Jazz Week 2014′s theme of “No Walls: A salute to the power of jazz to bring people together” emphasizes the place of jazz on the world stage.
By J. R. Carroll
For Bostonians, April 2013 was indeed the cruelest month, scarred by a venerable communal institution ripped asunder. A year later, while the healing is by no means complete–and for those most directly affected, may never truly be complete–life in Boston has returned to something resembling normalcy.
April’s association with jazz goes back to the year 2002, when the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History inaugurated Jazz Appreciation Month. Although the activities sponsored by the Smithsonian (this year centered around the 50th anniversary of the recording of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme) are necessarily focused on the nation’s capital, Jazz Appreciation Month is also intended “to encourage musicians, concert halls, schools, colleges, museums, libraries, and public broadcasters to offer special programs on jazz every April.” (Unfortunately, given our dysfunctional national legislature, encouragement is about the best we can hope for.)
Last year the Jazz Journalists Association decided to kick this encouragement up a notch with the launch of the JazzApril campaign. Emphasizing outreach, JazzApril focused on (1) “encouraging and helping media makers, musicians, educators venues, businesses and organizations, as well as individual fans and listeners, to use traditional, online and social media as well as other means to spread the word that ‘April is Jazz Month,’ and (2) “working with local jazz organizations and individuals to raise the profile of jazz in their communities by designating and celebrating local ‘Jazz Heroes’ and gaining official local government recognition for Jazz Month activities.”
The Arts Fuse signed on as part of the JazzApril Media Network in its inaugural year and is doing so again in 2014.
The original Jazz Week got its start in the early 1970s when Reverend Mark Harvey, wearing his second hat as a trumpeter and composer, founded the Jazz Coalition. Growing out of a Jazz Celebrations series at Boston’s Old West Church, from 1973 to 1983 Jazz Week not only produced concerts but also actively sought out and encouraged venues of all sorts to book jazz performances, ideally on a regular basis.
After a quarter-century’s absence, Jazz Week made a triumphant return in 2007 under the auspices of the newly organized JazzBoston, and, again, Harvey was in the thick of the action as a board member, as longtime leader of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, and as a faculty member at MIT. Inspired by Jazz Week 2014’s theme of “No Walls: A salute to the power of jazz to bring people together,” Harvey has composed an anthem entitled “No Walls,” which a number of Boston-area ensembles have been invited to interpret and perform in their own way during Jazz Week. Harvey and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra will perform an extended suite based on “No Walls” at a free concert on Saturday, April 26, at 8:00 p.m. in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, along with another new composition, “Commemoration (Boston 2013).”
Jazz Week today features a host of events organized by JazzBoston and its partners, but it also tries to shine a light on the full range of opportunities to hear jazz performances in the greater Boston area, from concert halls, jazz clubs, and restaurants to schools, libraries, and community centers. An extensive schedule of events can be found on the JazzBoston website.
The Arts Fuse is the online media sponsor for Jazz Week 2014.
In November 2011, UNESCO “officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe,” and the following April was joined by the United Nations General Assembly in proclaiming the first International Jazz Day. Since then, it has served as the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month and JazzApril, and has become a focal point and inspiration for Jazz Week 2014.
The heart of the International Jazz Day festivities has been the worldwide broadcast of an all-star concert featuring a collection of performers, packed into a three-hour-plus event, that you’d normally have to spend days at a major jazz festival to hear. According to the IJD website, “The 2014 All-Star Global Concert will feature internationally renowned artists including pianists: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kris Bowers, John Beasley, Herbie Hancock and Makoto Ozone; vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jonathan Butler, Roberta Gambarini, Lalah Hathaway, Gregory Porter and Oumou Sangaré; trumpeters Theo Croker, Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi and Terumasa Hino; bassists James Genus, Marcus Miller and Esperanza Spalding; drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and T.S. Monk; percussionists Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.; saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Courtney Pine, Troy Roberts, Wayne Shorter and Lew Tabackin; trombonist Steve Turre; guitarists Chris Thomas King, Earl Klugh, John Scofield and Joe Louis Walker.”
In the previous two years, when the concert took place in first New York and then Istanbul, Jazz Week celebrated International Jazz Day with viewing parties at Darryl’s Corner Bar. This year, though, the concert is taking place in Osaka, meaning Bostonians will have to get up at 6:00 a.m. to catch the live streaming (a recording of the concert will be available on demand starting at 10:00 a.m.). Given the improbability of attracting jazz enthusiasts (a population not noted for being early risers) to any sort of shared viewing venue at that hour, JazzBoston has organized a free local concert that same evening at 7:00 p.m. at Emmanuel Church, built around the “No Walls” theme and featuring an outstanding group of musicians who merge jazz with other musical traditions.
