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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jazz into Law: Preserving the Heritage

The road to official recognition for the jazz art form continues with the re-introduction of a near 30-year old bill designating Jazz as an official National Treasure in the US. The National Jazz Preservation and Education Act of 2011 will build on Congressman John Conyers, Jr.'s  1987 Resolution by establishing jazz education programs
aimed at elementary and secondary students and by preserving the many artifacts, documents,
and photographs that tell the story of jazz in America. By preserving the past and creating a new
generation of jazz musicians and fans, this legislation will help to ensure that this uniquely
American musical genre lives on

In 1985, under the leadership of Mr Conyers, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) Jazz Issue Forum and Concert was established to enhance and perpetuate the art form, emphasize its cultural heritage, and force awareness and pride within the African American community. Each year, the Forum explores a different aspect of the jazz experience in order to promote a better understanding of the diversity and vibrancy of this music as a dynamic cultural phenomenon within our society. Over the past 26 years, Congressman Conyers has covered such topics as mentoring, opportunities for new talent, jazz education, the economics of jazz, and the contributions of women in jazz. The Forum is held in conjunction
with the CBCF's Annual Legislative Conference. Traditionally, the Forum followed by a free
concert where live jazz is performed by some of America's finest jazz artists. The Jazz Issue Forum and Concert has brought together an impressive array of talent, from song stylists to composers, from musicians to publishers, from broadcasters to educators, and historians and archivists. Among the notables who have previously participated are: Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, Abby Lincoln, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Donald Byrd, Barry Harris, Dr. Billy Taylor, Shirley Horn, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Count Basie Orchestra, Gary Bartz, Hank and Elvin Jones, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, and many more.
In 1987, the Congress passed Conyers’ House Concurrent Resolution 57 designating jazz a
"national American treasure."

In 1990, the Congressman won passage of a resolution commemorating tap, a form of dance
closely associated with jazz. That measure designated May 25th, the birthday of Bill
"Bojangles" Robinson, as National Tap Dance Day. Also in 1990, Congressman Conyers won
passage of appropriations legislation awarding the Smithsonian Institution with funding to
establish a comprehensive jazz program, including the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
During the 111th Congress, Mr. Conyers introduced House Resolution 894, honoring the 50th
anniversary of the recording of the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue and reaffirming jazz as a
national treasure. The album is widely considered the greatest jazz album of all time. The House
of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 894 on December 15th, 2009. The
vote showed a strong commitment on the part of Members of Congress to preserving and
celebrating American music and culture.

In the 112th Congress, Congressman Conyers introduced H.R. 2823, the “National Jazz
Preservation and Education Act of 2011.” The Act will make needed investments that will allow
for the preservation of artifacts that document our country’s jazz legacy and educate America’s
youth about this national treasure. Specifically, the Act will establish a National Jazz
Preservation Program at the Smithsonian and resurrect both the Jazz Artists in the Schools
Program and the Ambassadors of Jazz Program

Congressman Conyers has been supportive of efforts to present live jazz to the public in the
Washington, D.C. metropolitan area through his past service on the board of directors of such
organizations as Capital City Jazz Festivals, Inc., and District Curators. He has also served in the
past on the boards of the National Jazz Service Organization, and the Rhythm and Blues

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Magris x three: the latest offerings

Even by jazz standards (no pun intended), piano man Roberto Magris' creativity knows almost no bounds judging from his prolific output to date. Scarcely had I digested the last two, the consummately excellent "Alien on a BeBop Planet"
, and "One Night in With Hope and More, Vol.1", when Magris and his varied, ever-changing list of collaborators has sprung forth not two, but three new discs. The discs continue thematically in veins similar to that which he has previously mined; there is, instead of the Lee Morgan Tribute (which has so far taken up two full-lengths) a Cannonball Adderly tribute disc, and instead of Kansas City (though that storied jazz locale still features indirectly) there's a Philly exploration, aided by the Philly alto master (and Odean Pope Saxophone Choir alum) Sam Reed.

