Until illness limited her travels, Vicki Yava Alexander was a regular at the jam sessions at Bert’s Marketplace. Her long thin frame, pianist Bill Meyer noted in an e-mail, seemingly echoed the baritone saxophone she lugged around and used to express herself. So this Thursday, May 28th, the regulars and sometimers who knew and appreciated her are coming out in a tribute to Alexander, who lost her battle with cancer on May 17th.

“We will all miss this unique woman who overcame the barriers placed on women in the field of music, who refused to be intimidated by the racial issue that often divides us, who played music because she loved creating and contributing to the community, and who had a heart bigger than her thin frame could hold,” wrote Meyer, pianist of the SBH Trio, which has anchored the Bert’s sessions for eight years.

Two bands that Vicki played with perform first. Leo Rea’s Big Deal Big Band performs at 8, including in its set some music from the late Teddy Harris’ New Breed Bebop Society. At 9, Olujimi’s in the Tradition Jazz Horn Band takes the stage.

At 9:30 p.m., the open jam begins with the SBH Trio (Spider Webb on drums, Ralphe Armstrong on bass) and guests including Marcus Belgrave, Joan Belgrave, Armond Jackson, Sondra Johnson, Terry T, DJ Holiday, Scotty, Geno, Ola Hemphill and Denise Dotson.

Alexander, 55, was born in Wisconsin, and also grew up in Indianapolis and Cherokee, Iowa, before studying with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago. She settled in Detroit in the 1970s, playing and performing with Joe Hunter and other members of the Funk Brothers, Teddy Harris and Faruq Z. Bey, among others.

The tribute is being held not in Bert’s Marketplace, but in the adjoining Bert’s Marketplace Hastings Street Room at 2739 Russell Street.

Services will be 10 a.m. this Friday, May 29th, at Assumption Grotto Catholic Church, 13770 Gratiot, Detroit. (Contact Mark Berger at [email protected] with any questions.) --W. Kim Heron

The late Ms. Alexander

Photo by Jabiya E. Dragunson

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