Berklee Today

Stars align for Three Score, Berklee's 60th Anniversary Concert

  Paul Simon
  Paul Simon plays his hit "Mrs. Robinson."
  All photos by Phil Farnsworth

"Tonight you're are going to hear one amazing array of talented musicians whisk you through six decades of musical history, with a focus on the distinctive and pivotal role Berklee has played in that history," President Roger H. Brown told the crowd before the start of Three Score, Berklee's 60th anniversary concert on January 28 at Boston's Wang Theatre.

Brown's words weren't an overstatement. The concert's producer, Berklee trustee and 12-time Grammy-winning record producer Phil Ramone, brought in such stars as Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Gloria Estefan, Juan Luis Guerra '82, Gary Burton '62, and Michel Camilo as the headlining acts. On hand as the house rhythm section were drummer Steve Gadd and electric bassist Abraham Laboriel '72. In addition, arrangers Rob Mounsey '75, Philippe Saisse '78, and Victor Vanacore '74 each wrote overtures scored for a 60-piece orchestra and a chorus of voices comprising Berklee faculty members and students. Com-edian Bill Cosby was the show's host.

Herbie Hancock  
Herbie Hancock played in a trio with Terri Lyne Carrington '83 and Matt Garrison '92  

More than a spectacular musical celebration, the event raised funds for the newly instituted Presidential Scholarship Program at Berklee. Brown announced that presidential scholarships for students who are both highly gifted and financially needy will be established in the names of the concert's stars: Simon, Ramone, Hancock, Estefan, Guerra, Burton, Camilo, and Cosby.

The concert opened with Mounsey's overture, a musical summary of the years 1945-1965. The medley included such tunes as the Frank Sinatra chestnut "The Best Is Yet to Come," Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn," John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," the Beatles tune "In My Life," Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High," and more. Mounsey, a dynamic conductor, dashed back and forth between the podium and the piano throughout the performance and tossed a pocketful of glitter in the air as the piece ended.

Among the musical highlights of 1965-1985 in Vanacore's score was a standout setting for the Chick Corea/Al Jarreau vocal version of "Spain" that spotlighted a faculty trio of Donna McElroy, Armsted Christian (vocals), and Walter Beasley (saxophone). "Spain" then flowed seamlessly into Joe Zawinul's "Birdland."

  Camilo and Burton
  Michel Camilo and Gary Burton

The final overture (1985-2005), by Phillippe Saisse, included snippets of "Shout" by Tears for Fears, "Axel F" from Beverly Hills Cop, Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is," and Beyonc? Knowles's "Crazy in Love." At the conclusion of the segment, Mounsey, Vanacore, and Saisse received a roaring standing ovation.

Michel Camilo took the stage and played "Autumn Leaves" in a trio setting with Steve Gadd and bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding '05. He followed with an astounding solo-piano rendition of "Caribe" that brought thunderous applause from the crowd. With Laboriel on bass and Gary Burton joining on vibes, the quartet played a romping version of Chick Corea's "La Fiesta." Laboriel thrilled the audience during his flamenco-tinged bass solo as he leapt in the air and slapped his bass.

 
From the left: Rob Mounsey '75, Victor Vanacore '74, and Phillippe Saisse '78 acknowledge the applause for their concert-opening overtures.  

Burton then brought out faculty saxophonist Andy McGhee for Lionel Hampton's signature tune "Flying Home" (arranged by Ken Zambello). Burton told the crowd that fellow vibesman Hampton was one of his favorites and a bandleader with whom McGhee had worked years ago. Cosby even traded fours on the vibes with Burton, bringing a bit of levity to the music.

Rising singer-songwriter Chiara Civello '00 sang her sultry ballad "The Wrong Goodbye" with help from pianist Mounsey as well as Gadd, and Laboriel. Guerra and members of his band joined with several faculty instrumentalists to get the party moving with three of Guerra's high-energy merengue hits, including "La Bilirrubina" and "Ojala Que Llueva Caf?." After the set, Cosby returned to the stage to chat with Guerra, telling the Dominican Republic superstar, "That was very exciting. I'm 68, and you got to me!"

  Juan Luis Guerra
  Merengue superstar Juan Luis Guerra '82

Hancock, together with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington '83, bassist Matt Garrison '92, and percussionist Richie Barshay, explored the outer edges of Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" and "Chameleon" in a set that was alternately introspective and intense.

The groove shifted when Estefan and her bassist/musical director Jorge Casas, combined with the orchestra and the Overjoyed gospel singers. Estefan's buoyant pop and salsa numbers "Mi Tierra," "Coming Out of the Dark," and "I Wish You" were real crowd pleasers.

Gloria Estefan  
Gloria Estefan (left) sings "Coming Out Of The Dark" with students and faculty singers and instrumentalists in an arrangement penned and conducted by Ken Zambello.  

The concert's final star, Paul Simon, took the stage with his touring band (including Gadd and faculty percussionist Jamey Haddad) for a much-anticipated set that included "Mrs. Robinson," "Slip Slidin' Away," "Graceland" (for which he was joined by Hancock), and the finale, "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." As the house lights came up, concluding an extraordinary three-hour musical odyssey, some wondered how Rob Rose and his concert production staff will top this for Berklee's 75th.