Thursday, October 6, 2011

Laurence Walken: Renaissance Man of Today!

            He is a "Renaissance Man of Today"...a month or so ago, I had the privilege of making friends with a gentleman who I believe is one of the most entertaining jazz vocalists in the State of Florida.  His name is Laurence Walden, originally from Chicago, but has enjoyed residences in Los Angeles, California, Las Vegas, Nevada and most recently, Jacksonville, Florida.  He is not only a superb jazz vocalist, a songwriter and playwright, but also a self-taught painter, sculptor, jewelry maker and mixed media collage artist.  He has sent several photos of his paintings and jewelry to me, and I’ve got to say, the dude is extremely talented.  He has also shown me photos of wall murals he’s created on several buildings in and around the area of Jacksonville.  For a quick look at Walden performing, check out this link to his website:
Walden’s artwork and jewelry, which you will see on his website have been displayed and sold in private and public art shows around the world, and he has received first place honors in Fine Arts in several juried art shows.  He has also received several awards for his performances in educational, historical and musical stage productions that he wrote and produced.  He earned a Best Actor award for his portrayal of Billy Eckstine in his own work, the musical “Me and Mr. B.”  In addition to the aforementioned awards, Walden has produced and appeared in more than 3,000 performances at Disneyland, Anaheim, California from 1980 to 1983.

            After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 1972, Walden taught African Art and Theater at the University of California, Riverside, California.  While serving eight years in the military service as a Technical Illustrator, he also toured with the Air Force Band, as the featured jazz vocalist.  In 1974 up to 1983, he lived and performed in L.A. California where he was the opening act for Cab Calloway, Della Reese, Marlena Shaw, Jimmy Smith, Willie Bobo, Dionne Warwick, Nancy Wilson and Isaac Hayes.  And, from 1983 until 1988, Walden lived and performed in Las Vegas with George Kirby, Lena Horne and Billy Eckstine.  Afterwards, Walden returned to his former home in Chicago.  For a period of three years, he performed in New Orleans up until 1099, at which time he relocated to his present home in Jacksonville, Florida.        
            Walden has also written the following stage productions, some of which he hopes to have put to film: “When The School Bells Ring” (A Tribute to Brown vs. the Board of Education’s Decision of 1954), “The Tooth, The Whole Tooth and Nothing But The Tooth” (An oral hygiene educational musical play), “Salute to the Duke” (The history, musical and quotes of Duke Ellington, “Gunjoke” “How the West Was Really Fun”), (A musical comedy spoof on “Gunsmoke”) and “Hitsville USA”, (The Sound of Motown). 

            As you may have guessed, I’m desperately trying to arrange for Walden to visit St. Petersburg, Florida to perform either a regular concert or his recently written “Me and Mr. B”, a singing biography of the great performer Billy Eckstine.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  I believe it’ll be a big hit with jazz audiences if he agrees to perform for my company.
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Remember to “Keep Jazz Alive” by “Supporting Live Jazz!”
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