Jazz Beat: Sonny Rollins, Herb Alpert, Thelonious Monk ...

Tenor giant Rollins completes sessions with Jack DeJohnette on drums.

Tenor sax legend Sonny Rollins, 69, completed two sessions at a New York studio last week and plans to mix the material at Fantasy's Berkeley, Calif., studios in August, making a year-end release likely. The music features two members of Rollins' working band — pianist Stephen Scott and bassist Bob Cranshaw — plus drum master Jack DeJohnette. Rollins leaves next week for Japan, where he'll perform 10 concerts. ...

Trumpeter/producer Herb Alpert, R&B and jazz diva Patti Austin and VH1 Chief Executive Officer John Sykes received honorary degrees at the Berklee College of Music's commencement Saturday at the Reggie Lewis Track Center in Boston. The three honorees join such Berklee honorary doctorate recipients as Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle and alumnus Quincy Jones. Sykes, principal speaker at the commencement, is founder of the Save the Music Foundation, which helps public school music education programs around the country. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns VH1.) ...

A three-CD box set of piano legend Thelonious Monk's Complete Prestige Recordings (1952–54) is planned for July release. The set also will contain four 1944 tracks by tenor great Coleman Hawkins that were originally released on the Joe Davis label with Monk as a sideman, his first recording session. ...

Pianist, composer and author Billy Taylor will lead the first lecture demonstration Thursday (May 18) at the new School for the Gospel, Jazz and R&B Arts in central Harlem. Founded by Vy Higginsen, of the MAMA Foundation for the Arts, the school seeks to present, preserve and promote the history and culture of African-American music and to identify, train and employ talented individuals in the arts. ...

Friday (May 19) is the birthday of Malcolm X, and Oakland, Calif., is celebrating with the Malcolm X Jazz and Arts Festival, on Saturday (May 20) from noon to 6 p.m. The free outdoor event in Antonio Park will feature poet Amiri Baraka, Oaktown Jazz with Kalil Shaheed and Ed Kelly, Chicago's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Five Generations with Jon Jang, Cuban-jazz band Columna B with special guest percussionist John Santos, the Marcus Shelby Quartet with spoken-word griot Paul Flores, Mingus Amungus with saxophonist John Handy, the Black Dot Artist Collective with violinist India Cook, trombonist Angela Wellman and others. ...

Zimbabwean Chimurenga star Thomas Mapfumo plans to record his next album with jazz trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser. Mapfumo saw the duo lead Yo Miles!, their tribute band to early '70s Miles Davis, twice at the Fillmore in San Francisco. ... Meanwhile, Kaiser has canceled the Yo Miles! Sept. 1 gig at the Chicago Jazz Festival because the event is sponsored by Philip Morris, and a clause in all Kaiser's contracts stipulates that events at which he performs must be free of tobacco sponsors. ...

Yo Miles! will record their second CD soon and will perform again at the Fillmore in August or September. ... Meanwhile again, Yo Miles! is not the only band performing Davis' dark '70s Afro-funk. Bitches Brew, led by trumpeter Jab Nabulo and guitarist Ezra Gale, performs regularly at San Francisco's Paradise Lounge. ... The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the Windy City's premier jazz repertory ensemble, will perform clarinetist Benny Goodman's historic 1938 Carnegie Hall concert May 21 at the Green Dolphin Street Jazz Cafe. William Russo will conduct, with Buddy DeFranco filling Goodman's shoes on clarinet. Tickets are $175, but it's a benefit to help meet a $225,000 challenge grant to make the Ensemble Chicago's resident jazz orchestra. ...

For a hot guitarist on the horizon, look no further than Ben Monder. His Excavation, due from Arabesque today (May 16), shows off a well-rounded tone, an ear for mixing jazz and classical voicings and a penchant for nonstandard time signatures. He's backed a provocative crew: Theo Bleckmann on voice, Skuli Sverrisson on electric bass and the ever- frisky Jim Black on percussion. ... Keyboardist Lyle Mays of Pat Metheny Group fame will release his fourth CD in June on Warner Bros. Solo — Improvisations for Expanded Piano features live selections that Mays performed in the studio, then added midi-triggered synthesizer voicings. ...

Thank — or blame — Diana Krall for the glut of artists tackling Tin Pan Alley standards. Now even trumpeter Roy Hargrove is getting in on the act. On Moment to Moment, due May 23 from Verve, he hauls out strings to lavish lushness on such chestnuts as "You Go to My Head," "The Very Thought of You" and the title track. ... At least Vic Damone can say he's been there. The 71- year-old crooner will sing songs from the '30s, '40s and '50s on a Farewell to Remember retirement tour that begins May 27 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, N.Y., and ends with a performance at Carnegie Hall on May 18, 2001. ...

Pianist Chick Corea will release two solo CDs on June 6. On the first he'll tackle standards such as "Monk's Dream"; on the second he'll play tunes of his own that have become standards: "Spain" and "Brazilia," to name two. Stretch/Concord is releasing the discs. ... Warner Bros. is shooting for a fall release of a two-CD live set from the Pat Metheny Trio, featuring bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart. There could be a studio date this fall for the Pat Metheny Group, too. ... The Rippingtons' upcoming CD, Live Across America (Peak/Windham Hill Jazz), features performances from last summer's tour. It's due today (May 16). ...

It's generally considered rare when soulful, eccentric singer Nina Simone shows up in the States, but now she's scheduled to play at least two festivals. The 67-year-old diva will perform at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 26. She's also scheduled to perform at FleetBoston Pavilion in Massachusetts on June 6. Other acts at the May 19–29 Atlanta Festival include pianists Herbie Hancock and Cyrus Chestnut, violinist Regina Carter, singer Cassandra Wilson and drummer T.S. Monk. ...

Singers Tony Bennett and Joni Mitchell — backed by a 70-piece orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza — highlight a season of music at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Michigan, beginning Memorial Day. Other artists include singer Diana Krall and rockers Steely Dan, Kiss, Santana and Megadeth. ... Saxophonist Joshua Redman, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and guitarist John Pizzarelli lead the lineup for the Orange County Performing Arts Center's 2000–01 Jazz Club series, running in 299-seat Founders Hall. The series begins Sept. 22. Other artists include pianist Eddie Palmieri and the husband-wife duo Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham. ...

— sonicnet.com staff report