Pianist (and UNESCO Artist for Peace) Danilo Pérez will parallel the role Herbie Hancock plays in the Osaka concert, opening the concert and leading the way for performers including Either/Orchestra, whose jazz-based repertory represents a cross-pollination of sounds from Afro-Caribbean to Ethiopian; Musaner, an Armenian ensemble that bridges East and West; Watchout Creole Jazz, a Haitian kompa septet; Zérui, a group of masters that tours with all the music superstars of the Cape Verdean international community; and, in a continuation of the longstanding relationship between jazz and hip-hop culture, the Jason Palmer Band with The Floorlords, Boston’s premiere break-dancing artists. (The New Orleans-inspired Revolutionary Snake Ensemble will welcome attendees from 6:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.) The concert will be co-hosted by Con Salsa host José Massó and Emmett G. Price III, associate professor of music and former chair of the Department of African American Studies at Northeastern University. As a welcome indicator of increased appreciation of the role of the Boston jazz community, the event will also include participation by some prominent political figures: State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Tito Jackson, and Boston Chief of Economic Development John Barros.
And if Danilo Pérez wasn’t already busy enough, the previous evening at 8:15 p.m. he leads the fourth annual Berklee Global Jazz Summit, a celebration of the previous year’s activities by the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, which affords an international population of students the opportunity to “explore their creativity to the highest level possible, advance the power of music as a tool for the betterment of society, and connect musical creative thinking with the natural environment.”
A key element of the program is travel and the chance to interact with musicians and audiences around the world, this past year taking BGJI ensembles to Panama, the Dominican Republic, Chile, and to Berklee’s outpost in Valencia, Spain. The Summit concert will feature these ensembles—along with BGJI faculty saxophonist George Garzone and bassist John Patitucci, guest percussionist Roman Diaz, saxophonist Marco Pignataro, and drummer/percussionist Jorge Pérez-Albela—performing original compositions as well as music from Pérez’s most recent CD, Panama 500. For information and tickets, contact the Berklee Performance Center.
An important element of Jazz Week has always been a series of events focused on introducing a new generation to jazz, both as listeners and participants. On Tuesday, April 29, JazzBoston and the Performing Arts Department of the Boston Public Schools, in partnership with George Wein and the Newport Festivals Foundation, will present “Meet the Next Generation of Jazz,” a two-part collaboration demonstrating the impact of music education on young people from kindergarten to grade 12.
From 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., BPS Jazz Open Studios extends an invitation to the community to get a firsthand look at Boston arts education and the array of cultures and communities that make jazz what it is today. Participating schools include Ohrenberger School (West Roxbury) from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Dever McCormack K-8: Lower School (Dorchester) from 10:00 a.m. to 12:35 p.m., Hernandez K-8 (Roxbury) from 11:10 a.m. to noon, The English High School (Jamaica Plain) from 1:15 p.m. to 2:20 p.m., and Boston Latin School (Fenway) from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Then, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Boston Public Library’s main branch in Copley Square welcomes ensembles from the Boston Arts Academy, Roland Hayes School of Music, Boston Latin School, Somerville High School, and Milton Academy to its Rabb Auditorium. WGBH’s Eric Jackson, WICN’s Bonnie Johnson, and TOUCH 106.1 FM’s David “Jazman” Johnson will introduce the bands and talk about their lives in jazz.
The Hyde Park branch of the Boston Public Library is also getting involved. On Saturday, April 26, at 3:00 p.m., kids of all ages can catch a talk on “The Influence of Jazz in Cartoons.” And at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, photographer Lou Jones will discuss jazz and photography in conjunction with a month-long exhibit, I See Jazz III, of his jazz-related photos at the library.
A particularly ingenious jazz education event can be found in Canton, MA, at the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Museum of American Bird Art, a surprising but appropriate venue for a program entitled “Bird Lives.” On Sunday, April 27, at 3:00 p.m., saxophonist—and photographer—Arni Cheatham will link bird images and musical performances with stories of the jazz world (including, no doubt, the Bird himself, Charlie Parker). Advance reservations are strongly encouraged for this unique presentation.
Jazz Week is also an occasion to pay tribute to longtime contributors to the Boston jazz scene. Since 2010 the Jazz Journalists Association has honored “Jazz Heroes” from cities across the United States and Canada, with the recipients receiving their well-deserved accolades at local festivities. Nominated by Jazz Boston, this year’s Boston Jazz Hero, Emilio Lyons, has been repairing saxophones at Rayburn Music for more than half a century, earning himself the nickname of “The Sax Doctor.” The award presentation (by jazz journalist Fred Bouchard) will take place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, at Wally’s Jazz Cafe, Boston’s oldest still-active jazz venue. (Wally’s is owned and operated by Elynor Walcott and her sons, who were named Boston Jazz Heroes in 2011.) Saxophonists are welcome to bring their horns and sit in with the house band, and, of course, stick around for Wally’s weekly Sunday jam session at 6:00 p.m.
