What happened to the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition this year? Well, it's still taking place at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium, but under a different name. And with a different instrument. The Louis Armstrong International Jazz Trumpet Competition, with $18,000 in scholarship prizes, will be held this weekend, with semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. and finals Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Twenty semifinalists from five countries will participate, including Nicholas Payton and Scotty Barnhart, who perform with pianist Marcus Roberts, winner of the second Monk competition and a rising star in his own right.
"We're going to be presenting other instruments each year for a couple of reasons," says Tom Carter, director of the Monk Institute for Jazz. "One is to offer young, aspiring artists on those instruments access to the scholarship dollars, as well as to the record companies. The other is to allow time for the young pianists to nurture their talent as well." Next year, when the instrument of choice is the saxophone, the name will become the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, "featuring ..."
"This is also a way to highlight other major contributors to the idiom," says Carter, pointing out that the competition remains under the auspices of the Monk Institute and the Beethoven Society of America. The $10,000 first prize has been donated by the Ford Motor Co., the $5,000 second prize by the Beethoven Society and the $3,000 third prize by the United Black Fund of America.
Carter reports that more applications were received this year than in any of the previous three, thanks to a combination of support from major jazz publications around the world and word-of-mouth by giants of the trumpet, five of whom will be serving as the jury for the competition: Nat Adderley, Donald Byrd, Red Rodney, Clark Terry and Snooky Young. In any case, the trumpet has been hot in recent years, thanks to youngbloods like Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Marlon Jordan and Roy Hargrove. Most of the entrants are in their mid-twenties to early thirties, though Payton is 16 and Bryan Kisor is 17. Two are local -- Washington's Tom Williams, a member of the Army's Jazz Ambassadors, and Baltimore's Alex Norris.
A two-hour special on the competition will air over National Public Radio on Dec. 1, hosted by jazz champion Bill Cosby (who won't be here for the event), and the competition is also being filmed for a future video underwritten by the Herb Alpert Foundation. Tickets for Saturday's semifinals are free to members of the Smithsonian's Resident Associate Program and $5 for non-members; for Sunday's finals, tickets are $10 for RAP members, $12 for non-members. For information, call 202-357-3030.
After a protracted battle to get a liquor license, Cates Restaurant and Jazz Club will finally open its new Washington home tomorrow night, and in high style at that: Local (and increasingly national) favorite Shirley Horn settles in through Sunday. Horn, who just returned from a European tour, makes her film debut in the recently opened "Tune In Tomorrow," in which she sings "I Can't Get Started" backed by Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis, brother Branford and Miles Davis are all featured on her new Verve album, "You Won't Forget Me," to be released in January; Davis was so impressed he reportedly now wants to cut an entire album of ballads with Horn. Future bookings at Cates include Dakota Staton, Arthur Prysock and Dave Frishberg. The club is at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW; for information, call 202-363-3300.
R&B, Time-Life Style
Alexandria-based Time-Life Music, which struck gold with its "The Rock 'N' Roll Era" series, has now launched an ambitious R&B anthology series. Like the acclaimed rock and "Country U.S.A." series, each "Rhythm & Blues" album will focus on a particular year (1954-1970); each will contain 22 original hits from crucial labels like Motown, Atlantic, Stax-Volt and King (many available for the first time on CD, and all digitally mastered). The first album, "1966," includes obvious reference points like Sam and Dave, the Temptations, Four Tops, Percy Sledge and Otis Redding, but also the likes of Slim Harpo, Robert Parker, Darrell Banks and James and Bobby Purify. The series is available exclusively from Time-Life Music ($14.99 for double-length cassette, $16.99 for CD), with "1966" available for a 10-day free examination. Subscribers receive new releases every other month, keeping only the sets they want (there is no minimum order and subscribers can cancel at any time). Time-Life's 45-volume "Rock 'N' Roll Era" generated more than a million subscribers and set a new standard for rock anthologies (of course, the company also produced the lite-rock "Sounds of the Seventies" and "Classic Rock" series for the faint-of-art). For information call 1-800-322-3412 or write Time-Life Customer Service, 1450 E. Parham Rd., Richmond, Va. 23280-2002.
More Country Gentlemen
Smithsonian/Folkways has reissued the Country Gentlemen's first Folkways recording, "Country Songs, Old and New," on the album's 30th anniversary, and just as Sugar Hill's "Classic Country Gents Reunion" has been named Recorded Event of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. This is a crucial album in bluegrass history, introducing Charlie Waller (still with the group), John Duffey (who would found the Seldom Scene) and Eddie Adcock with their superb instrumentals and innovative melding of the high lonesome sound of the Stanley Brothers and the close trio harmony of the Osborne Brothers.
Recent Smithsonian/Folkways releases include "Music of the Soviet Union," "Puerto Rican Music in Hawaii," "Tuva: Voices From the Center of Asia," "Don't Mourn -- Organize!" (songs by labor songwriter Joe Hill), and dozens of reissues (some in new compilations). The distribution arrangement with Rounder Records "is working very well," according to Smithsonian/Folkways Director Tony Seeger. "We have sold quite a lot of albums, both back catalogue and new and so money is coming in to pay off our acquisition of Folkways." Those who cherish original Folkways records -- notable for their thick packaging and informative pamphlets -- might want to check out Tower Records, which has been holding a bargain-priced clearance sale on Folkways vinyl.
Several hundred thousand acquisition dollars were generated via royalties from the all-star tribute album, "Folkways: A Vision Shared," and more funds should be raised by the recently unveiled "JVC Video Anthology of World Music and Dance." This ground-breaking collection covers 500 performances in more than 100 countries; five years in the making, it was edited in cooperation with Japan's National Museum of Ethnology, with the English-language versions prepared by an editorial board appointed by Smithsonian/Folkways.