Gene Norman, Joe Adams, Sleepy Stein, Tommy Bee, Chuck Niles and Jim Gosa all are legendary names in the annals of Los Angeles jazz radio.
Will Thornbury is another name that belongs on that list. A man with a wealth of knowledge about a wide range of jazz genres, Thornbury puts together provocative programs that are as fascinating as they are listenable.
Thornbury is seriously ill and is unable to drive to work in Long Beach, where he records a radio program for the Dutch-based cable service EuroJazz, which is not broadcast in the United States. To raise funds to build an in-home studio for the announcer, a tribute/benefit is being held Sunday at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City. Among the artists performing will be Gerald Wiggins, Bob Cooper, Tom Garvin, Annie Ross, Max Roach, Mike Wofford, Horace Tapscott, Teddy Edwards and Gary Foster.
First heard on L.A. airwaves on the then-all-jazz KNOB-FM in the late '50s, Thornbury spent much of the '60s and '70s doing commercials--he was the model for the Marlboro man in both print and TV ads--and writing screenplays, including 1975's "Aloha Bobby and Rose." He returned to Southern California airwaves in the '80s, appearing frequently on KCRW-FM. From 1990-91, he did a highly regarded weekend shift on KLON-FM. The benefit begins at 4:30 p.m.; a $25 donation is requested. Information: (213) 934-9219.
Plain Hard to Get: With U.S. record labels traditionally showing little interest in avant-garde jazz, artists such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago, David Murray and James (Blood) Ulmer have often had to turn to Japan and Italy to get record deals. The problem for U.S. jazz fans has been that those import releases--on such labels as DIW and Black Saint/Soul Note--are only sporadically carried by U.S. record stores.
So a recent agreement between DIW and Columbia Records is good news for avant-garde fans. Under the pact, Columbia will distribute and market select DIW albums in this country. The first four albums in the new arrangement were released this week. They include two albums by Murray, the celebrated New York-based saxophonist: "Shakill's Warrior," a small-group album by Murray that also spotlights Don Pullen on organ, and "David Murray Big Band Conducted by Lawrence (Butch) Morris." Additionally, there's "Thelonious Sphere Monk: Dreaming of the Masters, Vol. II," with the Art Ensemble and pianist Cecil Taylor.
DIW has also been recording mainstream piano trios, which Columbia will also distribute. The first of these is "Straight Street," featuring pianist Harold Mabern.
Columbia plans eight to 12 DIW releases a year, with the next four due in May.
Critic's Choice: If emotion is what you want from a singer, then go hear Maxine Weldon. The veteran L.A.-based artist, who appears at Lunaria in West Los Angeles Thursday and again on March 24, offers renditions of blues, jazz and, yes, country numbers that are designed to set you back on your heels and make you feel something.