In 2009, JazzBoston initiated a new honorific, the Roy Haynes Award, to recognize “exceptional contributions to jazz and the jazz community.” (Appropriately, the very first award went to the Boston-born drummer himself.) 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the legendary Boston jazz clubs Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop, and so the honor goes to the man who created them, jazz impresario Fred Taylor, who also celebrates twenty-five years at the helm of Scullers Jazz Club—the site, naturally, of the award ceremony. Previous Roy Haynes Award honoree Eric Jackson will host the gathering (he also hosts more-or-less monthly live broadcasts from Scullers on WGBH), and the performers will include musicians championed by Fred Taylor who have since become fixtures on the Scullers schedule. The festivities will take place on Sunday, May 4, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Although not organized by JazzBoston, activities at several Boston-area colleges and universities have been ongoing throughout the month of April and will continue into the ten days of Jazz Week 2014. The Berklee College of Music is in the midst of a major concert series and symposium on “The State of Jazz Composition,” a hallmark of Berklee going back to its origins as Schillinger House in 1945. Many of the events on the schedule are geared toward composers and arrangers, but nonpractitioners will be interested in several concerts taking place during Jazz Week:
- On Friday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Berklee’s David Friend Recital Hall, composer and pianist Geri Allen will present a free concert by the Rainbow Ensembles, led by Berklee faculty member Tia Fuller and featuring arrangements by up-and-coming pianist, composer, and arranger Shamie Royston.
- On Saturday, April 26, at 8:00 p.m. in the Berklee Performance Center, the Celebrity Series of Boston presents the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Tickets are available online.
- On Sunday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. the symposium week wraps up at the Berklee Performance Center with a performance by trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard and the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra directed by fellow trumpeter Greg Hopkins. Tickets are available online and on the day of the performance.
Over at the New England Conservatory, “In the Mix,” a showcase for faculty-coached student ensembles, has been ongoing throughout the month of April and has a couple of performances remaining.
Of special interest is a free concert on Monday, April 28, at 8:00 p.m. in Jordan Hall, “György Kurtág Signs, Games & Messages, that takes the “No Walls” theme very much to heart. Music from the eight volumes of the unique and provocative Kurtág’s Játékok (Games) for piano will be performed and improvised upon by faculty and students from NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation department, led by pianist and composer Anthony Coleman.
Jazz has been prominent at Harvard this spring, with Herbie Hancock delivering the prestigious Norton Lectures, and Vijay Ayer teaching as artist-in-residence. Ayer will present a free outdoor concert on Sunday, May 4, at 2:00 p.m. on Harvard’s Science Center Plaza, with a sextet consisting of Graham Hayes, cornet; Mark Shim, tenor sax; Steve Lehman, alto sax; Matt Brewer, bass; and Tyshawn Sorey, drums.
An apt complement to the Berklee composition symposium will be the 7th Annual Herb Pomeroy Memorial Concert, presented at 8:00 p.m. in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium on Friday, April 25, by the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble under the baton of Music Director Frederick Harris Jr., with special guests the MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble directed by composer John Harbison. The program will feature music by and associated with Boston jazz legend Herb Pomeroy, as well as the premiere of a new piece by Peter Godart and music by Ellington, Strayhorn, John La Porta, and others. The concert is free to members of the MIT community and only five dollars for the general public.
Finally, the inauguration of a new concert series in Arlington, and the repeat of a significant memorial event.
On Saturday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m., the Arlington Center for the Arts will host the launch of the EulipiaJazz Concert Series. The first part of the program will feature the band Muse Stew (guitarist/composer Scott Samenfeld, pianist Susanna Fiore, and percussionist Karen Gruber, with special guest reedmen Todd Brunel, Jimmy Repa, and Danny Zupan). In the second half, bassist/composer Kit Demos will lead his Flametet (saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, guitarist Jeff Platz, drummer John McLellan, clarinetist Todd Brunel, and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis).
As a fitting conclusion to Jazz Week, the John Tchicai Memorial Concert returns on Sunday, May 4, at 8:00 p.m. at Outpost 186. The compositions of Tchicai, who would have been 78 this year, will be performed by a group of musicians with strong personal connections to the late saxophonist (saxophonists Charlie Kohlhase and Jason Robinson, trumpeter Daniel Rosenthal, guitarists Garrison Fewell and Eric Hofbauer, bassist Aaron Darrell, and drummer Curt Newton).
J. R. Carroll served as Program Director of Columbia University’s WKCR-FM back in the early 1970s, and reviewed jazz, classical, world, roots and rock music for Crawdaddy and other long-departed publications. He was a contributor to the late, lamented WBUR Online Arts site and has been writing on jazz and other topics for the Arts Fuse since 2007.