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Avery Sharpe '76 onstage at Bezanson Concert Hall
AS THE GREAT JAZZ BASSIST Milt "The Judge" Hinton's eighty-seven-year-old legs slowly but assuredly took him down to the front of Bezanson Recital Hall, on the opening night of the Twenty-seventh Annual Black Musicians Festival, April 14, the air seemed to echo with the commotion of the Cotton Club on a night Cab Calloway's band was swinging.
We could still faintly hear that happy hubbub and if we strained, "Judge" Hinton slapping his bass behind the horns' blowin' and the Hi-De-Ho man's scattin' when the Bezanson audience broke into applause as Hinton and his wife, Mona, gained the stage, joining the slim, Chanel-clad producer of the jazz documentary A Great Day in Harlem, Jean Bach, and music professor Horace Clarence Boyer.
Boyer, who scored a coup in bringing the Hintons and Bach to UMass to celebrate jazz which he calls "the great American classical music" in a festival tribute to professor emeritus Frederick Tillis, stood out visually amongst these luminaries on the stage, his suit jacket adding a dab of deep electric blue to their black and white sartorial motif and his beaming face a torch amid their embers of reticent smiles. "You'll note," Boyer ebulliently informed the audience, "that we have changed our name from `Conference' to `Festival.' And I can assure you, tonight we won't be bogged down in the minutiae of a conference!"
Moments later, Bach jumped into a verbal solo, tearing through anecdotes about fifty-seven of jazz's most brilliant musicians many of whom she'd known who gathered in front of a brownstone in Harlem on a summer morning in 1958 for a now-famous photo by Esquire's Art Kane. Hinton is in the photo, and the documentary Bach made about the extraordinary shoot contains home-movie footage of the gathering taken by Milt and Mona.
The touchstone of the festival, Art Kane's 1958 photograph of a "Great Day in Harlem."
Bach's low-pitched, frenetic delivery replaced the onstage sounds of the Cotton Club, in our ears, with the slick jazz patois and clink of glasses backstage after the show; if you weren't sitting near the front of Bezanson and for some reason, many in this audience shyly seated themselves further back you weren't at the table. You didn't hear, for example, Stuff Smith, "an epic drinker," asking his band members one by one if they were high and threatening them with a $10 fine if they weren't by the next set, or Duke Ellington saying that "any janitor can play boogie-woogie."
When "Judge" Hinton took over, the tempo was the same and the voice even fainter, as soft as the strings he plays. "All I can say is, I was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi," he rasped, and soon we were trying to keep up as he made his way to Chicago and New York in the twenties and thirties, when jazz was becoming a national music. As he talked, slides flashed of the photos he'd taken throughout his life: Calloway in his signature zoot suit, a trio of his sidemen in herringbone overcoats and hats; a young Dizzy Gillespie sleeping; Louis Armstrong banked by tape recorders.
"I was scared to death when I got on the train," Hinton said of embarking for New York with bandleader Cab Calloway. "I had one suit and one pair of clean underwear. We had no place to sleep, nothing to eat. Cab took me downtown and bought me some suits."
"When we traveled," interjected Mona, his wife of fifty-nine years, who scoured neighborhoods to find the musicians places to stay, "we'd hit a town, we'd run into [Tommy] Dorsey, staying in nice hotels, and we'd be looking for people who'd let us stay with them."
Fortunately, the dues paid off for Hinton, who has played or recorded with everybody Zutty Singleton, Art Tatum, Jonah Jones, Ben Webster, Pearl Bailey, Billie Holiday, Ellington, Armstrong, Gillespie, Basie, Mingus, Coltrane and is now widely regarded as the dean of jazz bassists.
Commenting on a slide showing members of Calloway's orchestra standing on the steps of an Atlanta restaurant, under a "Colored Entrance" sign, Mona remarked that times have changed: In March, Hinton added to his string of honors an Artist Achievement Award from the governor of Mississippi.
This night, we watched him accept a UMass Distinguished Achievement Award from music professor Yusef Lateef. Fred Tillis, director emeritus of the university's Fine Arts Center, also received a Distinguished Achievement Award, presented by music professor
Then it was time to quit talking about jazz and start hearing a little, and pianist Holmes, along with trombonist Steve Turre '80, bassist Avery Sharpe '76, and drummer Alvin Terry took the stage. Turre, who has played with a list of greats, from Art Blakey to Dexter Gordon, as well as the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and the Saturday Night Live Band, said that he "wouldn't have made it through school if it hadn't been for Dr. Tillis. He taught me the importance of persistence and completion."
