Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who You Foolin’… You Ain’t Foolin’ Nobody! - A Musical Tribute to Frank Williams III

Welcome to Rick Gee’s Jazz Jamm Blog! 

For your information, this is my very first attempt at establishing a Blog.  I’ve wanted to do so for quite awhile now, thinking that it would be beneficial to all of us who are into the beautiful music called JAZZ!  Therefore, I’m asking that you bear with me while I get my feet wet.  Your comments are always welcome.
With this Blog, my intent is to bring you news about local jazz musicians and (past and future) events that I attend and have attended.  I expect to post Blogs about national and international jazz musicians, jazz websites, jazz articles, musical plays, and much more.  I also hope to upload photos and videos to the Blog.  However, it’s going to take time, since I’m in the learning process.

Given that this is my 1st blog, I thought I would start with a review of what happened on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at the Gibbs High School Grand Theatre.  For those who did not attend, it was a Musical Tribute to Frank Williams III.  So, since he has been associated with JAZZ most of his life, especially with young people, and is worthy of a tribute, I feel he’s worthy of being the 1st in what I hope will be a long line of Blog’s.

It was at the tribute that I learned that Frank oftentimes would speak the funny statement in this Blog’s title to certain band students.  You see, Frank wouldn’t allow his band students to “fake it” … he wanted all of his students to perform correctly and perfectly! 

That’s the kind of music teacher Frank was and still is, however, he no longer is a teacher the Pinellas County school system.  Frank retired several months ago.  However, he continues to instruct students in the Ruth Eckerd Jazz Youth Band, and other special musical programs.  Frank’s retirement from the Pinellas County school system is what Sunday, May 22nd was all about.

Ms. Jeanne W. Reynolds, Supervisor, Pre K-12 Performing Arts, Pinellas County Schools made a statement describing Williams that is succinct but says it all … “Frank Williams is an extraordinary musician and a passionate, magical teacher.  He has lived out Gandhi’s exhortation to be the change you wish to see in the world.  For 30 years, he inspired his Boca Ciega High School students to be better than they believed they could be.  They did not dare let him down.  Frank has transformed the lives of thousands of students, teachers and colleagues, as well as, literally saving the lives of more than a few.  The legacies of Frank Williams will inspire Pinellas County students and teachers for years to come.”

On this special day of “Tribute” Frank was completely surprised.  Somehow, friends and family were able to keep the event a secret … you know how difficult that is!  His friend and sometime musical collaborator Robert W. Smith welcomed the more than 300 plus friends and family and managed to keep their interest for close to an hour until Williams was brought into the theatre.   

The audience remained perfectly quiet during the last three minutes … and then, Frank was escorted to the stage, and you could see the surprised expression on Frank’s face.  What a wonderful feeling it was to have been present at this special event witnessing admiration directed to a man who deserved every single expression of honor and respect intended for him.  Savoring every moment of this special tribute were family members, wife and high school sweetheart Paulette Williams III, high school senior and jazz band pianist daughter Kamilah Williams, and sons Frank (IV) and Gregory Williams.

 The program included performances by the Williams Jazz Trio comprised of local jazz pianist Stan Hunter and Frank’s musically talented sons, namesake Frank (IV) and Gregory Williams.  Frank (IV) is a Washington, DC jazz drummer and a member of the Grammy nominated Michael Thomas Quintet.  Gregory performs on bass with Wynton Marsalis, Delfayeo Marsalis, Elvin Jones and many others.  Both sons have numerous CDs to their credit.  

Jazz performances were presented by the Frank T. Williams III All-Star Jazz Ensemble with Bob Barfield, Conductor.  Frank’s former student Mike Roylance, now Principal Tubist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed a special solo from “Teutonic Tales” composed by friend Robert W. Smith. 

 Following intermission, the Frank T. Williams III Alumni & Friends Concert Band also performed.  Family members contributed special remarks at the end of the program, and a Michael Masser/Linda Creed duet musically sang the beautiful song “The Greatest Love of All.”  There was a reception afterwards, including a jam session with friends, family, colleagues and students.

 Frank Williams III is a personal friend and a person who I genuinely admire, respect and hold in high esteem.  Ours has been a relationship that has expanded with time, since we both enjoy working with young people in the field of jazz.  Join me in extending congratulations to Frank and continued success during his years of retirement!
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Remember to “Keep Jazz Alive” by “Supporting Live Jazz!”
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