Jazz Jamboree Hits a Sweet Note and if you missed it, stay tuned for next time. For a recap, watch the video posted below.
The B.O. Jazz Jamboree presented by the Tuskegee Macon County Community Foundation, Inc. (TMCCF) was the event of the season. Held in the Under Croft of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, the energy ran high as old and new friends gathered greeting each other with high expectations for the evening. Dressed in comfortable attire, the audience waited eagerly to taste the exceptional delectables presented on the menu that was based on George Washington Carver’s recipes. A wonderful aroma met them the moment they entered the building.
The room was decorated like a 1950’s café. There were red checkered tablecloths on round tables. Burning candles in wine bottles completed a Bohemian look. To add a sense of humor to the evening, orange, grey and/or white goblets served as the drinking glasses in tribute to Halloween. The souvenirs were little toy musical instruments that many took home to their children or grandchildren, or, kept to secretly blow in memory of their younger selves.
Magdalene Kennedy Patton, Chair of the TMCCF Board of Trustees, welcomed the crowd of 90 people. As in the tradition of Tuskegee events, prayer started off the event. The Tapley Family, Gloria and Emile, gave a beautiful round of gospel songs. This was followed by serving a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Lisa Owens Callens of Sweetie’s Things in Atlanta, Georgia.
The menu was based on the philosophy of food and recipes as advocated by Dr. George Washington Carver, renowned scientist and agricultural/botany specialist. He believed that you make what you have better. Chef Callens did just that. She took ordinary food of the South and made a gourmet meal. The menu was comprised of:
- Grilled Sofrito Chicken,
- Pork “Loans” in Port, Figs, and Apples
- Roasted Honey Lemon Salmon
- Jubilee Assorted Rice with Herbs and Cranberries
- Orzo Pasta with Spinach and Portabella Mushrooms
- French Green Beans with Garlic
- Field Salad with Triple Cream Blue Cheese, Star Crimson Pears and Spicy Walnuts
- Sweetie’s BA Sweet Potato Pie
- Pear Frangipane
- Flourless Chocolate Torte
- Sweetie’s Spiced Iced Tea with Peach Bourbon
- Citrus Mint Water
The food was so delicious that when Lisa was introduced, the audience stood on their feet and gave her a standing ovation.
Lucenia Williams Dunn, President/CEO of TMCCF served as Mistress of Ceremonies.
Certificates of Appreciation were presented to Allen “Bobo” O’Rourke and his wife, Beverly. The couple owns Tiger Pause Deli; and Tom Crain, Founder of Tallassee Rehab. They embody values that make Tuskegee a fantastic place to live.
This was followed by a beautiful rendition of “Forever For Always For Love” by Karen Owens.
The induction into the Tuskegee Macon County Music Hall of Fame highlighted the musical contributions of three individuals. The Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 2014. This was the second induction ceremony. The Honorees were Paul H. Carney (drums and liturgical choirs), Howard Nicholson (jazz clarinet, tenor and alto saxophone) and Warren L. Duncan (Tuskegee University band conductor and music educator).
The evening was in celebration of music – Tuskegee style. Bill Perry, the musical director for the Jamboree, brought the Straight Up Jazz Trio from Panama City, Florida for the main entertainment. Their unique sound grew out of each member’s personal experiences and diverse cultures. Jorge Higuera, a fierce Latin percussionist, is from Puerto Rico. Norm Laird, a smooth bass guitarist, is a native of Jamaica. And, Bill Perry, a jazz pianist extraordinaire, is from Georgia by way of Tuskegee. Howard Nicolson, our guest jazz saxophonist, is a native Tuskegeean, who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He joined with Straight Up and together they made exceptional music.
The evening would not have been complete without Paul Carney and Joyce German and Allen Williams lending their soulful and melodic solos. We got sexy from Paul, religion from Allen and an unusual rendition of the Tuskegee Song from Joyce. The Jamboree entertained the audience with all of these fabulous vocal selections including a spontaneous group selection of “Going Home.”
Declarations, exclamations, and congratulations were shared for the fantastic evening in Tuskegee. People had a grand time and contributed to Telemedicine for Tuskegee and Macon County.
Members of the Board of Trustees include Magdalene Kennedy Patton, Anna Campbell Owens, Georgette White Moon, Marian Chisolm Ash, Loette Williams Alexander, Eugene Harris, Oscar Dixon and Marian Ford Garmon.
WHO IS B.O.
B.O. Jazz Jamboree celebrates the accomplishments of Robert “Bobby” Owens, i.e., B.O. He passed in 2013 and the TMCCF Board of Trustees voted to honor his musical accomplishments by initiating the TMCCF B.O. Jazz Jam Session in 2014. Bobby was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame for his musical talents as a jazz guitarist in 1988. While jazz was his favorite musical genre, he could play almost anything.