Turre showed the results of his education in leading a scintillating performance of five numbers, including Tillis's "Latin Tinge," Lateef's "Seulb," and "Judge Not, Yet Ye Be the Judge," Sharpe's beautiful tribute to Hinton. "We talk about payin' dues now," said Sharpe, "but cats like him paid Dues, with a capital D."
The Judge, now sitting with Mona in the front row, discreetly pulled a small camera out of his pocket and started taking pictures.
YES, THAT'S MOOSE signage you see peeking out behind that senatorial shoulder, and not Massachusetts moose signage, either. In an admirable display of regional thinking, SENATOR JUDD GREGG , R-New Hampshire, shown here in his Capitol Hill office with CHANCELLOR DAVID K. SCOTT, has been an active and effective advocate for such undertakings as the $50 million UMass-Mexico telescope project. Such congressional support, led by Massachusetts's own delegation senators TED KENNEDY and JOHN KERRY and representatives WILLIAM DELAHUNT, BARNEY FRANK, JOE KENNEDY, ED MARKEY, JIM MCGOVERN, MARTIN MEEHAN, JOE MOAKLEY, RICHARD NEAL, JOHN OLVER, and JOHN TIERNEY is indispensable and gratefully acknowledged, say campus leaders.
A little-known trust by a well-known dance hall star to an unknown little school called Massachusetts Agricultural College is still paying dividends to the farmers of New England, according to Dean RICHARD FLOYD of the Stockbridge School. LOTTA CRABTREE known in her heydey as the "Golden Girl" of the California Gold Rush and in her later years as a suffragette and animal rights activist left the bulk of her $4 million fortune to a school she never saw. Seventy years later, the Crabtree Trust remains "a generator of hope" for young farmers, says Floyd.
Forsaking the usual spring break destinations , seventeen UMass students spent their vacation helping the 1,500 residents of Ivanhoe, Virginia, with chores ranging from making lunches at the town's civic league office to cleaning churches and clearing roadways of litter.
Anthropology prof ART KEENE , who organized the trip, said forty students signed up for seventeen slots, and each volunteer paid $125 to cover costs. The Ivanhoe expedition was one of four "Alternative Spring Breaks" by UMass students: others went to Alabama to help rebuild a burned-out church; to Florida to work on a Habitat for Humanity project; and in a yearly trip to Africa by nursing students to deliver health care in a Ghanaian village.
An edible "Sesame Street: UMass Education Television (UMET) is running a new cooking show for kids. Called "Try This at Home" and shown on Media One's Valley Channel, the show features food stylist CYNTHIA GOLDWELL , guest chefs, and an irreverent puppet sidekick named Carl. "We're interested in television that involves children in an active way," says UMET director and UMass faculty member LIANE BRANDON.
The kindliness of the long distance runner: Raising more than $3,500 for the Leukemia Society of America from his sponsors in a recent marathon in Dublin, Ireland, environmental health sciences professor GARY MOORE was one of seven Western Massachusetts marathoners who ran in the name of Sally Ekus, three-year-old leukemia survivor from Hatfield.
Well on our way: $15.7 million of the $24.5-million financial reallocation goal planned before the year 2001 has been achieved, reported CHANCELLOR DAVID K. SCOTT in recent presentations to the Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate. Nearly 75 percent of available faculty positions once remaining unfilled have now been reallocated, said Scott, and since 1995 the campus has discontinued eight academic programs, while initiating five new ones. "When you stack up the changes that have been made," said the Chancellor, "you can see we are well on our way."
Missing links: With eventual uses in such intense areas as air traffic control and monitoring hospital patients, a $1.4 million grant for research on linking computer systems has been awarded by the National Science Foundation to mathematics and statistics professor GEORGE AVRUNIN. Computer science faculty LORI CLARKE and LEON OSTERWEIL join Avrunin on the four-year project.
A Chicago Tribune article about fascinating Web sites includes one created by UMass students: an on-line rendition of Aesop's fables, written and illustrated in both traditional and contemporary styles. (The hip version of "The Grasshopper and The Ant" pictures the former as a beer-swilling student who spends all his time watching TV.) Aesop addicts can tune in at www. umass. edu/acco/projects/aesop
Whipple Ball : In December, MARK WHIPPLE became the twenty-sixth head coach in the 115-year history of the campus football team. During ten seasons at Brown University and the University of New Haven, he compiled a 71-34 record and a reputation for explosive offenses that might be termed "Whipple Ball." Said the new UMass coach, "Our goal is to win the national championship."
