June 17th, POLYRHYTHMS brings piano Great Willie Pickens; the same Willie Pickens who performed five years ago at the very first Third Sunday Jazz Workshop & Matinee event. A celebrated educator performer, Pickens returns to the Redstone Room, in the RME on the corner of 2nd & Main, Davenport, IA, to see where his jazz demystifying teachings have taken us 66 Third Sundays later. Third Sunday Jazz Events begin with a workshop at 3 pm and is followed by a matinee concert from 6 – 8 pm.
“As our inaugural performer, Mr. Pickens set the bar for artistry and teaching at the Third Sunday Jazz Workshop & Matinee series”, said Nate Lawrence of Polyrhythms. “Generous in sharing the benefit of his experience, his counsel imprinted upon us the importance of providing top quality content and to not insult the kids by dumbing it down. How could we go wrong?”
A piano powerhouse, WILLIE PICKENS began his career on Eddie Harris’ 1961 national hit record, Exodus, since then playing with James Moody, Roy Eldridge, Max Roach, Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Quincy Jones, Bunky Green, Ira Sullivan, Wynton Marsalis, and so many more. But instead of joining the national and international jazz scene, Willie chose to make his home in Hyde Park, becoming a public school teacher, an active member of the Hyde Park Union Church, and a mentor to scores of upcoming musicians. Just passing his 81st birthday, Pickens is more in demand and playing better than ever. The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich writes that Willie’s intense dramatic performances result from his “large and complex chords, his great splashes of color and dissonance in the right hand and his barrelhouse octaves in the left.” Pickens is joined by Ron Wilson on bass and Manuel Lopez III on drums.
Pickens was born into a Milwaukee family that valued music. Willie’s mother, herself an amateur pianist, saw to it that Willie’s emerging talent was developed by encouraging his formal study of the instrument. His stepfather, an avid jazz fan and alto sax player, introduced him to the music of Art Tatum via the radio; as there were few jazz venues in Milwaukee. Pickens also discovered the likes of Nat “King” Cole and Bud Powell—artists that would have a profound influence on his musical development.
In 1954, Pickens earned a teacher’s certificate from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee and went on to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, in 1958, to receive his B.S. in Music Education. Ultimately, Willie’s love of jazz would drive his musical career. Having “caught the bug” playing with saxophonist Bunky Green and pianist Billy Wallace, Pickens moved to Chicago as soon as he’d finished his degree. “Chicago was where the action was,” he says, and started his baptism by fire in the city many regarded as the hub of the jazz piano world.
Although Pickens met with moderate success as a young musician, he married and started a family in 1959 and quickly realized that “if you’ve got kids, you’ve got to be sure how much money is coming in every week.” Since then, Willie has had distinguished dual careers as a performer and educator: he has served as band director for Lindblom and Wendell Phillips high schools and as Chair of the Department of Music at Phillips; he started Kenwood Academy’s first jazz band; he has also directed the City of Chicago’s All-City High School Band and taught at the American Conservatory of Music. Today, he continues to teach piano part-time in the Northern Illinois University’s jazz program and serves in the Ravinia/Chicago Public School Jazz Mentors Program.
At 81, Pickens continues to be one of Chicago’s most in-demand pianists for visiting artists. He has performed several times at the famed Chicago Jazz Festival, to rave reviews, and has been the featured pianist on impresario Joe Segal’s Jazz Cruises. He has also performed with fellow pianist Marian McPartland, both in concert and on her well-loved NPR show, “Piano Jazz”.
Polyrhythms Third Sunday Jazz Matinee & Workshop Series at the RME’s Redstone Room is scheduled for, June 17th, and features an all-ages workshop at 3 pm, followed by the matinee performance from 6-8 pm. Admission to the workshop session is Free for Kids, $5 for adults. General admission for the 6 - 8 pm concert is $10 or $15 for reserved seating. For ticket information, call Polyrhythms: 309 373-0790. For more information, visit our website: www.polyrhythms.org.
Sunday June 17th, Doors open at 5:30 pm. Come and experience great jazz with the legendary Willie Pickens Trio “live” at the Redstone Room.
Polyrhythms Third Sunday Jazz Series is made possible with major support of the Riverboat Development Authority, the Scott County Regional Authority, and the RME as well as the support of AT&T, the Doris & Victor Day Foundation, West Music, Davenport Clarion Hotel, KALA, IL Senator Mike Jacobs, Peeples Heating & Air Conditioning, the Austin Family Charitable Fund, Greatest Grains, Skylark Recording Studio and DJ Mixxin Mel.