He’s still got it at 99.
Local jazz luminary Irv Williams, known as “Mr. Smooth,” played his saxophone for a large crowd at the Dakota Club in Minneapolis on Aug. 21. Throughout his nine-decade career, Irv has played at the Dakota countless times – but this was a party in honor of his 99th birthday, and the atmosphere was as high-spirited as Irv himself.
“When I run out of breath, I’ll bring the horn down to you,” Irv joked with the audience.
As Irv took the stage, the audience serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” and a cake lit with a candle, which he blew out amidst cheers and clapping. “Thank you very much,” Irv said. “We’re gonna play a little music for you right now.”
Throughout Irv’s eight songs, audience members snapped photos and listened spellbound, occasionally nodding along to Irv’s satiny sound. At the close of one spine-tingling riff, an audience member shouted the Minnesota legend’s name to applause. Irv was accompanied by a guitarist and upright bassist throughout the 45-minute set.
“This is amazing,” commented one guest.
Concert guest Willie Noor, a Minneapolis resident and saxophone player, said he discovered Irv’s music nine years ago and has been an “avid admirer and acolyte” ever since. “Talk about class,” said Willie.
After exiting the stage, Irv walked around greeting his listeners.
“How does it feel knowing all these people are here to celebrate with you?” one guest asked him.
Irv smiled. “It feels wonderful.”