“Jazz Professor” Returns Home for Workshop, Concert: Pianist Bill Bell, June 18 at the Redstone Room Print
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 13 June 2006 23:03

Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and East Moline native Bill Bell will be the third jazz artist to bring a group to the River Music Experience's Redstone Room when he performs and conducts a workshop on Sunday, June 18.

Bill Bell. Photo by Jimmie Jones The workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m., and admission is $10. The two-set concert is slated for 6 p.m., with a $15 ticket price. Bell will perform with a trio that will include the outstanding Chicago bass player Marlene Rosenberg and a drummer.

Last year, Bell was awarded the San Francisco Jazz Festival Beacon Award, for a career that has included touring with Benny Carter and Carmen McRae, as well as teaching at the College of Alameda, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University.

Bell was born July 12, 1936, to a musical family. He started playing piano at age five, was in a church band by age eight, and by 12 was the organist at East Moline's Mount Zion Baptist.

Bell has credited his cousin, Mallie Williams, with steering him toward a career in music. A sax player and band director at United Township High School for 34 years, Williams made Bell write his first music chart.

Bell's first professional gigs were at downtown Rock Island's Morocco Club, and the 17-year-old needed authorization from his parents because he was too young to be working in a nightclub.

Bell got a degree in music education from Augustana College, and while working toward his graduate degree from the University of Iowa studied with fellow music students David Sanborn and Al Jarreau. After getting his master's in 1963, Bell moved to the San Francisco area, teaching public school and playing gigs with Buddy Montgomery and others.

In addition to directing the choir for one of Duke Ellington's sacred concerts in San Francisco and touring with Carter and McRae, Bell also played with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Roy Eldridge, John Handy, and Joe Henderson.

For more than three decades, Bell led the music department at the College of Alameda, with students including trumpeter Jon Faddis and William Kennedy, drummer for the Yellowjackets.

His first CD, The Jazz Professor, included tributes to his mother, his father, his wife, Count Basie, and his son, who died tragically in 1991. His most recent CD is Just Swing Baby, on his own record label.

Bell was invited to conduct a jazz clinic at Augustana in the late 1970s, and has returned regularly over the past decade to his native Quad Cities.

For tickets, visit (http://www.redstoneroom.com).

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