Of the trio, my favourite is in fact the Reed disc, titled  "Ready for Reed". For fans of straight-up post-bop with appropriate and finely balanced twists, this is an essential addition to your collection. Reed is in great form, and the simpatico between himself, the leader and the band as a whole shines through - almost to the point where it seems, only seems, mind you, that there is no leader. But of course, this is a Magris disc.

There's also - wait for it! - a follow-up
 to the One Night in with Hope project. Through out all these musical explorations, Magris not only keeps it fresh with the compositions and expositions, but manages, as always, to get maximum commitment and verve out of his musical cohorts. It begins in bouncy style with Herbie Nichols' "Third World" and runs through selections from Mal Waldron, Elmo Hope, of course, and -as to be expected - a couple of originals from Magris himself.

Music aficionados can continue in gratitude to the Italian-born instrumentalist as he mines the great troves of bop and post-bop tradition and takes them out for some fresh spins. Hail Magris!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Coltrane at the Double

From our friends at Jazziz magazine, "music to the ears" of Coltrane fans - like me
If it’s a John Coltrane fix you need, two August releases will set you right up.
On August 6, Mosaic Records will release The Complete Sun Ship Session, which includes newly discovered and previously unissued alternate takes from one of the final studio sessions by the John Coltrane Quartet. The three-LP set will also be made available on a two-disc set through Verve Records on April 16.
Sun Ship, recorded August 26, 1965, though, was not issued until 1971, one of several Coltrane albums issued by Impulse Records after his death. And Sun Ship was, like many jazz albums, the product of editing between takes, a process overseen by John’s widow, Alice.
f the last sessions by the classic John Coltrane Quartet (Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones). The
“This Complete Sun Ship Session edition is much more,” writes David Wild in the liner notes. “Sourced from newly discovered original reels, the set includes the album’s five original compositions, unedited, in sequence of recording, with all of the takes as they evolved, as well as the surrounding conversations. More than just a sampling of a few alternate takes, The Complete Sun Ship Session offers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on an iconic master at work.”
In other Coltrane news, the Concord Music Group will reissue a remastered and expanded edition of the saxophonist’s Afro Blue Impressions album on August 30. The two-CD set, which includes three bonus tracks and new liner notes, celebrates the 40th anniversary of Pablo Records, the label founded by Norman Granz in 1973. After releasing more than 350 albums in a span of less than 15 years, Granz sold Pablo to Fantasy in 1987, which in turn merged with Concord Records in 2004 to form Concord Music Group.
Afro Blue Impressions represents an anniversary within an anniversary. By the time Granz launched Pablo in 1973, he’d already stockpiled several years worth of previously recorded tour performances in his vaults, including these sets from Stockholm and Berlin in late 1963 (October and November, respectively). This new two-disc reissue of the classic Coltrane Pablo album — originally released as a double-LP in 1977 — arrives just a few weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of the original concerts.
Coltrane fronts a stellar quartet on both European dates that includes McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. In addition to the nine tracks that appeared in the original Afro Blue Impressions double album, the reissue also includes three bonus tracks from the Stockholm date: “Naima,” “I Want To Talk About You” and “My Favorite Things.”
“These tracks brim with the wonder and the power of discovery,” writes Neil Tesser, author of the new liner notes accompanying the reissue. “At this juncture, the Coltrane Quartet existed in a state analogous to quantum mechanics. … Each new performance yielded new insights. As the musicians gathered this data and sifted through it, they would arrive at the polished theories underlying the eventual masterworks to come, such as the album Crescent and the monumental suite A Love Supreme — achievements that would then launch a new age of chaotic discovery, on such albums as OmSun Ship and Meditations. How much those recordings will resonate on their 50th anniversaries will likely engender some controversy; Coltrane didn’t live long enough to complete the journey that began with them, and the jury remains out, even decades later, regarding the impact of that work. But history long ago weighed the import of his work in 1963, when his music stretched and struggled its way toward becoming Coltrane’s iconic stylistic statement.”
For more information about John Coltrane, go to

Monday, June 10, 2013

JazzFest says "Hi - PHI"; Turns 23

It was in Trinidad that the last great new instrument of the 20th Century was born: out of the oil industry, our neighbours to the south gave the world the steel pan, now known universally as the pan.

