New York City Winter Jazzfest Focuses on Sexism, Immigration, Protest in Jazz

Jazz on the Border: International Musicians and U.S. Visas with Antonio Sanchez, Alexis Cuadrado, Lucia Cadotsch and moderated by Matthew Covey

This panel, featuring musicians, agents, and legal professionals, will discuss ways that U.S. immigration law impacts the U.S. jazz scene. The panel will discuss strategies for avoiding problems, and will be doing a deep dive into some of the unique challenges jazz artists frequently encounter. Special attention will be paid to the changes under the new administration. 2 p.m. Sunday Jan. 14 – The New School Starr Foundation Hall, 63 Fifth Ave., New York City – FREE with RSVP (rsvp@winterjazzfest.com).

Jazz and Gender: Challenging Inequality and Forging a New Legacy with Angela Davis, Lara Pellegrinelli, Arnetta Johnson, and Vijay Iyer, moderated by Terri Lyne Carrington

Jazz has been a transformational, spiritual, and social movement on the global stage – creating an enduring legacy. Also embedded in its legacy are sexism and other forms of alienation. The purpose of this panel is to critically challenge the prevailing code that has historically repressed and continues to render invisible many of the art form’s creative contributors. 2 p.m. Monday Jan. 15 – The New School Tishman Auditorium, 63 Fifth Ave., New York City – FREE with RSVP (rsvp@winterjazzfest.com).

The Long March: A Conversation on Jazz and Protest Through the Generations with featured guest Archie Shepp, Nicole Mitchell, and Samora Pinderhughes, moderated by Ras Moshe Burnett 

Jazz is inherently a music of social commentary and protest. Today, there is a movement of contemporary jazz musicians expressing messages of justice, equality, and freedom. Three talented artists from three generations, who each naturally embody the socially conceptual aspect of jazz performance, will be in attendance. The focus will be on the history of jazz as a functional component in political consciousness and engagement. 6 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 16 – Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. – $20 ADV / $25 DOS (to be followed by concert with Nicole Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey)

New Savory Collection release features Bobby Hackett and friends

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s Savory Collection will release Vol. No. 4: Bobby Hackett and Friends exclusively on Apple Music and iTunes on Dec. 15. The full multi-volume collection of historical archives will feature swing era jazz artists at the height of their artistry and previously unissued performances, all captured in superb sound quality by sound engineer/technical genius Bill Savory. Starting today, a sample track is available on Apple Music, and the album is available for pre-order on iTunes.

For 30 years, Loren Schoenberg, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s founding director and senior scholar, chased down these essential recordings. This edition further emphasizes the importance and excitement of this series, of which the eminent documentarian Ken Burns said: “It’s hard to think of many other historical discoveries that equal the incredible amount of new and vital information that comprises the Savory Collection.”

“In being an integral part of this project since its inception, Apple Music is helping to ensure this wonderful music is not simply limited to jazz collectors’ shelves but reaches a broader audience as well,” said Schoenberg, of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

As the title emphasizes, the outstanding cornetist Bobby Hackett is prominently featured — on three tracks with his own ensembles and four as a participant led by the fine clarinetist Joe Marsala, with whose group Hackett made his initial impact on the New York scene in 1937. Admired by trumpet giants from Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis throughout his 40-year career, Hackett was already leading his own ensembles by the time of the recordings that open this album after gaining notoriety through his performance with Benny Goodman in his legendary 1938 Carnegie Hall concert.

Here he joins baritone saxophonist Ernie Caceres and pianist Joe Bushkin, with Carmen Mastren, Sam Shoobe and George Wettling on guitar, bass and drums respectively, all under Marsala’s keen leadership for a quartet of rollicking extended pieces filled with dynamic ensemble work and inspired solos. These late 1937 recordings contain the popular standards “California, Here I Come” and “The Sheik of Araby,” as well as blues classics “Jazz Me Blues” and “When Did You Leave Heaven” (also covered by heavyweights like Big Bill Broonzy and Bob Dylan).

A Hackett ensemble’s participation on a 1938 Paul Whiteman radio broadcast bring us the beautiful Gershwin ballad “Embraceable You” and a stomping take on Kid Ory’s “Muskrat Ramble,” with Hackett joined by the brilliant Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, arranger/valve trombonist Brad Gowans, the piano/bass/drums team of Dave Bowman, Clyde Newcombe and Andy Picard, and legendary guitarist Eddie Condon — whose equally legendary “Condon’s Mob” included Hackett as an integral member. Two years later Hackett got together with an NBC house band to add his own brief but memorable contribution to the “Body and Soul” legacy (to be extended seven years later with his beautiful solo on Frank Sinatra’s unforgettable version).

