Brigham Young University jazz aficionados shared history-making with one of music's living legends Thursday in the Madsen Recital Hall.
Alvino Rey, the 89-year-old father of the pedal steel guitar, showed up to mesmerize the overflow crowd and accept tribute for donating the Alvino Rey Orchestra Library to the university.He strummed the banjo, stroked the Spanish guitar and soloed on the console guitar that bears his name. He was backed up by the Synthesis jazz band and the Jazz Legacy Dixieland band, which set a jiving pace racing through such numbers as "Blue Rey," "The Sheik of Araby," "Bourbon Street Parade" and "Guitar Boogie."
An appreciative crowd of students and musical peers cheered Rey on, celebrating his gift, his talents and his music with two standing ovations before the event concluded.
"Rey is a pioneer in radio and television broadcasting," said Steven Call, director of the Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band and a member of the BYU School of Music faculty. "He's one of Utah's treasures and one of Utah's most influential musicians."
Rey invented not only the 12-string pedal steel guitar but was instrumental in the development of the electric guitar.
He started his musical career - which spans eight decades - as a guitarist with Horace Heidt. He formed his own band in 1939 and had a best-selling record in 1942, "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
He was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in 1969 for his contribution to development of electronic stringed instruments, was a band leader and guitar soloist during the Swing Era and remains active in music performance.
He was invited to play with his band for President Ronald Reagan's inauguration.
And he's still recording music in his Sandy home studio.
The library collection Rey is giving to BYU will include music and arrangements no one else has, said Newell Dayley, associate dean of the school of music, plus 161 custom arrangements for Dixieland bands, solo guitar and string orchestras, and rare sheet music.
Many of the manuscripts are written in the hand of those who originally composed the music.
The collection fits into 22 large boxes and will be made available to musicians and scholars at the university.
"I thank you for your support. We love you. I'm thrilled that BYU has accepted the music. I hope it'll be of use to them," Rey said at the end of the tribute concert. "All of my children went to BYU and most of the King family."
Rey is married to one of the King Family sisters, Louise, and lives in Sandy. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the 1960s.
Call, who shared a tuba and banjo duet with Rey on stage, said Rey is his living link to the musical past and such great artists as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and Dizzy Gillespie. "Those who are in the `Who's Who in Jazz' were teenagers when he met them. Many were on his radio and television program," he said.
"He's a musician who's seen and done it all," said Larry Green, also a member of the music faculty. He explained that the pedal steel guitar is an instrument of infinite pitch with complexity and depth that has yet to be fully explored.
"Mr. Rey has big ears so he can hear the pitch perfectly," he quipped. "My hat is off to you."
"Too often we talk and read about what went on (in the past)," said Dayley. "This man has created 20th century history here. We appreciate very deeply the gift. We will take care and preserve it."