Music keeps people young, and it invigorates young people," proclaims Danny Scher. The 52-year-old now-retired businessman should know. For more than twenty years, Scher was an executive at Bill Graham Presents, where he helped to, as he puts it, "legitimize" the rock 'n' roll art form. In the process he made a nice chunk of change, but he also participated in the planning and staging of many star-studded benefit concerts for organizations such as Bread & Roses and the Bridge School, which, he says, raised "hundreds of millions of dollars" for worthy causes.
At BGP, Scher made enough dough booking and managing such artists as Santana, Journey, and Huey Lewis and the News to buy a lavish Kensington home, complete with a two-hundred-seat outdoor amphitheater that goes by the name of Coventry Grove. But local NIMBYs need not fear an impromptu Metallica performance. Deep down, Scher has always been a jazz aficionado. "Even though I made my living in rock 'n' roll, my heart was in jazz," he gushes. And now that he has the free time, he's studying the music he loves at Berkeley's Jazzschool, alongside his fourteen-year old son -- which says something about the cross-generational appeal of the genre.
Scher, who sits on the school's board of directors, is also giving something back to the local music community. Last summer, he graciously donated the use of Coventry Grove for a special Jazzschool benefit. The event, highlighted by a dynamic performance from BHS alum Benny Green (a former student of Jazzschool founder Susan Muscarella), was a resounding success, one that appealed not only to East Bay jazzbeaux and jazzbelles, but to well-heeled SF and Marin fans. Scher and Muscarella agreed that the Coventry Grove concert should be an annual event, one that would further the music by promoting both jazz education and performance, while raising needed funds for the Jazzschool's coffers. But how to top the sight of seeing Muscarella behind the piano publicly for the first time in many years, dueting with her nimble-fingered former protégé, now an unquestioned master in his own right?
As they say in entertainment industry circles, it's not only what you know, it's who you know. To that end, Scher approached legendary jazz drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, who not only agreed to perform gratis, but talked his two equally influential brothers, Jimmy and Percy (the latter a founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet), into doing the gig, "Coventry Grove II: An Evening Under the Stars."
Friday's $150-a-seat event, which starts at 7 p.m., will be divided into two parts. The first reunites the Heath Brothers (who collectively total 150 years' experience playing jazz and share credits on more than nine hundred albums, including several with Miles Davis and John Coltrane) with their longtime friend and producer, Orrin Keepnews, in a discussion moderated by KCSM's Alisa Clancy. The second segment will be more familiar territory for the siblings, who will perform together, accompanied by pianist Jeb Patton. Muscarella succinctly states the obvious: The evening promises to be nothing short of "an historical event." She adds that "it's amazing to have artists of this caliber," and hopes the event becomes a tradition which will continue for years to come. Scher -- who says that, in his experience, the best benefit shows happen when "artists are there for the right reasons" -- has similarly ambitious goals: "My dream is that jazz at Coventry Grove outgrows Coventry Grove." And dreams do mean a thing, if they've got that swing.
To reserve an invitation, or for more info, visit Jazzschool.com or call 510-845-5373.
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