After eight straight years of organizing and presenting the JAMM Tribute events, one thing was evident on November 12, 2017. JAMM volunteers know how to do it up right!
It takes months of preparation, discussion, organization and team building to present an event of this caliber. On Sunday, even with the last minute loss of our “fearless leader,” Lois Mummaw, (for health reasons), there wasn’t a single major glitch to the activities. Not even a minor one, unless you count the mutual insults between Ron Newman, host and pianist, and the honoree himself.
“I really like what you were trying to do there…” Newman remarked, after Jeff accompanied Newman’s wife, vocalist Sunny Wilkinson.
Mr. Kressler later “complimented” Newman, after a tune he played, saying, “I admire how you never let artistry affect the way you interpret a song.”
You get the drift now. This party was all about the fun, starting with what was likely a great surprise to many in the audience, when Ron Newman and Sunny Wilkinson were introduced by MC Ken Jones, and came bursting out of the Green Room, heading right to the piano and mic to serendade Jeff and his wife Lyn with one of their favorite tunes, “Time After Time.”
It was absolutely beautiful and set the tone perfectly, for what would happen over the next three hours.
Gene Rebeck and Arlene McDaniel are to be highly lauded for their efforts on the creative side of the day’s agenda. The performances were stellar, the stories shared before and after the songs were informative and heartfelt. To say most of us learned more about Jeff’s accomplishments and reputation than we ever imagined, is an understatement.
One of the highlights of the day was when John McDaniel, always the exceptional person handling audio/visual at our parties, showed vintage footage of the late, great Patti Richards performing with the Lansing Symphony Jazz Orchestra. Jeff was highlighted on camera accompanying Ms. Richards, who he played with many, many times, over the years. This is a video we hope to post one day on JAMM’s website. Sunny, who knew Patti well, introduced this precious video with her own recollections of the kindness and warmth these two fabulous singers shared, after Sunny moved to the Lansing area.
At one point, the audience was treated to an interesting and entertaining interview Gregg Hill did with Jeff. Watch here.
A very special part of the day came when former director of the MSU Marching Band, Dave Catron, spoke about the vast and rich history between that group and Jeff Kressler, as composer, arranger and friend. When he finished enlightening us about this aspect of Kressler’s career, we were treated to the following video of an arrangement Jeff did for the band.
The MSU Community Music Building proved to be a wonderful venue, the first time we’d used it for a Tribute, but likely not the last.
As was stated in the beginning, this was a team effort, but those of you who helped make it happen know who you are and JAMM honors you, deeply, for your generous efforts.