Jazz Pianist Bertha Hope

Saturday, August 23 @ 8PM

Admission: $12 (free with a 2008 Passport subscription

Crossing Borders LIVE, WVBR's multicultural radio concert series will continue the first annual Summer Jazz Series, featuring collaborative performances among local and national jazz legends, with jazz keyboardist Bertha Hope on Saturday, August 23rd. Bertha will be visiting Ithaca for the first time since 1981: she will be joined by Bernie Upson, bass and George Reed, drums. Bertha Hope's appearance is sponsored in part by McNeils Music of Ithaca.

Bertha Hope, pianist, educator, poet, lyricist, composer and playwright, has been an active force in improvised music since the early 60s. She and her late husband, the legendary pianist Elmo Hope, hailed originally from Los Angeles and eventually migrated to New York. During her long and respectful career, she has continued to present Elmo's music, whether on her recordings or in the many concerts and club appearances she has given She has worked extensively over the years to transcribe many of the Elmo Hope compositions so that they can be performed and in addition, pay tribute to one of "be-bop's" underrated contributors. To that end, Bertha formed a working group called ELMOllennium, with Walter Booker (bass), Leroy Williams (drums), Virgil Jones (trumpet), Charles Davis (tenor sax), Roni Ben-Hur (guitar), and Amy London (guest vocalist).

Ms. Hope is co-leader of Jazzberry Jam, a female instrumental jazz ensemble (trio) with a male vocalist!, and also the leader of The Bertha Hope Trio, which has toured extensively throughout Japan. She is a composer and arranger with several recordings under her own name: "In Search of Hope" and "Elmo's Fire" (Steeplechase); "Between Two Kings" (Minor Records) and on the Reservoir label, "Nothin' But Love in 2000." Since the passing of Elmo in 1967, and among child-rearing responsibilities, Bertha Hope has been quietly building awareness, developing listeners who are attracted to the sincerity of her music, creating a following, and in the process becoming kind of a cult figure among female jazz musicians at the Mary Lou Williams jazz festival.

For a number of years Bertha Hope was an artist-in-residence under the auspices of "The New Jersey State Council on the Arts." Through that program, she performed in New Jersey state-wide workshops. Some of the musicians with whom she performed during that period were Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Nat Adderley and Philly Joe Jones. Bertha also holds a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and teaches an advanced jazz ensemble at The Lucy Moses School, and an Introduction to Jazz Program at Washington Irving H.S. which is sponsored by Bette Midler. Her legacy continues as her children carry the musical torch.

..With an assured degree of technical facility, but also a calmness and devotion that can be channeled through her music, Hope's touch is one avoiding dynamic extremes, but instead painting serene portraits, even when she goes for a bop sensibility, as on "Book' Bok". Even then, or on her tribute to Monk, "Gone To See T," she can't forsake her reassuring style and the ease of her swing.Rather, heartfelt emotion-as expressed in the tribute to Hope's son, Sun Rá Gurumayi, "Prayer For Sun Rá", or on her warmly sun tune "Balm In Gilead"-flows through her instrument, and thus leads to the title of her CD.

...Don Williamson, All About Jazz on the release of Nothin' But Love.

George Reed has lived in Elmira since 1990 and has toured and recorded with artists such as Marian McPartland and Tony Bennett, among an impressive list of jazz names. He was born in West Virginia coal country but raised in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s, just two blocks from the famous Savoy Ballroom where he regularly danced to big band music and hung out with musicians. He eventually took up the drums and credits his success with the kindness and attention of older, established musicians in his early life, such as Papa Jo Jones and Freddie Green who made up the rhythm section of the Count Basie Orchestra. Their mentorship represents a pay-it-forward motivation for Reed, who now devotes time to working with young players like Lefkowitz-Brown and Li. Now 84, he still performs at Elmira's jazz club, Green Pastures.

Bernie Upson was born in Harlem and cut his musical teeth on the New York City jazz scene. By the age of 20, he was touring the East Coast with Claude Reddick (from the Ed Sullivan Show) and The Show of Shows. From a stint in the U.S. Army where he befriended and played with saxophonist Joe Henderson, Bernie went on to perform with many acclaimed musicians including George Benson, Roy Haynes, Illinois Jacquet, Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones, and others. He's toured Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, and played on such famous American stages as The Apollo, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and Kennedy Center. Bernie eventually landed in Central New York, and has spent the past 20 years playing with the region's finest musicians. He now makes his home in Ithaca, and performs regularly throughout the Central and Southern tier regions, to the delight of local jazz fans and musicians alike.