First Annual Celebration of Hope

Remembering Luther Vandross with Kirk Whalum and Friends in NYC

By Val Vaccaro

On Sunday, July 1st at 6pm, the Stroke of Hope Foundation ( will host its first NYC benefit concert in honor of the late, great, beloved R&B/pop singer Luther Vandross, who during his career sold over 25 million records. �The benefit concert will be held at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.�

SOH_Show.jpgIt was two years ago on July 1, 2005 that Vandross passed away, and it was back in April 2003 that he had the stroke, related to diabetes, that ultimately contributed to his death.

According to Luther�s 82 year old mother Mary Ida Vandross, �The Stroke of Hope Foundation is near and dear to my heart. People need to take better care of themselves. I have formed a meaningful relationship with Stroke of Hope and it is my mission now to try to help others.�� Stroke of Hope�s founder and executive director, Hazella Rollins-LaVar, is herself, a stroke survivor with an inspiring story of her own.

The upcoming benefit show will feature saxophonist Kirk Whalum, guitarist Jeff Golub, keyboardist Philippe Saisse and many others. Whalum�s own father is stroke survivor. �Earlier this year in Los Angeles, Whalum performed a show for the Stroke of Hope Foundation.�� Whalum said that �I have made a very personal and spiritual commitment to this cause� to use my gift and talents not only to heal, but to educate others while honoring my friend and my father.�

Last November, Kirk Whalum recorded his the song, �Give Me the Reason� on the tribute CD Forever, For Always, For Luther Vol. II (various artists). Fittingly, Whalum (like so many other great musicians) has played on many of Vandross� original recordings. In 1986, Whalum played on Vandross� �Give Me the Reason;� in 1988, he performed on �Any Love;�� in 1991, he played on �Power of Love;� in 1993 on �Never Let me Go;� in 1996 on �Your Secret Love,� and in 1998 on �I Know,� as well as a medley of �Night I fell in Love/Give me the Reason/Power of Love.���

These three top smooth jazz musicians, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub and Philippe Saisse have performed with each other live and on many of each others� recordings as well as hundreds of top pop music artists.

SOH_Luther.jpgSaisse played on Vandross� 1993 recording �Never Let Me Go� as well as on Whalum�s CD�s including Cache (�93), Colors (�97) and Best of Kirk Whalum (2002). Both Whalum and Saisse played on Golub�s Out of the Blue CD (�99) and current CD Grand Central (2007).�Whalum�s played on the Saisse CDs Masques (�95) and Next Voyage (�97). Golub played on the CD Joined at the Hip with Bob James & Kirk Whalum (�96). Golub also played on the Saisse CD Halfway til Dawn (�99). ����Golub and Saisse also played on Que Pasa, Gato Barbieri�s CD (�97).

To buy tickets for what should be a great show and a moving tribute: Call the Tribeca Performing Arts box office at: 1(212)220-1460 or order online at: The Show starts on Sunday at 6pm. Mezzanine seats are $50 per ticket. There are also $100 VIP tickets available for orchestra seats which also include admission to a Pre-Reception from 4pm-5:30pm.�

Proceeds from the show will benefit the Stroke of Hope Foundation. �

In the U.S., stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death, and the #1 cause of long-term disability. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit� Stroke of Hope is a non-profit organization committed to improving quality of life for people by creating stroke awareness, promoting prevention and providing support for stroke survivors, their care partners and families by encouraging physical and emotional recovery, and maintaining an on-line support system. Thank you for your support.