AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 31 YEARS
I'm passing along Phil Schaap's account of Fred Staton's 102nd birthday bash:
An outpouring of love as well as a display of pure musical joy occurred at Local 802 (the Big Apple branch of the American Federation of Musicians) as several hundred gathered to celebrate the 102nd birthday of Fred Staton (born Sunday, February 14, 1915). Fred attended and played!!!! Mr. Staton is a tenor saxophonist. Robert Smalls, the last African American Congressman from the days of Reconstruction, was still alive & Staton’s childhood buddy and classmate, Billy Strayhorn,... was 288 days from being born when Fred arrived on Valentine’s Day a hundred and two years ago! Fred Staton is the OLDER brother of the late and great Dakota Staton. The birthday gentleman of Jazz arrived early in a fine looking tuxedo and a fabulous red bowtie. After dinner but before the cake, Fred Staton played a set with his beloved Harlem Blues & Jazz Band …. Fred has been the senior member for some time now. And the birthday parties at Local 802 for Fred have been going on for some time; in fact: they started when his age was only in double digits. I’ve attended and spoken at all of these events. I always look for a good spot in a very crowded room when Mr. Staton cranks up his tenor sax. At the hundredth, I pleased Fred and broke up the crowd when I noted that on his 98th birthday (2/14/2013) his Blues solo was five choruses and that he did it that way a year later (99 on 2/14/2014). But on Saturday, February 14, 2015 – FRED STATON’S CENTENNIAL – Fred blew six choruses on his Blues feature! Let me tell you, I was even more overwhelmed by Staton’s effort on his 102nd birthday. Fred blew fluid and lengthy solos of “Take The A Train” and “Lady Be Good” before being put into the absolute spotlight. But on those two full band numbers, Fred Staton, one hundred and two years old Fred Staton, set background riffs behind the other soloists AND Fred Staton was playing strong. Undoubtedly, Mr. Staton will outdo himself once again on the 103rd.