Listeners will also discover three extremely rare recordings by the immortal pianist Teddy Wilson’s 13-piece orchestra, virtually unrecorded in live performances. Recently discovered and to this point the only excellent high audio quality (superb, at that) recordings of this group, these 1939 items feature such masters as tenorman Ben Webster, trumpeters Doc Cheatham and Shorty Baker, altoist/clarinetist Rudy Powell and the sparkling rhythm section of Al Casey, Al Hall and J.C. Heard on guitar, bass and drums. With Wilson’s majestic virtuosity front and center, the band was structured for smooth transitions and elegant voicings, employing the rare — for its time — two trumpet/two trombone brass section creating a uniquely singing dynamic that was as graceful as its leader’s singular artistry and presence.

Of this latest essential release, co-produced by Loren Schoenberg and Ken Druker, with the superb original recordings raised to perfection through the restoration and mastering wizardry of Doug Pomeroy, Schoenberg says: “To be able to share never-before-heard music created by great American artists such as Teddy Wilson and Bobby Hackett is such a thrill — just like an old wine, they improve with age! So much of the music of the Era was played in the musical equivalent of capital letters; these performances are such a joy to hear from bands that played with the lower-case letters too; so relaxed and flowing.”

On Dec. 19, Mosaic Records will release a deluxe, limited-edition six-disc boxed set of the Savory Collection available only through mosaicrecords.com.

New York City proclaims April 25 as “Ella Fitzgerald Day”

Ella Fitzgerald

On the 65th floor at the iconic Rainbow Room, with an expansive view of the city where Ella Fitzgerald got her first big break and performed her last public concert, the singer’s 100th birthday was celebrated. Verve Label Group, in partnership with the Mayor’s office, hosted a proclamation ceremony today to honor this beloved musical icon on her 100th birthday by naming it “Ella Fitzgerald Day,” in New York City. Grammy winner Tony Bennett joined to acknowledge his dear friend and colleague and closed the ceremony with a rendition of “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”  Vocal students from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which Tony Bennett founded in his hometown of Astoria, Queens, opened the Rainbow Room event appropriately with “Blue Skies,” a favorite Ella recording.

Danny Bennett, CEO and president of Verve Label Group acknowledged Ella Fitzgerald’s unique relationship with New York City where she first received public acclaim by winning Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre in 1934 and performing her last public concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991. Danny Bennett said in a news release, “A year ago, I was asked to take over at the helm of Verve which was founded by Ella’s longtime manager Norman Granz, who created Verve Records in 1955 to provide a nurturing and supportive home for Ella’s recording career but also to foster jazz artists and this great American-born musical genre. I am truly humbled to now be the keeper of the flame and contributing to shine a well-deserved light on artists of the magnitude of Ella Fitzgerald.”

Verve/UMe just released several re-issues of Ella’s most beloved recordings including a four-CD set of 100 Songs For A Centennial, and a six-LP vinyl reissue of Ella Sings The George & Ira Gerswhin Songbook.  Later in the year, Verve will release a new album featuring Fitzgerald’s classic vocal recordings accompanied by new orchestral arrangements by the London Symphony Orchestra. Order 100 Songs For A Centennial here: https://UMe.lnk.to/100SongsCent and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books here: https://UMe.lnk.to/GershwinSB6LP.

Commissioner Julie Menin from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment presented the official proclamation to Richard Rosman and Fran Morris-Rosman of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, and reading from the Proclamation, said, “New York has a long and proud tradition of attracting talented performing artists from around the world, and a standout among them is Ella Fitzgerald, a legendary jazz vocalist who captivated audiences with her distinctive style and incredible talents. Ella has gone down in history as one of the greatest entertainers of all time, and her story and career have continued to inspire singers and performers across our city and far beyond. Together with the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, and her legions of fans around the world, I am proud to join in celebrating Ella’s 100th birthday. Now therefore, I, Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, do hereby proclaim Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in the city of New York as:  Ella Fitzgerald Day.”  Tony Bennett presented the Foundation with a framed print of his portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, the original of which is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, and was known as the “First Lady of Song.” She received 13 Grammy Awards, was a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of the Arts.

