South Carolina is the native state and former home of several distinguished jazz musicians, including the most well-known, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, the trumpeter, composer, bandleader and co-creator of bebop, who was born in Cheraw, South Carolina. There are several others , like the high note trumpet master, Cat Anderson, a former member of the famed Jenkins Orphanage Band of Charleston , who was in The Duke Ellington’s orchestra; and Charleston native, guitarist/composer, Freddie Green, who was a mainstay with The Count Basie Big Band for his entire musical career. Vocalist Etta Jones was born in Aiken and her musical partner, saxophonist Houston Person, is a native of Florence. Others include trumpeter Bubber Miley (Aiken), vocalist Arthur Prysock (Spartanburg ), bandleader and pianist Buddy Johnson (Darlington) and drummer Alphonse Mouzon (Charleston).
There are many more, over fifty, who will be honored , June 4-6, 2010, in Charleston, South Carolina, at an event, called The Legends Festival, conceived and produced by The Charleston Jazz Initiative, which was co-founded in 2003, by Dr. Karen A. Chandler, Associate Professor of Arts Management, School of Arts, College of Charleston, and Charleston native and jazz journalist, Jack McCray. The Legends Festival is also being presented by The Piccolo Spoleto Festival , The College of Charleston’s School of Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Humanities Council of South Carolina, and other local organizations. It will feature live music, educational events, a master class, an original musical, cabaret affairs, exhibitions, a Gala and a booksigning, featuring saxophone legend Jimmy Heath, autographing copies of his new autobiography I Walked With Giants (Temple University Press) and who has roots in South Carolina.
“My mother was born in Sumter, South Carolina,” said Heath, in a recent interview from his Queens, New York residence. “So, you know I will be there. I’m honored to have been invited. My brother Tootie (drummer) will be there also. My daughter, Roslyn, who lives in Atlanta, is coming and I’ve invited some friends who live nearby. I plan to have a family affair. I think the Charleston Jazz Initiative is doing an excellent job and I look forward to being there.”
Heath, who considered Gillespie his mentor, teacher and dear friend, will also perform, Saturday , June 5, at a gala, entitled “Nothin Could Be Finer, “at The Sottile Theatre, College of Charleston, that will feature his composition dedicated to Dizzy called “Without You, No Me.” The event will include a cocktail reception and music scheduled from Ellis Marsalis, Houston Person, Joey Morant , John Williams, Slide Hampton and others. The next night, June 6, The Legends Festival will present a cabaret affair, featuring pianist/ author Brad Key and the music of Charleston native, big band arranger of the swing era, Joseph “Fud” Livingston, at The Riviera Theater.
For more information about The Legends Festival and The Charleston Jazz Initiative, contact Dr. Karen Chandler, [email protected], [email protected] or call (843) 953-4843.

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Larry Reni Thomas