P O W E L L, W y o. - Ronnie Bedford, Park County's unofficial jazz ambassador, knows how to celebrate a birthday - he leaves home. More specifically, he goes on tour. This year, his annual Ronnie Bedford and Friends tour will celebrate two milestones-Ronnie's 75th birthday and 20 years of teaching music at Northwest College. The tour lands in Powell Thursday, Oct. 5, for a 7:30 p.m. concert in the Nelson Performing Arts Center.
Bedford's friends this year are saxophonist Mike Tomaro, pianist Roger Kellaway and bassist Bob Magnusson. Neil Hansen, director of bands at Northwest College, and his 18-piece NWC Jazz Band will open for the group at each performance.
They launch the tour Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Central Wyoming College, where they'll be filmed by Wyoming Public Television. The group heads for Casper to perform in a Wednesday, Oct. 4, concert at Kelly Walsh High School. After stopping in Powell, they travel to Billings, Mont., and a Friday, Oct. 6, performance in Petro Hall at Montana State University-Billings that will be broadcast live by Yellowstone Public Radio. All four concerts have 7:30 p.m. start times. The concerts and clinics will be held in the same location at each of the stops, except in Billings, where the clinic is held at Skyview High School.
Mike Tomaro of Pittsburgh, Pa., is the newest member in the circle of musicians Bedford calls on for his annual tour. Tomaro has four nationally released recordings under his own name that showcase his talents both as performer and writer. Recently, he was featured in both roles on vocalist Nancy Wilson's Grammy Award winning release "RSVP." When it comes to dropping names, Tomaro can hang in there with the best of them, citing performances for Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton as musical director of the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. He's worked with numerous music celebrities, including Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt and Johnny Mathis.
Pianist Roger Kellaway joins the group from Ojai, Calif. Anyone who's heard the closing theme for the 1970s television series "All in the Family," will recognize Kellaway's composition titled "Remembering You." It's one of his many television and movie credits. He received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Barbara Streisand's "A Star is Born," one of 23 film scores he's written. In addition to a lengthy list of compositions, Kellaway has also garnered recognition for his playing abilities, earning a Grammy for his music on the Eddie Daniels album "Memos From Paradise." Over the years, he's performed with a who's who of musicians that includes Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Yo-yo Ma, Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, Henry Mancini, Maureen McGovern, Natalie Cole and many more.
San Diego bassist Bob Magnusson was named the first Jazz Player of the Year by the San Diego Jazz Hall of Fame. His venues have included many of the world's finest concert halls from the United States to the Far East, and Central and South America. With over 100 albums and CDs to his credit, Magnusson is also responsible for numerous jazz recordings for television, films and jingles. In addition to a full slate of live performances and audio recording obligations, he's recorded several music specials for KPBS television in San Diego.
Bedford's accomplishments in the genre of jazz have secured the percussionist almost legendary status on the local music scene. In addition to domestic and international performances with icons like Benny Goodman and the Johnny Richards Orchestra, Bedford played with Benny Carter at "Jazz at the Smithsonian," which was telecast nationally on PBS. In Wyoming, he co-founded the Yellowstone Jazz Festival and was honored in 1993 with the Wyoming Governor's Award for the Arts for his ceaseless promotion of jazz across the state. He has several CD recordings to his credit as well.
In celebration of his birthday and his passion for music, Bedford decided to make this tour more memorable by offering clinics at every venue so he and his musical friends can work with small student ensembles. Neil Hansen, assisted by Mike Tomaro, will conduct big band clinics at each stop as well.
Tickets for the Oct. 5 concert in Powell are $10 each. They're available at the door the night of the concert and in advance at Parlor News in Powell and the Cody Newsstand in Cody. For more information about the Ronnie Bedford and Friends 75th Birthday Celebration Tour, call (307) 754-6027, (307) 754-6427 or e-mail Keli Black .