National Jazz Museum in Harlem celebrates 100 years of Disney with jazz tribute in Frederick, Maryland

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Disney jazz tribute (Part 1)
Anthony Hervey performs "When You Wish Upon a Star: A Jazz Tribute to 100 Years of Disney." (Courtesy Grand Theatre in Tracy, California)
This fall marks the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, which was founded on Oct. 16, 1923.

This Sunday night, the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Maryland hosts the final tour stop of “When You Wish Upon a Star: A Jazz Tribute to 100 Years of Disney,” which is presented by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

“That’s actually the last show of this tour,” trumpeter Anthony Hervey told WTOP. “We’re entering our seventh week of being on the road and it’s been really fun to be with this band. … Disney music is so timeless. There have been 100 years of Disney and just incredible films. It connects to people young and old, so the challenge for us as a band is to pick a song from each decade of Disney and try to bring as much life to it in this time.”

A five-piece band of piano, bass, drums, guitar and trumpet will join two vocalists to perform the greatest Disney tunes of all time, including “Someday My Prince Will Come” from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), which holds a landmark place in movie history as the first feature animated film ever made.

“It’s great being able to go to the very beginning,” Hervey said. “That’s a beautiful song. (Vocalist Tahira Clayton and pianist Sean Mason) actually do a duo on that one and it’s just an intimate and beautiful moment in the show. … Everybody and their grandparents have grown up with these songs. I’ll see children smiling and listening to the music, then I’ll see somebody in their 70s and 80s listening to the music and their reaction is the same.”

Of course, you can’t do the show without “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940).

“It’s only fitting to do that song because it’s the title track for the tour,” Hervey said. “It’s such a beautiful melody, too. I think it’s one of the most iconic Disney melodies that I’ve ever heard. … It’s really timeless. It actually connects generations of people and brings them together. I think there’s something in this show for everybody.”

The set list also includes the hallucinatory “Pink Elephants on Parade” from “Dumbo” (1941).

“That one is really wild,” Hervey said. “I think that’s probably our most wild song. I actually start out on that one on trumpet and I do like this big elephant growl on my horn. I feel like every time we play that song it just gets faster and faster and faster and more crazy and rambunctious, so we really enjoy playing that one a lot. I look at the front row and the kids don’t expect it when I start out on this really loud growl. They always light up.”

Don’t forget “Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book” (1967), which was actually Walt’s final film.

“That’s a really fun one,” Hervey said. “It always leaves a really good energy on the audience. After each show I actually go out and talk to everybody in the lobby and I like to ask the kids who watched the show what their favorite song was and usually I feel like most kids say, ‘I liked ‘Bare Necessities’ from ‘The Jungle Book.'”

Hervey’s childhood favorite is “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story” (1995).

“That one is really special,” Hervey said. “In jazz, we have a plunger technique that makes the trumpet sound like ‘wa wa,’ like you’re talking. … As a kid I watched all the movies. ‘Toy Story’ was probably one of my favorites, because, especially when I was younger, I would play with toys all the time and for me the toys were almost like real, they had personalities and all kinds of back stories, so that was one of my favorites and I watched all of them.”

Extra perfect for the jazz bill are songs from “The Princess and the Frog” (2009).

“It’s perfect because we’re in New Orleans right now,” Hervey said. “(We play) ‘Down in New Orleans’ and also ‘When We’re Human,’ which is a big trumpet feature meant to invoke the spirit of Louis Armstrong, so I have the job of creating that energy and trying to sound like Louis Armstrong on that song.”

Most recently is “Soul” (2022), featuring an Oscar-winning score by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

“In recent years, that’s one of my favorite Disney movies,” Hervey said. “I think it’s really cool that a lot of us on stage actually know and play with Jon. … I think the soundtrack to that film is just so incredibly beautiful, so we had to do something from that film because there’s so many great songs. We play ‘Feel Soul Good’ from that movie.”

It’s fitting because Batiste and fellow Grammy winner Christian McBride serve as artistic directors of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.

“I love Jon Batiste and Christian McBride,” Hervey said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with both of them. I remember when I was at Juilliard, I actually recorded with Christian McBride on a big-band album. He called me in the morning, ‘Hey, can we get a sub for this recording session?’ So I just did it and that recording session ended up winning a Grammy. … I also had the opportunity to play with Jon Batiste many times, we just played at Newport a few months ago … and I’m in that documentary [‘American Symphony’] too.”

Find ticket information here.

Listen to our full conversation here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Disney jazz tribute (Part 2)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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