Bobby was a character and a brilliant rascal that everybody knew all over the city, the County and the State of Alabama.
A native of Tuskegee, he lived and grew up in Greenwood on the corner of Penny and Adam Streets in his Grandma Polk’s house. His family was very musical: Aunt Portia (organ and piano), Aunt Mercie (piano) and mother Garnette (Trombone) all played instruments very well and often played together. So, music was in his blood.
Bobby graduated from Chambliss Children’s House and made his first guitar out of a cigar box when he was in the second grade. It was in this elementary school that he was exposed to music from different cultures and different genres by Mrs. Victoria Nicholson the school’s music teacher. She taught music to all grades (K thru 8). When she identified talent, she went to great lengths to teach and encourage those students. This was borne out by the fact that Bobby, along with Howard Nicholson and Paul Carney, played professionally with adult music groups by the time they were in the eighth grade.
Horace Reeves worked in the Recreations Department at the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital. He mentored young musicians and encouraged them to perfect their skills by playing for the patients. Their pay was a meal at the VA Canteen. Three of his regulars were Paul, Howard and Bobby. Jimmy Williams heard the trio play and invited them to join the Jimmy Williams Music Trio. All of this happened during the time the three were in the 7th and 8th grades at Chambliss Children’s House.
Jimmy Williams was a well-known organist and exposed them to musicians and singers such as the Jazz Messengers, Cannon Ball Aderley, Dakota Staton, Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, blues singer Joe Turner, Gladys Knight and the Pips and others.
The first band Bobby played with as a teenager was the “Down Beats” at Tuskegee Institute High School. It was comprised of teenagers who were skilled at playing the trumpet, bass, piano, saxophones, drums and guitar. Organized by Horace Carney (piano and conductor), members of that group included Howard Nicholson (Alto Sax), George Wright (Bass), Paul Carney (Drums), Lawrence “Wink” Sims (Trumpet), Earl Odum (Tenor Sax) and Bobby Owens (Guitar). The group played for events and special occasions all over the region.
After graduating from Tuskegee Institute (University) with a major in Industrial Arts focusing on auto mechanics, Bobby organized the Bobby Owens Trio. This group consisted of Harold “Juke Box” Robinson on drums, Bill Perry on piano, Neal Scott on Alto Sax and Denise Hines on vocals. This group evolved into “Summer Funk” with Leroy Gibbs (Percussions), Larry Simmons (Bass Guitar), George Hicks (Trombone) Dave Evans (Tenor Sax) and Bobby Owens (Guitar).
The name was changed from Summer Funk to Smoke when they were playing at a gig one day. A patron ran up to them and cried, “Man you guys are smoking! You need to be named ‘Smoke’.” That is how the name Smoke evolved. When Juke Box left for the Armed Services, Bobby recruited new arrival Warren Duncan and taught him to play the drums. Smoke continues to entertain audiences with jazz and vocals even after the passing of Bobby. In 1988, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, inducted Robert “Bobby” Owens as one of the great jazz guitarist in the State of Alabama.
After suffering two strokes and two heart attacks, he lost his ability to play. However, with much grit and determination, Bobby taught himself to play the guitar again, and he played it until he died suddenly of a massive stroke on January 24, 2013 at the age of 70. Bobby was married 48 years to Anna Campbell Owens and they had two daughters, 2 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. He had one sister.
WHAT IS TMCCF?
TMCCF was first organized in 2002 but did not come into its own until 2012. The Board of Trustees was reconstituted, reorganized and Dr. Lucenia W. Dunn was appointed President/CEO. She then identified and focused the Foundation on Education (Industrial Education), Health (Telemedicine and lowering health disparities) and Historic Preservation (Tuskegee Macon County Music Hall of Fame).
Upon approval by the Board, TMCCF developed an educational model that centered on preparation of high school students learning skills in technology, agriculture and industrial arts. That model has yet to be funded and actualized.
Health using technology as an equalizer is a model for installing a telemedicine program to help reduce health disparities in the County. Funding is currently pending for the first phase of development.
The preservation of the rich history of music in Macon County is very critical to building and maintaining community morale. The establishment and inauguration of Tuskegee Macon County Music Hall of Fame in May 2014 was a step in telling the important stories about music. It was decided by the Board to honor the memory of their classmate Bobby Owens by naming the musical activities after him and in support of the Hall of Fame. Thus, the name is the B. O. Jazz Jamboree. The inaugural of the Hall of Fame was May 2014.
At the initial Hall of Fame, 10 people in four music categories were inducted posthumously. The members of the Honorees of 2014 were the shoulders upon which the musicians of today stand.
For the event in 2018, the name will be changed to the B.O. Music Jamboree to reflect a cross section of musical genres. More details to follow.