- Published on Tuesday, 25 May 1999 20:36
- Written by Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos will ring in the new millennium with a world class drum roll. That's because under the millennium celebration tent, center stage, will sit jazz legend Louis Bellson and 19 other world class musicians.
In case you don't know him, Louis Bellson was a longtime drummer in Duke Ellington's big band.
His peers and fans say he's the best there ever was in the world of big band and jazz. They call him the dean of American jazz drummers.
Bellson was born July 6, 1924, and his parents named him Luigi Balassoni. He grew up, changed his name, married Pearl Bailey and went on to enjoy a long career as the drummer in Duke Ellington's big band. To those who love to swing, he's a god.
Today he makes his home in San Jose and plays with several orchestras across the United States.
Although Bellson may be the most recognizable name in the Los Altos Millennium All-Stars Band, the other members are also known performers. Fred Berry, who plays the trumpet, has performed with Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. He spent many years blowing his horn for his former band leader, Count Basie. Madeline Eastman is a well recorded singer and a top jazz performer. Jamie Davis is a seasoned song-man and delivers a Sinatra-like style.
Bellson began playing the drums at age 3. By the time he was 15 he had edged out more than 40,000 other drummers to win the coveted Gene Krupa drumming award. He has spent his life performing and recording with such greats as Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr. and Duke Ellington. His late wife, Pearl Bailey, said of him, "To listen and see Louie is to know man's love of music."
All of the Millennium performers hail from professional backgrounds, and all are known to one another and to just about every other great musician performing today.
So with all their fame one would think that these musicians would prefer to spend the dawn of the new millennium relaxing rather than performing.
Not so, Berry said. "To get to play with Louis Bellson and so many other top performers, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the millennium. Everyone is really pumped. "
Invitations to the Los Altos millennium party will be mailed to all Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents in June. Fliers with more details are available at the Town Crier, City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about volunteering, event sponsorships or group tickets, call 941-0786.