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Merritt on Tonight, Leslie tops the charts

Tift Merritt turned in a swell performance on The Tonight Show last week and is finally getting some long overdue props via Tambourine's Grammy nod. Maybe now Lost Highway will fix her new Web site so fans can tell her so.

While Merritt's successes are pretty well-known, a handful of other musicians also have seen some limelight lately.

One newsmaker is a WRAL newscaster who also happens to have produced a hit new-age record. Bill Leslie's Celtic-flavored DIY project Peaceful Journey recently reached the top of the new-age radio charts. At one point, the Morganton native and former garage band guitarist was charting right behind George Winston and Ritchie Blackmore (yup, that Ritchie Blackmore).

On an altogether less new-agey end of the spectrum, two Durham jazz musicians have made news.

The first is a familiar name here and afar, and so it was with a real point of pride that N.C. Central University joined with Branford Marsalis to announce that the saxophonist and his quartet--pianist Joey Calderazzo, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and bassist Eric Revis--will teach four-day intensive master classes once a month with some of the school's top talent. The format was Marsalis' idea based, in part, on his last stint in academia at Michigan State. He told an interviewer he had to spend too much time in that job on administrative chores and not enough time one-on-one with students.

The second Durham musician making news is also a familiar name, especially if you hang out in the music room at Jordan High School. Christopher Pattishall, a senior at Jordan, was honored with an ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award.

Duke's jazz programs director John Brown says he's delighted but not surprised by the acknowledgement of Pattishall's work.

"He's a bright star," Brown says, "definitely one to watch."

Pattishall was an early student of the Shepard (Middle School) Jazz Camp, which won an Indy arts award in 2003.

Also taking home the ASCAP honor are acid jazz/ electronica/ big band keyboardist Eric Hirsch of Carrboro, who plays the B3 with Bazungu. You can hear his stuff at artists.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/Eric_Hirsh.

Winning honorable mention in the ASCAP contest was Durham pianist Tyson Rogers.

  • Merritt on Tonight, Leslie tops the charts

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