On October 24, 2023, Dan Morgenstern — NEA Jazz Master, eight-time Grammy winner, longtime Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies, and Jersey Jazz columnist — celebrated his 94th birthday. The very next night, Dan was feted in person at Birdland, where David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band has held sway for 23 years. Ostwald has overseen annual birthday celebrations for Morgenstern for more than a decade, and the 2023 edition was another night to remember. The event was completely sold out in advance, and the audience included jazz luminaries such as saxophonist/bandleader/scholar Loren Schoenberg, vocalist Catherine Russell, blogger/videographer Michael Steinman, and Vincent Pelote, Senior Archivist and Digital Preservation Strategist the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark.
In addition to the leader’s tuba playing, Ostwald’s band for the occasion included Bria Skonberg on trumpet and vocals, Jim Fryer on trombone and vocals, Will Anderson on reeds, Arnt Arntzen on banjo, guitar, and vocals, and Alex Raderman on drums. Ostwald mostly chose repertoire from the eight albums Morgenstern won Grammys for in the “Best Album Notes” category, including “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Azalea,” “I’ve Got a Heart Full of Rhythm,’ “When Your Lover Has Gone,” “Basin Street Blues,” and more. Russell joined in on an especially memorable “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”
But the highlight was when the 94-year-old Morgenstern took to the stage to sing “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me,” backed by his vocal coach, pianist Daryl Sherman. Morgenstern sang with great charm, staying in tune and displaying a good sense of time. The audience showered him with applause and after an affectionate embrace, Ostwald told him to start planning for his 95th birthday celebration in 2024.-RICKY RICCARDI
PHOTO ABOVE: From left, Catherine Russell, Bria Skonberg, David Ostwald, Arnt Arntzen (in rear), Dan Morgenstern, Ricky Riccardi, Daryl Sherman, Will Anderson, Alex Raderman, and Jim Fryer.