Indiana State University Newsroom

John Spicknall’s Jazz Combo to perform a “Tribute to Benny Golson” Feb. 15

February 4, 2015

John Spicknall's Jazz Piano Trio adds saxophonist Randy Salman to the ensemble to perform a "Tribute to Benny Golson" at 2 p.m. Feb. 15 in the Recital Hall of the Landini Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

The program, which is free and open to the public, will include compositions by Golson and several pieces by other composers with whom he often recorded and performed.

The jazz trio consists of pianist John Spicknall, bassist Joe Deal and drummer John DiCenso. These musicians began working on arrangements of "Great American Song Book" repertory and jazz standards more than 10 years ago that continues to grow and develop. The band has often appeared backing up guest musicians at Indiana State, including performances with Bobby Shew, Jim Ketch and Jim Perry.

An acclaimed jazz tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger, Golson, who was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 25, 1929, is one of two remaining musicians in the famous "A Great Day in Harlem" photograph of 1958. Remarks about the photograph will be given by Richard Clokey, history professor emeritus at Indiana State and former provost.

While in high school, Golson played with several other promising young musicians, including John Coltrane, Red Garland, Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones, Ray Bryant and Red Rodney. After graduating from Howard University, Golson joined Bull Moose Jackson's rhythm and blues band. Tadd Dameron, who Golson came to consider the most important influence on his writing, was Jackson's pianist at the time.

From 1953 to 1959, Golson played with Dameron's band and then with the bands of Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with whom he recorded the classic "Moanin'" in 1958. This edition of the Jazz Messengers is often referred to as the "Moanin" Band featuring Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jimmie Merritt and Art Blakey, where Golson arranged and wrote tunes for the band including "Blues March."

From 1959 to 1962, Golson co-led the Jazztet with Art Farmer. Golson then left jazz and moved to Los Angeles to concentrate on studio and orchestral work for 12 years. During this time, he composed music for TV shows such as "Ironside," "Room 222," "M*A*S*H," "The Partridge Family," "Mannix" and "Mission: Impossible." He also wrote songs and contributed arrangements for Peggy Lee, Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, and Sammy Davis Jr.

During the mid-1970s, Golson returned to jazz playing and recording. In 1982, he re-organized the Jazztet. In 1995, Golson received the NEA Jazz Masters Award of the National Endowment for the Arts.

As a performer, Golson excels in both breezing through racing up-tempo tunes and playing expressively and soulfully in ballads where he shows influence of Lester Young and Ben Webster. Many of his compositions such as the ones on today's program have become jazz anthems. As a composer, his melodies are strong, memorable and often with unusual harmonic and phrase structures.

Golson made a cameo appearance in the 2004 Stephen Spielberg movie "The Terminal," related to his appearance in the "A Great Day in Harlem" photo. As of 2007, he tours regularly.


Media Contact: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or