The world knew him as Jimmy Van Heusen, songwriter for the stars.
But in Cazenovia he was Chet Babcock, the guy who played the piano in Williams Hall.
This weekend the 10th Annual Jazz’N Caz festival will pay homage to Jimmy Van Heusen, who attended Cazenovia Seminary before rising to stardom composing for films and Frank Sinatra.
The festival kicks off with Albany vocalist Colleen Pratt & Friends at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Brae Loch, and continues Friday and Saturday evenings at the Catherine Cummings Theatre, 16 Lincklaen St., with headline sets by New Orleans pianist Henry Butler and the Gap Mangione Big Band, respectively.
The Brubeck Brothers will appear at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and on Saturday, early sets at 4 p.m. will be performed by Cazenovia High School Vocal Ensemble, the Cazenovia High School Jazz Ensemble and the Cazenovia College Singers. Admission is free, but donations are accepted; cazenovia.edu/jazz; 655-7238.
Gap Mangione and his New Big Band will present the Van Heusen tribute at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. After the end of their first set, theatre manager and producer, Colleen Prossner, will be joined by Eric Cohen, of WAER FM-88, to recognize the late Syracuse native, Jimmy Van Heusen.
Members of the Cazenovia College Chorale, along with Prossner and David Lowenstein, Cazenovia College’s artist in residence, will sing a few Van Heusen favorites. Mangione’s second set will include several more Van Heusen tunes.
One of the most prolific melody men of the 20th century, Van Heusen was born Edward Chester Babcock on Jan. 26, 1913, in Syracuse, to Ida and Arthur Babcock. His friends called him “Chester” or “Chet.”
From early on, he’d entertain people with his mirthful musicality, though not everyone always dug his act. He was expelled from Central High in Syracuse after performing the satire song “My Canary has Circles under His Eyes.”