Friday, August 2, 2013

Evelyn and Al Downing

Evelyn Downing Sings...
"Angel Eyes"
Featuring Al (A.J.) Downing Jazz Quintet

AJD Records

Side 1 - 36261

Angel Eyes / Sunshine Of My Life / Rainy Day / Help Me Make It Through The Night / Bye Bye Blackbird / Satin Doll
Side 2 - 36262
When Sunny Gets Blue / There Will Never Be Another You / Bunny / Love Will Keep Us Together / Blue Groove
AJD Records 
2121 25th Street So.
St. Petersburg, Fla. 33712   
Recorded at Titan Sound Studio Largo, Florida


Evelyn Downing

Evelyn Jean Downing was born on February 13, 1950 to Alvin and Bernice Downing, the second of three daughters.

Evelyn attended Sixteenth Street Jr. High School and graduated from Dixie Hollins High School.During her high school years, her parents nurtured her gifted singing ability by featuring her vocal talents in many of her father's performances.  Her style was her own.  She was encouraged, guided and inspired by her parents and as a result of their love of jazz, they founded the Allegro Music Society, now known as the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association.  Her father served as president, her mother served as vice president and Evelyn was the first member of the association.  After graduating from high school, she studied Theatre Arts at Carnegie Tech in Philadelphia, Pa. and attended Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Fl.   In the early 70's, Evelyn successfully began a career as a professional jazz vocalist featured with her late father, renowned jazz pianist and music educator, Alvin J. Downing.  Her most prized accomplishment was recording the album "Angel Eyes" with her father.  She performed with a variety of jazz artists in cities throughout the United States including Atlanta, Georgia, Naples, Miami, Tampa, and St Petersburg, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana, Little Rock, Arkansas, Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California.  Early in her career while performing in Atlanta, she was recognized as the top performing artist at Pascal's and the Clock of Fives Dinner Club located in the Regency Hotel.  She was known for her elegant wardrobe especially designed for her by the late internationally known designer Patrick Kelly. 

Alvin “Al” Joseph Downing was born in 1916 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Al Downing is legendary to those who remember the golden days of jazz in St. Petersburg.

 Piano talent and a desire to perpetuate jazz among young people everywhere were two qualities Al possessed from the time he was a young man in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. He formed his first band in high school, pursued music throughout his college days and organized music programs at Gibbs High School when he moved to St. Petersburg, in 1939.

Al served with the Tuskegee Airmen before leading the 613th Army Air Force Band in Tuskegee. He then moved on to other military bands in the U.S. and Japan. When he retired in 1961 as a major, Al went back to school for a Master of Music before returning to St. Petersburg. He taught first at Gibbs and then for another 20 years at St. Petersburg Junior College.

Retiring in 1983, he continued teaching privately. He was recognized as an Ambassador of Jazz by the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation and named Tampa Bay’s Favorite Artist by Players Magazine. Al firmly believed in an organization to promote jazz and in 1981, he formed the Al Downing Florida Jazz Association. It merged in 1989 with the Tampa Bay Jazz Society and has existed as the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, Inc. ever since.

Al died in 2000, but his outstanding reputation as a performer, an educator and a humanitarian carries on. To honor him, Perkins Elementary School for the Arts and International Studies dedicated its theater to his memory in 2001. In 2004, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast placed his likeness in the role models mural in their newly renovated, historic Royal Theater performing arts center.
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