"Hamp actually heard Johnny playing alto saxophone, but he loved what he heard – I was there that day," guitarist George Freeman, Von's brother, told me in 2008. "So Johnny went out on the road with Hamp, playing tenor."
The era that produced the great talent that Dyett nurtured obviously has come and gone, and the network of South Side clubs that gave these students the opportunity to hone their art unraveled long ago. But Dyett and DuSable remain integral to the history of jazz, Dyett's achievements worthy of remembrance and potential a source of inspiration for a younger generation of musicians.
"It's like that movie 'Mr. Holland's Opus'," says Bowden, referring to a 1995 feature film starring Richard Dreyfuss as a music teacher whose influence reached far wider than he realized.
"It's important that we recognize these kinds of people, their work and their life's focus, what they were really about. They may not have gotten all the cheers and accolades, but the number of people that they have touched and have come under their influence … was an incredible list," especially in the case of Dyett, who died in 1969 at age 68.
"When (students later) were faced with life challenges, they could go back to the teachings of this particular man."
One phrase that Dyett often repeated still echoes with Bowden.
"He said, 'You will never forget me. You might forget your English teacher, your math teacher, but you will never forget me.'"
We shouldn't forget him either.
"Tribute to Walter Dyett," presented of by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in partnership with the non-profit Jazz Institute of Chicago and the DuSable High School Alumni Coalition for Action, will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at DuSable High School, 4934 S. Wabash Ave. Admission is free; phone 312-744-3316 or visit chicagojazzfestival.us or jazzinchicago.org.
Another DuSable alum
Guitarist George Freeman, who also has brought glory to DuSable's name, will lead a quartet with guitarist Mike Allemana at 9 p.m. Thursday at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave. Freeman carries forth the legacy of a family that has contributed greatly to jazz, including the work of his brothers, saxophonist Von Freeman and drummer Eldridge "Bruz" Freeman. Allemana collaborated prolifically with saxophonist Freeman, and the quartet also will feature organist Pete Benson and drummer Mike Schlick. Admission is free; constellation-chicago.com.
Delmark 60th bash
Lurrie Bell, Jimmy Burns, Sharon Lewis, Dave Specter and other leading blues figures will play a "Delmark Records 60th Anniversary Blues Show," celebrating the indestructible Chicago jazz-blues record label. A grand occasion by any measure. 7:30 p.m. Friday at Evanston SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; 847-492-8860 or evanstonspace.com.
Chicago legends converge
Singer Frank D'Rone, singer-pianist Judy Roberts and vocalist Denise Tomasello will collaborate during "On Stage With … Chicago Music Legends" at the Auditorium Theatre. As the show's title suggests, the audience indeed sits on stage with the performers, beneath the Auditorium's grand proscenium, the exquisitely lit house serving as a backdrop. Saxophonist Greg Fishman, who's Roberts' husband, and pianist Beckie Menzie also will participate. 8 p.m. Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.; $50-$75; 800-982-2787 or auditoriumtheatre.org.
To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.