Big band swings into town for Herb Wong tribute


The Palo Alto Jazz Alliance is producing its first concert since the death last April of its beloved co-founder, Herb Wong of Menlo Park. But music lovers shouldn't worry that the Amateur Hour Orchestra is coming to town to entertain them. That's because for its first event, the Alliance has accepted the Woody Herman Orchestra's offer to perform a tribute concert to the organization's longtime leader -- a man known far and wide in the jazz world as Dr. Wong.

The concert, which will feature 15 Woody Herman Orchestra (WHO) members and its current vocalist, is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, at the Menlo-Atherton High School Performing Arts Center. The performance will be directed by Frank Tiberi, who has performed with the band since 1969, and took over as leader shortly after Woody Herman's death in 1987.

Event chair Harvey Mittler wrote that Dr. Wong's wife, Marilyn, received a call from the band's directors, who proposed performing the "ultimate" tribute to "the man they revered."

"Woody and Herb were best friends and musical allies for over 40 years until Woody died," Mr. Mittler said. "Herb remained a close, staunch supporter of the Woody Herman Orchestra and its many musicians who carried forth Woody's legacy as one of the best big bands in the country."

The ties between Dr. Wong and band members were so strong that the orchestra flew out to play at Herb and Marilyn's wedding, according to a Jazz Alliance press release. Woody Herman and some of his band members also wrote tunes dedicated to Dr. Wong.

Dr. Wong's work in the jazz world didn't include professional performances, but that didn't diminish his legacy as a star in that universe. He hosted a radio show on the now-defunct KJAZ-FM for nearly 36 years, and continued his annual Christmas program on the airwaves at KCSM-FM until shortly before illness made that tradition no longer possible. He also wrote liner notes for more than 600 jazz recordings -- including for Woody Herman recordings.

Many Peninsula residents took his popular jazz history course at Palo Alto Adult School, which he taught for 25 years. And they also enjoyed summertime jazz concerts under the sky at the Stanford Shopping Center -- a series he created and produced for many years.

Jazz Alliance member Patty Boyle of Menlo Park said a special feature of the concert will be the participation by three high school jazz students in the WHO's performance of "The Woodchopper's Ball."

Tickets to the concert are $40, general; $35 for Jazz Alliance members; and $15 for students. They can be purchased locally at Peninsula Music & Repair in Palo Alto, the Record Man in Redwood City, and Vinyl Solution in San Mateo. They can also be purchased by cash or check only at the door after 6:30 p.m. the day of the event.

The M-A Performing Arts Center is at 555 Middlefield Road in Atherton. For more information, call 650-345-9543.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Malcolm Dudley
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 19, 2015 at 1:21 pm

We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear one of the greatest Swing Bands from the golden age of the Big Band Era. The bands of Woody Herman, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, etc. were among the finest bands of the 1920's through the 1950's. It is rare that we have the opportunity to hear any of these bands, with some of the original musicians from these famaous bands. We have one of these rare opporunities Sunday, January 25th at the Menlo Atherton Center for the Performing Arts. The band is peforming this concert in honor of long time Menlo Park resident Herb Wong, who himself is a member of the Jazz Education Hall of Fame. What a thrill it will be for three of our Menlo Atherton High School students who will have the exciting opportunity to sit in for one number with one of the greatest big bands of all time. Thanks to PAJA for making this wonderful event possible!

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