winners, acknowledged as "talents deserving wider recognition."