Fast-forward to the present and a team of Trinis have done it again - this time the instrument carries a more pedestrian name: The Percussive-Harmonic Instrument. But being the inventitive people we are, we've shortened it to PHI.Hi-PHI, Lo-PHI. Just PHI. Its essentially a form of electronic pan that has full MIDI connections and the ability to reproduce a gamut of instrumental sounds, even piano/keyboard)

 The new invention will have its Jamaican premiere during the
23rd Anniversary edition of the Jmaaica Ocho RIos Jazz Fest, which had its official (but i nthe true spirit, never too formal) kick-off on Saturday last at Hotel Four Seasons.

Organizer and heartbeat Myrna Hague-Bradshaw told the gathering that the event was being continued as a labour of love, a service to musicians, and of course, a tribute to her late husband, and festival co-founder, Sonny Bradshaw.

Darren Shepard is Trinidadian, but no stranger to Jamaica, having expounded on the steel pan art on several occasions here in the past. He will, in fact be manning the PHI and will be featured in a special Saturday night (June 15) concert at Red Bones the blues Cafe, alongside Harold Davis, who will be keeping up on keyboards as well as vocals.

The festival line-up also includes US alto saxist Idris Ackamoor, himself pretty much an "honorary Jamaican" and whose theatre-infused style (he incorporates dance, spoken word and costuming in his act) is sure to
enthrall audiences, UK-born Jamaican saxophonist Yolanda Brown, fresh off a banner year that saw her win a MOBO award, and keyboardist Dr Kathy Brown. The Jamaica Big Band is  unquestionably a staple of the Festival (as it streams towards its Silver year in 2015), and new thus year - but again no stranger - is the Ralph Holding Trio. Holding, a longtime musical collaborator of Hague-bradshaw, recently served as musical direcotr for the renewal of her "Simply Myrna" concert series. Nightly Jazz Jams will be open to all (and all vocal comers) at the 4Seasons. The annual Father's Day Festival Finale unwinds this Sunday At Turtle River Park in the centre of Ocho Rios

The fest will also feature two other stalwart female vocalists: Christine Fisher who, along with life & musical partner Alex Martin-Blanken entertained at the follow-up Jazz Brunch (watch this space for our review) and Keisha Patterson, whose previous CD, Sunday Kind of Love, established firmly her jazz vocal chops and affinity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jazz Day A la Turk:UNESCO, the Republic of Turkey, and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz join together to celebrate jazz as a universal language of freedom.

