Sounds of en­chant­ment The Plat­inum Mu­sic Awards

THE PLAT­INUM MU­SIC AWARDS

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ONhis new al­bum, Arlen Asher cov­ers songs by a wide range of com­posers, in­clud­ing Cole Porter, Sonny Rollins, Char­lie Parker, and Billy Stray­horn. And, true to form, he plays lots of dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments: flute, alto flute, clar­inet, bass clar­inet, and so­prano, alto, and bari­tone sax­o­phones. Cu­ri­ously, tenor sax is not in­cluded on

Love­some Jazz Wood­winds. “I don’t play tenor. I just don’t have any feel for it,” said Asher, who is one of a hand­ful of mu­si­cians be­ing hon­ored at the in­au­gu­ral Plat­inum Mu­sic Awards cer­e­mony at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Fri­day, July 21. “I love lis­ten­ing to tenor, but I can’t do it. I don’t know why. There are six or seven tenor play­ers in this area that just blow me away, and at least half a dozen of what I call world-class pi­ano play­ers be­tween Al­bu­querque and Santa Fe, and Jim Ahrend, who is on the new al­bum, and Brian Ben­nett are cer­tainly fa­vorites. I feel blessed by hav­ing so many truly good mu­si­cians in what I call the Río Grande cor­ri­dor. I’m the low man on the totem pole.”

That overly mod­est self-ap­praisal is typ­i­cal of the man, now eighty-eight, who started out play­ing in a coun­try-and-west­ern band in Mis­souri at age twelve. Asher moved to Al­bu­querque in 1958, be­gan work­ing in mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion eight years later, and went on to teach a cou­ple thou­sand chil­dren be­fore his re­tire­ment in 2007. For the past decade, he and drum­mere­d­u­ca­tor John Trenta­costa have hosted KSFR-FM’s

The Jazz Ex­pe­ri­ence, which airs from 9 a.m. to noon on Mon­days. Dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing, Asher fondly re­mem­bered help­ing to break a gen­der bar­rier. “When I first taught pri­vately, the thought of a high-school girl play­ing jazz was like, No way. So one of the first things I did was to start teach­ing girls jazz, I mean from the fourth grade and up. We wound up some­times with the en­tire sax­o­phone sec­tion all girls in the mid­dle schools, ju­nior highs, and high schools that I had any con­tacts with, and I was de­lighted.”

The new Plat­inum Mu­sic Awards pro­gram is an ini­tia­tive of the New Mex­ico Mu­sic Com­mis­sion Foun­da­tion. It is based on nom­i­na­tions from mem­bers of the pub­lic, is non-genre-spe­cific, and cel­e­brates life­time achieve­ments. About the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Plat­inum Awards and the long­time New Mex­ico Mu­sic Awards, com­mis­sion pres­i­dent David Schwartz said the New Mex­ico Mu­sic Awards “are more like the Gram­mys, and we’re more like the Kennedy Cen­ter hon­ors. We had a smaller ver­sion of this pro­gram pre­vi­ously where we would go to var­i­ous con­cert venues

and give procla­ma­tions from the gov­er­nor to honor se­nior mem­bers of the mu­sic com­mu­nity.

“With these in­au­gu­ral awards, we’re go­ing to con­cen­trate on seven people who have made tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tions to the mu­si­cal cul­ture of New Mex­ico,” Schwartz said. “We won’t be open­ing en­velopes and hav­ing that sus­pense; it’s more just about love and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for people who have been out there and done it so well for so long. This is a trib­ute. We’re putting a show on for the hon­orees.” The awards are hosted by Joe West and his band, Santa Fe Re­vue. Per­form­ers are Jono Man­son, John Kurzweg, Brian Hard­groove and Im­pulse Groove Foun­da­tion, Amer­i­can JeM, Sean Healen, Tif­fany Christo­pher, and Ho­race Alexan­der Young and Friends.

