Tribute concerts often are loaded with good intentions but overloaded with ego-tripping superstars. Sunday at the Proud Bird restaurant on Aviation Boulevard these problems were generally sidestepped when a parade of artists dedicated their time to honor Benny Powell, the great trombonist who for five months has been gravely ill with kidney failure. O. C. Smith, the minister and singer, was a principal organizer.
An estimated thousand fans paid from $10 to as much as $1,000 to help defray Powell's medical expenses. The performances seldom ran too long and the speeches were never too maudlin. At one point, Ken Borgers of KLON played the tape of his phone interview with Powell, who is recuperating in New York.
The dominant musical theme of the event, which ran well over seven hours, was the blues. Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham were on hand with a cut-down version of their blues band, with Marshal Royal in uncommonly funky form on alto sax, and Vi Redd adding her own indigo alto as the set ended to an uproarious ovation.
Even avant gardist James Newton on flute and pianist Horace Tapscott played some jaunty blues. Trumpeter Clora Bryant, after singing an original dedicated to Powell (incomprehensible because of poor miking), was next in line in the vocal blues parade.