- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

From the Bard to Basie

After mastering Shakespeare, tracking down bad guys in “A Man Named Hawk” and “Spencer for Hire,” and exploring the universe in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” actor Avery Brooks is now going where few have seen him venture — a one-night engagement as a song-and-dance man.

On Sunday, he’ll join a host of jazz luminaries at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel for “A Night at the Cotton Club,” a glittering musical extravaganza that will cap the city’s second annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival.

“I grew up in a world of music. My mother was a pianist and organist, and my father was a great singer. I play piano, but I grew up playing woodwinds because my older brother played woodwinds,” says Mr. Brooks, seen here last year in the title role in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of “Othello.”

“Music is the turn for me at this point in my life. I should have been doing this long ago. This is not a discovery for me,” he says, although he wouldn’t disclose what he’ll perform on Sunday.

“The idea is to do the music in its tradition,” Mr. Brooks said, referring to Mr. Ellington’s vast array of compositions. “It’s an honor, and it’s a humbling thing to do this music.”

Ray Davies, the icon

Ray Davies, former frontman of the groundbreaking British rock band the Kinks, was honored Tuesday with an Icon award for what organizers said was his enduring influence on generations of music makers, Associated Press reports.

The singer-songwriter, 62, co-founded the Kinks with his brother, Dave, in London. The group went on to become one of the most influential and long-lived bands of the 1960s with such rock classics as “You Really Got Me,” “A Well Respected Man,” “Lola,” and “Sunny Afternoon.”

Ray Davies was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 when he was named a Commander of the British Empire. He was inducted into the British Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Kinks entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

The ‘Mermaid’ speaks

The name Jodi Benson may not be instantly recognizable, but you certainly know the voice. The actress, who brought Ariel to life in Disney’s 1989 animated hit “The Little Mermaid,” breezed through town yesterday to promote the re-release of the film’s platinum DVD and to champion Keep Oceans Clean, a new program designed to increase children’s awareness about keeping oceans safe and healthy.

“[My family and I] actually live on a lake, so we’re very conscious about taking care of our waterways,” says Miss Benson, who brought her husband and two children (ages 5 and 7) to last night’s kickoff of the new public awareness campaign — followed by a special screening of “The Little Mermaid” — at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center downtown.

Keep Oceans Clean, a collaborative effort between the Ad Council and Disney, is also sponsored by Environmental Defense and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Tale of the century

The Kennedy Center will present “August Wilson’s 20th Century” — the late playwright’s complete 10-play cycle — in spring 2008. Broadway director and longtime Wilson friend, Kenny Leon, will serve as the monthlong festival’s artistic director and will direct some of the plays, Kennedy Center officials said.

Each work in the 10-play cycle is set in a different decade in the 20th century, with nine of the works chronicling black life in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District community. The 10 plays were written over the course of 23 years and were completed last year before Mr. Wilson died.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Jenny Mayo from staff and wire reports.

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