Guitarist Kevin Eubanks merges musical landscape of East and West coasts

Since his 18-year tenure as guitarist and music director of TV’s “The Tonight Show” band ended in 2010, Philadelphia-born guitarist, composer Kevin Eubanks has been on a creative roll. On East West Time Line, Eubanks explores the chemistry he maintains with musicians on both coasts. And once again, his distinctive fingerstyle approach to the instrument is in the service of tunes that run the stylist gamut from urgent swingers to introspective ballads to Latin-tinged numbers and some get-down Philly funk. The Mack Avenue Records project is set for release on April 7.
Joining Eubanks on this stellar outing are longtime collaborator and former Berklee College of Music schoolmate, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, who fuels the West Coast outfit alongside seasoned session bassist Rene Camacho, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Pierce. Smith’s East Coast counterpart on this bi-coastal session is the irrepressibly swinging Jeff “Tain” Watts, a force of nature on the kit who combines with bassist Dave Holland, Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans and New York trumpeter Nicholas Payton for a potent lineup. Together these great musicians bring out the best in Eubanks’ six-string prowess and ignite his searching instincts throughout the sessions in Los Angeles and New York.
“Of course, we all came up through New York,” says the Philly guitarist who broke in with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers during the early ’80s in a recent news release. “But we also got the benefits of seeing the East Coast down and dirty and Hollywood down and dirty, too. We combined both vibes on this recording-the kind of Latin vibe of Los Angeles and the straight-up swinging vibe of New York.”
Overall, Eubanks seems exceedingly pleased with the copacetic nature of his first bi-coastal recording. “I think because I’m so familiar with all the musicians and we played together over the years in different settings, on different tours, that it helped the music quite a bit. There’s something that goes with friendship, knowing everybody’s journey to a large extent, that really enhances the communication between the players on a session. It’s that thing where everybody’s pulling for each other to do well and trying to make each other sound better, and you keep your ego out of it. We all have egos, we’re human beings and everything, but through the love of the music and wanting the best, good things happen. It’s really such a wonderful kind of democracy that you don’t see in other things. I think jazz music is the most perfect example of democracy in action.”

Vocalist Allan Harris releases new project “Black Bar Jukebox”

allanharrisThe Brooklyn-born, Harlem-based vocalist/guitarist/bandleader/composer Allan Harris has reigned supreme as one of the most accomplished and exceptional singers of his generation. Aptly described by the Miami Herald as an artist blessed with, “the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat ‘King’ Cole.”
Evidence of Harris’ multifaceted talent can be heard on his 10 recordings as a leader; his far-flung and critically-acclaimed concerts around the world, from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, to the 2012 London Olympics, and a number of prestigious bookings in Europe, The Middle East and Asia, and his numerous awards, which include the New York Nightlife Award for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” – which he won three times – the Backstage Bistro Award for “Ongoing Achievement in Jazz,” and the Harlem Speaks “Jazz Museum of Harlem Award.”
Harris’ new album, Black Bar Jukebox, produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Brian Bacchus (Norah Jones, Gregory Porter), is his most compelling and comprehensive recording to date.
“Believe me, what Brian brought to the table was wonderful,” Harris says in a news release, “not only because of his music, but also because of the vision, and the way he hears things. I’m enamored with the sound I got.” Inspired by the jazz, R&B, soul, country and Latin sounds that emanated from jukeboxes in African-American barbershops, clubs, bars, and restaurants, from the mid to late twentieth century, the album — which features Harris’ accomplished band of three years: drummer Jake Goldbas, bassist Leon Boykins, and pianist/keyboardist Pascal Le Boeuf; with special guests, percussionist Samuel Torres and guitarist Yotam Silberstein — also marks his moving and momentous return to his jazz-centered, Harlem roots, where he heard all those aforementioned styles, genres and grooves in the Golden Age of the seventies.
“Growing up, I heard the sound of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Nat King Cole,” Harris says, “I was always cognizant of jazz.”
In this soulful setting, Harris would meet many jazz and R&B stars who worked at the Apollo and came by the restaurant to eat and hang out. Another aunt, Theodosia Ingram, won the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night Competition and performed at a number of Manhattan clubs, including The Lenox Lounge under her stage name, “Phoebe.” It was through her, that Harris would meet and be mentored by a seminal jazz figure, Clarence Williams. “We used to go to his record store, and he’d come into our house on Lincoln Avenue,” explains Harris. “At the time I was a child … I just thought that was just a part of my life. And later, I understood the gravity of the depth of his history. Yes: Clarence Williams opened up a lot of doors for me, to really get me into this genre calledjazz.” It was Williams who brought Louis Armstrong to the Harris home, and babysat the future crooner, who was frightened by Satchmo’s gravelly, “frog like voice.”
Black Bar Jukebox, a diverse and dynamic disc, showcases Allan Harris at the zenith of his all-encompassing artistry. “I’m a storyteller through the genre of jazz,” concludes Harris.