, Newburyport, MA

September 23, 2013

A night of jazz to remember

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

The Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street in the heart of Newburyport is a handsome, Federal Period landmark. The interior has wonderful acoustics, and it’s been the scene of great gatherings for 208 years. We chose this wonderful space to be the site of our 50th wedding anniversary concert on Sept. 7.

Danny Harrington and his jazz band did us proud! Danny on baritone sax, Les Harris Jr. on drums, Jack Senier on that Steinway grand piano, Mark Carlsen on bass and Allyn Gamble on vocals were joined by special guest musicians Les Harris Sr. on drums, Aubrey Harris on bass and Steve Faria on vocals. Beginning with Duke Ellington’s “A Train,” we were on a journey with the sounds of world-class jazz.

Mid-way in the concert, Les Harris Sr. took over the drums from his son to play with his granddaughter, Aubrey, who will be a junior at Exeter High School, and has been studying weekly with her grandfather for the past two years. Aubrey plays the bass and her grandfather taught at the famed Berklee School of Music for 30 years (where Danny Harrington is beginning his 35th year on the faculty). In their set, the two Harrises brought down the house! Three generations of the musical Harris family were there to be with Les Sr. when Danny gave him a personal tribute and presented him with a plaque citing his far-reaching influence as a musician and music teacher. To be placed in the Newburyport schools, this plaque, along with a substantial donation, has been given to the Newburyport Education Foundation by Betsy and Jonathan Woodman to be used to enhance the musical program in the schools and to mark their anniversary.

It’s not often that one is accorded the privilege of honoring a “living legend” in any field, and Les Harris Sr. has achieved that status as a jazz musician who continues to teach and to inspire generations of students and fans.

We filled the church, a testament to community. Thanks to every one of you who came to celebrate our great jazz musical heritage with us. Special thanks to the talented and formidable jazz musicians, to Ann Reily for her timely article announcing the concert in The Daily News, to Bill Plante for his wonderful closing article in The Daily News after the concert, to Jim Dyer and all of the ushers and greeters, to Karen Dardinski for catering, to Susan VanEtten Lawson for photographing and to the William Plante Studio for recording the concert.

The afterglow of this amazing evening, where family and friends gathered from near and far to be with us, will seep into our souls and into the spirit of this great building that will continue to hold its echo. If one listens closely, the sounds of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” or Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” or the deep notes of the baritone sax or the Steinway piano … the instruments and voices will continue down the streets and into the history of our grand historic seaport city where the essence of community, like jazz, is being kept alive and well.

Betsy and Jonathan Woodman