Marian Anderson Award winner Bill Cosby had a hand in programming his own tribute Tuesday at the Kimmel Center.
"I said I want to give this audience a gift, and that gift was Lizz Wright," Cosby told me in a phone chat Friday.
Cosby, a jazz fan, heard the singer at the Playboy Jazz Festival in 2003. "I was sitting in my chair, and whoa."
Cosby says he also told organizer Pat Moran: "I want to pay tribute to the guys who have stayed at home as opposed to guys who went on the road." In quick order, Moran impressively landed tenor sax man Bootsie Barnes (an elementary school classmate of Cosby's), alto sax man Tony Williams (also a buddy), drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Lee Smith, pianist Don Wilson, and tenor sax man Tommy Grice.
Cosby requested "Blue 'n' Boogie," the Dizzy Gillespie classic. Cosby instructed host Bob Perkins of WRTI to introduce two senior tenor sax men, both Harlem legends.
Out came Fred Staton. The band went into stop-time, Staton got his applause, and the melody resumed. "By the way," Perkins added, "this man is 95 years old." The crowd roared, just as Cosby predicted.
Perkins then announced Max Lucas, who walked out. As the melody resumed, Perkins announced: "This man is 99 years old."
"I knew that would blow the roof off the place," said Cosby.