Legendary Columbus saxophonist Gene Walker will be honored this weekend in a performance at the King Arts Complex entitled: Jazz on the Avenue. The event, in collaboration with the Urban Jazz Coalition, will showcase jazz musicians from Columbus including Eddie Bayard, Shawn “Thunder” Wallace, Martin William and Lee Savory. Ted McDaniel, Ohio State professor of African American music and leader of the OSU Jazz Ensemble, will be conducting. The performance and celebration will take place this Friday, February 17th at 7pm.
Colin Howard from OSU’s “The Lantern” covered the story in depth:
Walker, the honoree of the evening, said the event isn’t just a celebration, it is a feat in itself. He said he looks forward to the accomplishment as much as the company.
“Celebrating the bicentennial of Columbus and also the Black History month, this particular concert may never happen again — this is a one time thing,” Walker said. “We are like a big family, and you know how important family is. We are going to have a wonderful time.”
Jevon Collins, King Arts Complex program director, said Walker and the city of Columbus share the same birthday, Feb. 14, and the event will help to honor them and open the eyes of younger generations.
“Most people, young people … we always see big band stuff on TV,” Collins said. “This will actually be seeing something in person, live. We’re compiling some of the greatest jazz musicians in the region.”
McDaniel said Walker is a “delightful spirit” who always has a smile on his face.
“Not only is he a terrific musician, and has been for years, he is a personal friend and a joy to be around,” McDaniel said. “He certainly deserves it and has been a musical pillar in the city of Columbus.”
McDaniel acknowledged Walker’s string of medical issues, but said he is excited to hear Walker play.
“I’m glad he will have his saxophone,” McDaniel said. “He hasn’t been in the best of health recently, but it will be good to hear him.”
Immediately after the concert, there will be birthday celebration for Walker featuring a “jam session” by The Gene Walker Quartet.
Gene Walker is a legend in Columbus Jazz History. Gene Walker has toured since 1958 with some of the world’s greatest entertainers including The Beatles, King Curtis, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cook, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Jimmy McGriff, The Drifters, Chris Columbo and The Platters.
He has performed with many others including:
Buster Brown, Brook Benton, Wilson Picket, Aretha Franklin, Etta Jones, Benny Green, Irene Reid, Wild Bill Davis, Bobby Shu, Hank Mar,r Jimmy Scott, Faye Adams, Roy Hamilton, Little Anthony, Brenda Lee, Shep and the Limelights, The Chantels, Charles Earland, King Coleman, Lloyd Price, Jimmy Reed, Isley Brothers, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Melba Moore, Billy Daniels, Jon Thomas, Gil Askey, Dayton Selby, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Jones, Jack McDuff.