Istanbul, Turkey -- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue Herbie Hancock, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu and its Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ömer Çelik, are pleased to announce that the main event for the second annual International Jazz Day will be hosted by Turkey in the city of Istanbul.
Held every year on 30th April, International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools and groups from across the world to celebrate jazz, learn about its roots and highlight its important role as a form of communication that transcends differences.
This year, the main concert for International Jazz Day will be held in Istanbul, Turkey. UNESCO's Director-General, Irina Bokova, stated, "I am delighted to announce that Istanbul will serve as the Host City for the 2013 International Jazz Day celebration on 30th April. A meeting place of global cultures, Istanbul is an ideal location to highlight the extensive influence of jazz. Official celebrations, concerts and educational programs will take place in Istanbul and around the globe, expanding on the tremendous success of last year's inaugural International Jazz Day."
Taken forward in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, International Jazz Day was adopted by UNESCO Member States on the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, in order to encourage and highlight jazz's unique power for advancing intercultural dialogue and understanding across the world. International Jazz Day is recognized on the official calendars of UNESCO and the United Nations. Its programs and events will be coordinated with all 195 Member States of UNESCO.
"International Jazz Day is a means to highlight, support, and leverage the unifying attributes of music through worldwide celebratory events and activities on 30th April each year," said Herbie Hancock. "On International Jazz Day, jazz is celebrated, studied, and performed around the world for 24 hours straight. Collaborations abound among jazz icons, scholars, composers, musicians, dancers, writers, and thinkers who embrace the beauty, spirit, and principles of jazz, freely sharing experiences and performances in our big cities and in our small towns, all across our seven continents."
Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu and its Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ömer Çelik, stated: "Turkey welcomes the opportunity to host UNESCO's International Jazz Day on 29-30 April, 2013, in Istanbul. On this occasion we shall celebrate jazz music not only as a global language of the human soul, but also as that of more inclusive societies, mutually enhancing civilizations and UNESCO ideals."
Tom Carter, President of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, said, "The Institute is pleased to partner with UNESCO and the Republic of Turkey to present the second annual International Jazz Day. Last year's celebration reached more than one billion people through educational programs, performances and media coverage. This is a phenomenal figure that we believe will be surpassed in 2013."
Celebrations in Istanbul will kick off with a special early morning performance for high school students conducted by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others. The evening concert at Istanbul's famed Hagia Irene will feature performances by stellar musicians from around the world, including pianists John Beasley, George Duke, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Abdullah Ibrahim, Keiko Matsui and Eddie Palmieri; vocalists Al Jarreau, Milton Nascimento and Dianne Reeves; trumpeters Hugh Masekela, Imer Demirer and Christian Scott; bassists James Genus, Marcus Miller, and Ben Williams; drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Vinnie Colaiuta; guitarists Bilal Karaman, John McLaughlin, Lee Ritenour and Joe Louis Walker; saxophonists Dale Barlow, Igor Butman, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter and Liu Yuan; clarinetists Anat Cohen and Husnu Senlendirici; violinist Jean-Luc Ponty; Pedro Martinez on percussion and other special guests to be announced in the weeks ahead. John Beasley will be the event's musical director.
Dating back to the 4th century, the Hagia Irene, located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - is regarded as an international treasure for music lovers because of its brilliant atmosphere and enchanting acoustics. The concert will be streamed live on the internet via the UNESCO, U.S. State Department and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz websites, and will be taped for future broadcast on public television stations around the world.
In addition, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz will work with UNESCO and its 195 Member States, national commissions, UNESCO networks, UNESCO Associated Schools, universities and institutes, public radio, public television, and NGOs to organize and promote Jazz Day events worldwide. Libraries, schools, performing arts centers, artists and arts organizations of all disciplines throughout the world will be encouraged to celebrate the day through presentations, concerts, and other jazz-focused activities.
To date, nearly 80 events have been organized in more than 30 countries, including Argentina, Australia, the Republic of Korea, France, Gabon, Malaysia and Trinidad and Tobago. In Armenia, the Municipality of Yerevan is organizing an open-air concert and will introduce jazz history and jazz performance in several schools around Yerevan. In Mexico, more than ten jazz concerts are scheduled throughout the country. Denmark will host "Jazz as a Verb" in Copenhagen, a day seminar and evening concert for both Danish and international musicians. In India, Jazz Goa in will celebrate the Day with a mega event featuring jazz artists from all over the world. In Swaziland, a special program "Jazz across Borders and Cultures" will include workshops, jam sessions, and concerts over three days. Additional events are being confirmed each day.
UNESCO, the Republic of Turkey, and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz are pleased that the Istanbul Jazz Festival, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) is serving as the 2013 Host City Partner. The Istanbul Jazz Festival will play an integral role in the coordination and production of the all-star concert in Istanbul.
The objectives of International Jazz Day are to:
  • Encourage exchange and understanding between cultures and employ these means to enhance tolerance;
  • Offer effective tools at international, regional, sub regional and national levels to foster intercultural dialogue;
  • Raise public awareness about the role jazz music plays to help spread the universal values of UNESCO's mandate;
  • Promote intercultural dialogue towards the eradication of racial tensions and gender inequality and to reinforce the role of youth for social change;
  • Recognize jazz as a universal language of freedom;
  • Promote social progress with a special focus on developing countries utilizing new technologies and communications tools such as social networks;
  • Contribute to UNESCO's initiatives to promote mutual understanding among cultures, with a focus on education of young people in marginalized communities.
For more information about International Jazz Day, please visit our websites at: These sites will be re-launched today to reflect 2013 Jazz Day activities. Organizations that would like to participate can register their activities on each of them.