Jazz fan's friends plan swinging tribute

December 21, 1990|By Carl Schettler | Carl Schettler,Evening Sun Staff

Walter Johnson Slowe loved jazz, loved good conversation, loved his friends and loved a party. He was planning his big Christmas party when he died in late October. Tomorrow his friends are throwing the party in his honor.

"Walter was very good friendhalf an hour and you felt like you knew him all your life."

Cameron first met Slowe at the Maryland Institute College of Art in the late '50s. Cameron was a sculpture student and Slowe was head of maintenance. Lots of Walter Slowe's friends first met him at the institute.

"He was part of the cultural ambience of the place," says Joe Carderelli, a poet who is now chairman of the language and literature department at the institute. "He was a very friendly, simpatico, cognoscenti kind of man. He had great rapport with the artists."

Bobby Thomas, the trumpet player, poet and painter, met Slowe at the institute.

"He was a for real person," Thomas says.

"If you needed help in any way, he extended his hand. No color thing. None of that race thing. He was a friend to you and you to him."

Thomas and his Butterfly Band will play at the memorial party that will start about 9 p.m. tomorrow at Beverly's, a plush nightclub on Reisterstown Road just below Northern Parkway. Admission is $12.50.

Cameron says that on the day of Slowe's funeral his friends went to his Randallstown home for the wake and then sat outside on

See TRIBUTE, A8, Col. 1 TRIBUTE, From A1 the warm day talking among themselves. Slowe died Oct. 28; he was 62.

"He wanted a Christmas party," Cameron says. "We said why don't we get together and do something in the name of Walt."

The result is tomorrow's party which will benefit the Walter Slowe Sr. Scholastic Fund, to help needy students with tuition -- and maybe a little bit more, the organizers say.

Ruby Glover, the jazz singer, will be part of the tribute. She was a good friend and sang "My Buddy" at Slowe's funeral. Donald Colvert leads the house band, and Dave Ross, the organist, and Mickey Fields, the veteran tenor saxophonist, will also play. Dell Edwards, news director at radio station WWIN, will be master of ceremonies.

Bobby Thomas' avant-garde jazz Butterfly Band will include Charles Woods on alto sax and soprano saxophones and flute, James West on bass and Bruce Atkinson on guitar. Woods leads his own classic jazz group. Atkinson has an eclectic band called Counterpoint, which plays everything from Top 40 to blues.

Slowe was an avid jazz fan and promoter. He was among the founders of the Left Bank Jazz Society in the 1950s and remained a dedicated member all his life.

He was active in the promotion of the Atlantic City Jazz Festival in the late 70s and early 80s. He booked Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Shaw Bobby Blue Bland and Damita Jo into the festival.

"He brought Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to the festival one year," Bobby Thomas says. "That was the first time Wynton Marsalis worked with Blakey and Blakey brought him to Atlantic City."

Slowe brought jazz to his Arch Social Club where the house band included Mickey Fields, Johnny Polite and Joe Hosea. Shirley Fields, Mickey's sister; Lady Rebecca; Earl Omaro; and Ruby Glover sang.

"He always tried to encourage listeners to support the musicians," Ruby Glover says, "and young talent.

"I'm going to do some things he would always want me to do in the clubs," she says. "'When I Fall in Love,' 'For All We Know,' 'My Funny Valentine' and from the Billy Holiday book: 'But Beautiful,' 'Lover Man,' and 'All of Me.' "

Nice tunes, it seems, for a nice man.

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