Bell’s back in town tonight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One of Troy’s own, James “Jim” Bell, will be back home tonight when the Jim Bell Trio takes center stage at the Stephens Gazebo on the square in downtown Troy.

The trio’s performance is a featured concert held in conjunction with the “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” exhibition at the Cultural Arts Studio.

The concert will begin at 5:15 p.m. and feature, primarily, the music of artists with Alabama roots.

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“We play a variety of music and I’m not big on terminology but I guess you could say that we play a lot of jazz,” Bell said, with a chuckle.

Since Jim Bell is a member of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, jazz just might be a good “guess” as to the music that his trio will play.

“We’re going to play some W.C. Handy and some of Nat King Cole’s stuff,” Bell said. “And some people don’t know that Diana Washington was from Alabama. We’re going to play the music of Alabamians.”

“Starts Fell on Alabama” will be included in the program and, maybe, even “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“I’ve played ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ before and, if I can remember it, we might play it,” Bell said. “We’re going to play a variety of tunes.”

The Jim Bell Trio is made up of Bell, Jeff Drew of Birmingham on bass and, for the New Harmonies concert, Jabo Starks.

“Jabo plays the drums and he used to play with James Brown,” Bell said. “Jabo is world famous, so Troy’s in for a treat.”

Bell is a native of Troy and attended Troy City Schools. He graduated high school in 1959.

“I got my first taste of music from my grandmother, Bessie Dix, who encouraged me to take piano lessons when I was in the fourth grade,” he said. By his teens, Bell was playing piano with the “Swinging Teens,” a group that became quite popular throughout the Southeast.

While stationed in France with the United States Air Force, he met and played piano with the highly acclaimed vocalist, Dinah Washington.

After completing his military duty, Bell studied in Minneapolis, Minn. with jazz pianists, Bobby Lyle, Hubert Eaves, Billie Wallace and Nate Strong. He also toured with a Chicago-based jazz group, The Duke Groiner Trio.

After two years on the road, Bell came home to Troy and earned a bachelor of arts degree in music education from Troy State University. He received his master’s degree in music education from Alabama State University.

For 23 years beginning in 1974, Bell taught music and directed the choir at Charles Henderson Middle School.

During the mid-1970s, he formed the Jim Bell Trio, which has performed at concerts and jazz festivals throughout the country.