Deeds shall be in water writ: The New York City water system, the largest on earth, is being examined by a research team named by the National Research Council and including two UMass scientists. RUTHERFORD PLATT , professor of geography and planning law, and PAUL BARTEN , who teaches hydrology in the forestry and wildlife management department, will study a vast plan to improve a system funneling 1.4 billion gallons a day to ten million people. The project "will act as a laboratory for the whole world," said Platt.
The geographic solution: UMass recently became one of forty-eight members of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, which sets and reviews national policy in the field. Geographic information science, or GIS, is the use of computer and satellite imagery and other technology to show environmental and demographic information on maps.
Predicted temperature increases would make it impossible for brook trout to live in most southern Appalachian streams, pointed out emeritus professor DANIEL HILLEL in a recent Newsweek article on the future effects of global warming. On the other hand, warming trends would increase the range of small-mouth bass and yellow perch in Canada by at least 300 miles. Similarly, crop ranges would change, said the plant and soil scientist and co-author of the forthcoming Climate Change and the Global Harvest. "Florida's orange-crop loss may be South Carolina's gain."
A more civil war: Historian STEPHEN OATES is at it again, having sold the film rights for yet another of his award-winning books to Hollywood producers. Oates' latest sale involves A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War. Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, is one of the great unsung heroines of the War between the States, having made it a little more civil by nursing thousands of wounded soldiers. Only four months earlier, Oates sold the rights to To Purge This Land with Blood, his biography of abolitionist John Brown. One of the university's most revered teachers, as well as scholars, Oates announced this spring that he will retire from teaching as of this year in order to concentrate on his writing. Says history chair MARY WILSON , "We're hoping he will be a very involved emeritus."
As the world curls: When DAVID KITTREDGE of forestry and wildlife management tells colleagues he's going curling, many of them take him for a kind of weight lifter. They grow even more confused when he begins describing his sport of choice in terms of sheets, hog lines, hacks, and bonspiels. Kittredge is a member in good standing of the Petersham Curling Club, where avid aficionados practice a 400-year-old Scottish sport that involves sliding a forty-two-pound, teapot-shaped piece of granite down a lane (or "sheet") of ice and hitting targets 150 feet away. As the good sports at the club might say when someone hits the target (or "house"), "Good rock!"
Congdon jubilee: In 1990, Tales of the Lost Formicans by CONSTANCE CONGDON '82G was declared New York's best new play. In April, this "travel guide to Middle America conducted by aliens" was mounted in the Curtain Theater (right). And in May, the world premiere of Congdon's So Far was mounted in the Rand in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Department of Theater. The fall UMass will include a feature on Congdon.
Trouble shooters: Computer glitches troubling the town of Southampton are being run to earth by three students working for the School of Management's program in economic development. Putting in a combined forty hours a week of volunteer time on the problem, the students have been studying the town offices' "really old" computers to come up with a proposal for upgrading the system and obtaining Internet access and other capabilities.
Señor Blues: Alumnus and blues legend TAJ MAJAL won his first Grammy Award in February after having been nominated eight times. His winning album in "best contemporary blues" category is entitled "Señor Blues," and Majal made no secret of his satisfaction in winning at last. "This has been a long time coming," he said as presenter ART GARFUNKEL handed him the prize.
Pass the salsa : Freshman RENé GONZALEZ , a percussionist who won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award at Amherst Regional High School last year, is featured on "Celebracíon," an album of Latin dance music by his well-known father, José. The elder Gonzalez, a master of the Puerto Rican cuatro a cross between a mandolin and twelve-string guitar was trained as a classical guitarist. "Now I've jumped to music you can put on the radio in San Juan and have people really move to."
Making it big time: A married couple of alums, THOMAS ERB and BRANDIE MORRIS , own and run the company Electric Time of Medfield, which just built a $14,000, twelve-foot-tall pedestal clock in downtown Springfield. Not to be outdone by themselves, they also built a $900,000 street clock on Madison Avenue in New York a giant among timepieces with twenty-seven faces telling time around the globe. Of course, when you go big time with big clocks, you suffer the occupational hazard of that profession. "I've gotten calls from people as far away as Vermont," says the owner of the Springfield clock, "telling me the time is off."
