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Brush With Greatness - John Devenish

First there was My Three Would Be, then Brad’s First Listen and Heather Bambrick's Music Memory! Now, Monday's on Midday Jazz with Terry McElligott, there's “Brush with Greatness”.  An oppourtunity to share a short story of a politician, musician, prominent writer, JAZZ.FM91 host or listener on meeting their musical hero.

This week's Brush With Greatness comes from our very own host of Dinner Jazz John Devenish.

In 1987, still fresh to Toronto, I was privileged to be nominated for, and then win, the Harry Jerome Award for achievement in the arts, for achievement in Canada's African heritage community. A great honour. I was nominated by the late, heroic Canadian civil rights vanguard Dr. Carrie Best. I met the legendary Canadian dancer and choreographer, Len Gibson… and Theatre director George Luscombe. George was working on a show called Mr. Jelly Roll. I auditioned and became 'the piano player" in the show ... even had to learn some steps under some very strict but gentle direction of Len. I was on stage and working with some theatre and musician giants.

I auditioned for August Wilson's play, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", became musical director for the show, working with Jackie Richardson and Theo Gentry, Joe Sealy, Doug Innis, David Collins, Marium Carvel, Greg Blanchard and Ramon Taranco on stage. Jon Michaelson directed and we *owned* the backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille. I worked with heroes as far as I was concerned. I was a music director for Joe Sealy ,Doug Innis ... Jackie Richardson. Unbelievable.

They were all so gracious, welcoming, and supportive. To this day, those I remain in contact with, continue to be people I can call dear friends. To me I was a "nobody-to-them" ... but -  as you can see jazz played an important connecting role in these brushes with greatness. In so many ways what made the greatness was the graciousness, humility and ego-free shared creativity of it all.

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