Monday, September 29, 2008


Photo by W. Kim Heron Dear Harold McKinney,

I have some exciting news to share with you, Teddy Harris, Roy Brooks, and Donald Walden, the Detroit jazz masters who passed way, and have joined you in that special corner of heaven God reserved for Detroit jazz musicians. Man, I can only imagine the nightly jam sessions you guys have. By the way, how is Dr. Harris doing? Has the pianist assembled a big band akin to his New Breed Be Bop Orchestra? That orchestra was a boot camp and finishing school for budding jazz musicians who wanted to learn how to swing.

Is Roy Brooks taking his medication daily, and are his chops strong again? I bet in the drummer’s spare time he teaches the angels up there how to swing. What about saxophonist Donald Walden. How is he adjusting? At the 29th Detroit International Jazz Festival bassist Marion Hayden-you remember Hayden the first lady of Detroit jazz, and the cofounder of the quintet Straight Ahead—organized a tribute concert for Walden. Damn near every student or alumni of Walden’s bands The Detroit Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Works, and Free Radicals participated.

Harold how have you been? I really miss those Thursday evening jazz workshops you conducted at the SergeNti?? Ballroom on Woodard Ave. (Bill Foster, the concert promoter who held jazz concerts there, moved out of the building a year or so after you passed. Currently the place is a mom and pop Hip Hop clothing store). A lot of inspiring jazz pianist and vocalists benefited from your knowledge. Harold, I wished that you and Harris had trained successors to take over your workshop, and Harris’ Orchestra. But I guess you guys couldn’t do it all. Or maybe no one stepped up because they never thought you and Harris would ever pass away someday.

I don’t know if you guys receive updates regularly about the Detroit’s jazz scene. Over the past few years, the jazz scene has experienced what I call a youth movement. Youngsters such as vocalist Jesse Palter, saxophonist De’Sean Jones and drummer Thaddeus Dixon have formed bands without serving an apprenticeship in groups such as the New Breed Be Bop Society Orchestra, and Walden’s Detroit Jazz Orchestra. The youngsters are successful.

Also, there’re new jazz venues popping up every where such as Dirty Dog, and Jazz at the Max inside of Orchestra Hall, and a jazz café’ in the basement of The Music Hall. The latter showcases mostly national jazz acts whereas the Dirty Dog employs mostly locals. Harold I’m talking your ears off, and have yet to share the good news.

A few Saturdays ago, I went to Bert’s Market Place to her Larry Smith. The alto saxophonist recovered from the two strokes he had in 2003. Drummer George Davison was in Smith’s rhythm section. After the first set, Davison told me he’s finishing up a new album—his first as a leader—with original compositions he wrote for you, Harris, Brooks, and Walden.

Davison founded financing. The album will be released next year. So that’s the news I wanted to share. This kind of homage to you guys is overdue. Maybe next someone will start a petition to have you guys birthdays national holidays. It could be called Detroit’s Masters Day. That’s just a thought.

Charles L. Latimer

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