In U.S. News and World Re-port's annual issue of "America's Best Graduate Schools," UMass appeared three times in the top fifty. Within their respective classifications, the College of Engineering was ranked forty-fifth, the School of Education was ranked forty-ninth, and the communication disorders graduate program was ranked twenty-ninth. Not all categories are ranked every year, and several UMass programs hold high positions from the last ranking, including computer science (twenty-two); creative writing (ten); and polymer science and engineering (number one in a special category). Rankings are based on reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources, and research activity.
Among the ancient trees: Eight campus "heritage" trees, including four massive European beeches near Durfee Garden and the first Japanese elm in the United States, have been selected for special care and preservation by UMass. The campus will match a $4,200 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to work on the trees, including the elm planted near South College 108 years ago by William Smith Clark. "They're all real landmarks," says R. MARC FOURNIER '76, assistant director for grounds management.
By the Campus Pond April 14 9:15 a.m.
THIS KIND OF DAY makes die-hard New Englanders feel justified in their loyalty. The temperature is climbing confidently, the sky is unclouded, dreamy, baby-blue, the air sparkles, tree buds gleam in their newness. It's a perfect spring day.
Christy, a Delta Zeta member doing a six-hour shift near the Student Union for her sorority's "See-Saw-athon" benefit for Gallaudet University, tells Jim Turati `85, `88G, "You have the perfect job." As a member of the UMass mounted police, he gets to spend this perfect day out-of-doors, touring campus on Hombre, a chestnut gelding whose hefty frame and tendency to zone out as he stands in place would seem to belie his thoroughbred status.
Turati agrees he has the perfect job today. It might seem less ideal when it's raining or snowing, he good-naturedly reminds the freshman, who, on the upswing of her teeter-tottering, is almost at saddle-level. His reply prompts a string of questions. Do you go out in the winter? Do you ever chase people? Do you have to take riding lessons to be part of the mounted police unit? (Yes, if the footing's not too slippery. Yes, mostly people on foot, but occasionally cars. And yes, lessons are part of the training for most candidates.)
This impromptu Q & A is right up Turati's alley. Well-spoken, intelligent, with a gentle sense of humor, he handles conversation as easily as he handles Hombre. It's an integral part of his job, as he sees it, talking to people, explaining what he does, providing a different perspective on police work. As a boy, he thought he might become a priest; his degrees are in exercise science and education. You might say he has long been interested in the workings of the human animal. His job allows him to cater to that interest, and his interest in horses, too.
Turati is one of six officers in a UMass unit now in its tenth year of operation. Police departments around the country are discovering that horseback patrols are highly effective at both community relations and crowd control. As is obvious this morning, people like to talk to a policeman on a horse; at the same time, troublemakers tend to be unnerved by the sight of an officer on an animal weighing over half a ton bearing down on them.
The calls coming in as we clip-clop towards Whitmore seem pretty benign: no perpetrators, just an alleged injured duck by the pond. Students and professors heading to class, staff seizing any excuse to be out in the fineness, greet Turati by name or smile shyly as they pass. It seems especially right that these big domesticated beasts should be walking about the campus of a school that has its roots in agriculture. Hombre and Poco, his equine colleague, take their pats in stride, although what they'd really like to be doing is sampling the fresh grass off the path. When grooming the horses, the officers deliberately incorporate some "nuisance gestures" into the routine even ducking underneath them so they won't spook if a child runs under their legs or an admirer unversed in equine etiquette rubs them the wrong way.
Over the course of the day, Turati and his colleagues will cover a lot of ground, moseying down to Southwest, up to North Pleasant, ranging around the various parking lots, even directing traffic now and again. The horses are always in training. A horse doesn't naturally take to standing in the midst of an intersection with buses, trucks, motorcycles, and student beater-cars with shaky exhaust systems blasting by, but five of the six horses in the UMass unit will stand stock-still where Commonwealth meets Mass Ave., because of their training. (The sixth tends to dance a little too much to the rhythm of the streets.) This stoicism proves indispensable at Commencement, or when the Mullins is hosting an event.
The UMass Mounted Police will host its own event, for which it's now seeking sponsors, on August 22: the twelfth annual New England Mounted Police Competition. The multiple attractions will include a craft fair; petting zoo; UMass's own Clydesdales; a state police helicopter; a K-9 demonstration; and of course, Hombre, Poco, and the rest of the gang.