Awardee Al­berto Nel­son “Al Hur­ri­cane” Sanchez has played his dis­tinc­tive Span­ish-lan­guage mu­sic since the 1950s, when he was billed lo­cally as the Lit­tle King of Rock ’n’ Roll. When Sanchez re­ceived a Gov­er­nor’s Award for Ex­cel­lence and Achieve­ment in the Arts in October 1993, his CD, The Re­turn of the God­fa­ther, was top­ping the charts in the His­panic mar­ket around the world, and the pre­vi­ous June, he was the fea­tured per­former at the grand open­ing of the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Amer­i­can En­coun­ters ex­hibit — two snip­pets from a long ca­reer. Sanchez has per­formed over the years with Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino, among many other mu­sic stars, and he has recorded more than 20 al­bums.

Liv­ing le­gends Bill and Bon­nie Hearne are also Plat­inum Mu­sic Awards hon­orees. Their aptly named 1997 de­but al­bum on the Warner West­ern la­bel, Di­a­monds in the Rough (with guest spots by Nanci Grif­fith and Lyle Lovett), is de­scribed by All Mu­sic Guide as “a low-key af­fair spot­light­ing the cou­ple’s sweetly ragged har­monies.” The Texas trans­plants’ roots mu­sic has been called coun­try folk, honky-tonk, blue­grass, coun­try swing, and Amer­i­cana. Af­ter Bon­nie quit tour­ing in 2003 be­cause of health is­sues, Bill formed a trio. Known for his deep voice and flat-pick­ing pep­pered with beau­ti­ful, cre­ative gui­tar flour­ishes, he is one busy mu­si­cian. He played a Santa Fe Band­stand show on July 6, did his long­time Mon­day-Tues­day gigs at the La Fi­esta Lounge at La Fonda on July 10 and 11, headed up to Red River to per­form in the Mu­sic In The Moun­tains se­ries on July 14, then was back for a con­cert the next evening at Sec­ond Street Brew­ery. “Mu­sic is what drives me and makes my life worth­while. It’s who I am, it’s what I do,” he says on a wel­come video at his web­site.

Plat­inum Awards hon­oree Fer­nando Cel­li­cion played with the Zuni Pue­blo In­dian Band for nearly a decade af­ter high school. By the time he was twenty-two, he was adding original com­po­si­tions to his reper­toire of tra­di­tional Zuni mu­sic, and learn­ing to mas­ter the Na­tive Amer­i­can flute and other in­stru­ments. He even­tu­ally took over lead­er­ship of the Tra­di­tional Zuni Dancers group from his fa­ther, Roger Cel­li­cion, and he has per­formed ev­ery­where from Gallup to Istanbul and Tokyo. His record­ings in­clude a multi-vol­ume se­ries ti­tled The Tra­di­tional and Con­tem­po­rary In­dian Flute of Fer­nando Cel­li­cion, re­leased on the In­dian Sounds la­bel.

Dale Kempter, a renowned mu­sic ed­u­ca­tor in the Al­bu­querque Pub­lic Schools, is also among the hon­orees. He started his long ca­reer as the orches­tra di­rec­tor for McKin­ley Mid­dle School. His in­volve­ment with the Al­bu­querque Youth Sym­phony, in­clud­ing long stints as its mu­sic di­rec­tor and con­duc­tor, dates back more than a half-cen­tury. Kempter re­tired in 1992 af­ter decades serv­ing as APS mu­sic co­or­di­na­tor and a to­tal of 36 years with the dis­trict. He was hon­ored in 1989 as “Mu­sic Ed­u­ca­tor of the Year” by the New Mex­ico Mu­sic Ed­u­ca­tors As­so­ci­a­tion and re­ceived a Gov­er­nor’s Award for Ex­cel­lence in the Arts in 2002.

Also at the in­au­gu­ral Plat­inum Mu­sic Awards cer­e­mony, Cather­ine Op­pen­heimer is pre­sented the Lee Berk Award for her work with the Na­tional Dance In­sti­tute of New Mex­ico and as a founder of the New Mex­ico School for the Arts.

Bill and Bon­nie Hearne

Al­berto Nel­son “Al Hur­ri­cane” Sanchez

Dale Kempter

Fer­nando Cel­li­cion

Cather­ine Op­pen­heimer

Arlen Asher

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