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When Pianist Billy Childs was 21 in late 1978, the high-profile, high-register trumpeter Freddie Hubbard hired him.
"I can't imagine the patience that [Hubbard] must have exercised while trying to solo while I am 'helping' him with my youthful comping [accompanying] ideas, which a lot of times meant just playing all over his solo," Childs tells JazzSet. "I feel fortunate to have been brought up in that time, because that was the way you learned jazz. [You] learned by doing it."
Beyond jazz, Childs has composed for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony and the Kronos Quartet (Music for Two Quartets for the Monterey Jazz Festival), to name three. He calls his recent music for jazz group and string quartet "Jazz Chamber Music."
Live on Toast of the Nation from NPR Music, Dee Dee Bridgewater emcees the show at The Blue Whale, with the Grammy-winning Childs and his quartet. Reedman Bob Sheppard pulls four times his weight, performing on soprano, alto and tenor saxes, as well as playing flute in "Quiet Girl."
More than 20 Decembers ago, Sheppard was in a Freddie Hubbard group, live on NPR's New Year's Eve Coast to Coast from Catalina's in Hollywood. Hubbard played "Bolivia" by his long-ago bandmate, pianist Cedar Walton, to ring in 1991.
At 11:45 New Year's Eve on NPR's Toast of the Nation 2011-12, Childs calls for "Bolivia," too. It's a coincidence, but still a handshake across the decades, as Hubbard and Childs both recognize a great tune for intensifying our happiness as we say goodbye to the old year and celebrate the new.
A self-taught Latin percussionist since the age of 12 when his father handed him Cal Tjader’s 1960 “Latino” album featuring Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo back in 1966, and an LP fiberglass conga and told him, “Here, learn to play right with these”, he’s been living and breathing Latin Jazz since.
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