November 2011 Archives

I want to note the passing of the Queen of Detroit jazz piano and a good friend.  Bess Bonnier died in October at the age of 83. Anyone who knew this woman would attest to her quick wit, fierce independence, love of friends and family, and incredible artistry.

Here's some background from the program to her memorial service, written by her daughter Dorian.

"Bess began playing the piano at an early age taking her first professional job with a big band at 13. She joined the Detroit Federation of Musicians in 1946. Her career spanned over six decades and included regular appearances with Jack Brokensha at his club in Detroit's New Center area, and at countless other clubs and hotels, concert and festival venues, private parties, events and local resorts. Highlights of her stage career include a performance in 1981 at the "Detroit Jazz Summit" in New York City with Barry Harris, Tommy Flannagan and Roland Hanna. In 1994 she played in Brussels, Belgium with Jack Brokensha at the Very Special Arts Festival. In 2004 she appeared with the a capella vocal group "Coda" at the Jazz Cava in Terrassa, Spain and in 2006 was invited to perform a solo concert at the Library of Congress in Washington D. C.

Photo by Dwight Cendrowski

bonnier.jpg

Bess was a regular guest of the Montreux/Detroit Jazz festival and the Michigan Jazz Festival at Schoolcraft College and the first artistic coordinator of the Detroit Institute of Arts "Jazz at the Institute" series. She taught many students as artist in residence at Cass Tech in Detroit in the 70's, at Grosse Pointe High Schools in the 90's, privately in her home and at her own music school.

She appeared on many recordings beginning in 1958 with "Theme for the Tall One" on Argo Records. Her last recording, a jazz opera based on the works of William Shakespeare titled "Suite William", was released on her own label, Noteworks, in 1999 and performed at the University of Colorado. In 1986 she received the Michigan Award for Jazz, in 1990, the State of Michigan Governor's Award. In 1994 she was named "Musician of the Year" by the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association (SEMJA). Over her lifetime she served on many Boards and advisory committees related to the arts, art education and to improving accessibility for people with disabilities."

Veterans Day

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"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."
                               ~José Narosky


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