Skipp Pearson’s Saturday, Jan. 14, receipt of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor, inspired the Carl Payne Big Band to add its tribute to the revered jazz musician and educator’s week of accolades and performances via a concert the following evening
The Sunday, Jan. 15. evening concert, to be held at the Johnson Performance Hall in the Darla Moore School of Business on the University of South Carolina, 1015 Greene Street, will be the inaugural performance of the Carl Payne Big Band, although this assemblage of musicians has blended its sound in other configurations over recent years.
Trumpet master and band leader Payne has known Thales Thomas Pearson since the mid-‘70s. “I was at South Carolina State University when I first met Skipp, and I’ve followed his music and accomplishments since those days when he was performing in the area.”
Payne said, “We were asked to participate in this occasion, and playing a musical tribute to him will be a great way for us to introduce ourselves – or re-introduce ourselves; we already have a loyal following.”
Payne said the band has new charts, some new arrangements for music that typifies the big band sound that has held these musicians together for years. “We’ll play the classics all the way to some contemporary numbers.”
For its Sunday evening tribute concert, Carl Payne Big Band will pull from its playbook from 5-7 p.m., then continue with a jam session, directed by Dick Goodwin, from 7-9 p.m. Tickets for this tribute concert are $10.
Payne and Pearson go way back. Beside their love of music, especially jazz, the two musicians share the commonality of having played in military bands. “I served with the Marines and played in the Marine Corps band,” said the St. Petersburg, FL native, “and Skipp played in the U.S. Armed Forces Band.”
Pearson’s recognition is the highest civilian honor given in South Carolina, and the native son is being honored for “being at the forefront of preserving live jazz music over more than three decades. He has been the state’s ambassador of entertainment and hospitality,” according to the announcement from the Governor’s Office from which the Order of the Palmetto issues.
Pearson graduated from Claflin (then College, now University) in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts in music. Following his enlistment in the United States Air Force, he joined the United States Armed Forces Band which afforded him the opportunity to perform stateside and abroad. Later, he continued playing with the South Carolina National Guard Band.
He formed his own band and for a period of time performed in the Washington, D.C. area. He has toured with Patti LaBelle and played back-up for Clyde McPhatter and Jerry Butler. He also has played with jazz icon Wynton Marsallis.
Receiving the Order of the Palmetto is the pinnacle of accolades that have come Pearson’s way. In 1998 he was inducted into the South Carolina State University (SCSU) Jazz Hall of Fame. (Note: he frequently credits SCSU with having kept jazz alive in the state and for being one of few resources to young musicians interested in jazz.) In 2003 he received the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts in the Individual Artist category.
In 2002 a resolution passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives recognized him “for extraordinary contributions to the world of jazz music and to congratulate him on his outstanding career and accomplishments.”
Pearson is revered for his music and performance as much as for his stalwart and effective advocacy of music education.
A separate ticketed concert will follow Pearson’s 7 p.m. receipt of the Order of the Palmetto, also at the Johnson Hall Auditorium, on Saturday, Jan. 14.
By Rachel Haynie of Palmetto Artifacts