-Faye S. Wolfe
I N THE TRADITION OF Lotta Crabtree, who left the bulk of her $4 million fortune to a school she never saw, the late TORREY AND DORIS LITTLE, neither of them alumni, provided in their wills for a total of $2,163,260 to UMass. Torrey Little was Boston's preeminent estate auctioneer, and for decades managed the disposition of the grand households, either by auction or by selling the principal pieces at his store on Newbury Street. Doris Little was the daughter of a North Marshfield vegetable farmer. Their only connection with UMass was through Torrey's half-brother John, who along with his wife Grace attended the Stockbridge School.
Distributions from the Little Endowment will go to the Chancellor's Opportunity Fund.
As UMass Mag goes to press, bright-blue scaffolding is inching up the sides of Old Chapel toward a clock tower currently clad in steel cables and dark-green Kevlar sheeting. A six-foot-tall chain-link fence extends from the pond side of the building to loop around a temporary storage area on the Goodell side. The $1 million restoration project, to which alumnus Vincent Couper `38 is a notable contributor will involve taking down the tower stone by stone; storing the numbered pieces on the temporarily paved work area; reinforcing the tower's infrastructure; and, finally, replacing the bulk of the stones. The clock and chimes will also be upgraded.
The completion target date has been set for Dec. 31, but project manager Dick Nathhorst `79 says it's possible the work will be done earlier. The gates surrounding the work site will be closed to all but necessary personal until the project is finished, with pedestrian and vehicle traffic routed around either end."There should be no restriction of traffic," Nathhorst says. "We hope that people will understand that everything being done is being done with regards to safety."
Consigli Construction of Medford is the general contractor for the project.
VINCENT COUPER convincingly boasts that his bed-office-sitting room, at the top of the stairs in his farmhouse on Great Road in Littleton, is the most beautiful bedroom in town. Without having visited any others, we'd have to agree. Mr. Couper refers to the long views in two directions of fields, woods, and sunshine. On a clear day, you can see the towers of Boston, he says "Not that I ever try," he adds. We'd also mention the red geraniums blooming on the long south window sill, the day we visited, and the piano concerto tinkling pleasantly from a clock-radio tuned to National Public Radio.
What makes the Mozart, the geraniums, and the delectation of views so interesting is that you're absolutely sure they're not affectations. "Oh, I'm glad," said Mr. Couper genially, when we telephoned later to say how much we'd enjoyed our visit. "I'm pretty informal, I know." Here he refers, we imagine, to the wall-to-wall carpet of magazines, mail, and the occasional article of clothing or half-empty cookie-box which he kicks aside with a trademark unshod foot as he invites visitors to take a chair; or to the rustic framework of duct-tape-wrapped branches he's nailed up to help haul himself in and out of prone positions; or to what we think of as the equally trademark single suspender he wears diagonally across his (duct-tape-mended) sweatshirt.
Vincent Couper is a farmer and a gentleman but emphatically not a Gentleman Farmer. He is, in the best sense, a Dirt Farmer. If there's anything that "gets me mad," he says, it's that he can't "physically do the farming" on the family acres these days. To listen to Mr. Couper's stories, or to read them in the booklets of memoirs he's self-published in recent years to benefit his local library, is to enter into an acquaintance with the soil, rock walls, wilful cows, local characters, and pretty much ceaseless farming.
(Coming from a farm family ourselves, we knew that farmers didn't just doze between fall harvest and spring planting. Still, we were startled to learn that Mr. Couper, for twenty-five years of his life, turned winter in New England to profit by spending those months raising potatoes in Florida. For a sample of these recollections, see page fifty-six.)
This combination of incessant industry and fervent frugality goes far to answer the impolite question that comes to most people's minds when they learn that a markedly unpretentious farmer is also a philanthropist. Mr. Couper, now eighty-two, has become, in recent years, a benefactor of Children's Hospital in Boston, where he was treated as an infant; of the Reuben Hoar Library in Littleton; and, most recently, of the Old Chapel restoration project at UMass. Alerted to the need by his classmate Bob Lyons, and aware of the Class of 38's long interest in the dear old icon, Couper presented a check for $50,000, in honor of his classmates, to the Old Chapel restoration project this spring.
"Now, you wouldn't think a destitute old farmer could do that, and do it without hesitation, would you," says Mr. Couper devilishly. "Everything is pretty decrepit around here," he adds, looking around and making an expansive gesture. "Including me!
"But my philosophy is `So what!'" Mr. Couper concludes. "I don't need the money; I'm not married yet; I'm proud to be a graduate of the campus, and pleased to be around and I don't mean maybe! and able to help."