Jazz: An appreciation
April is Jazz Appreciation Month throughout the world, and the big celebration day is International Jazz Day. Held April 30 and implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011, it highlights jazz and the diplomatic role it has played culturally throughout the world.
The now annual event was the brainchild of jazz pianist, composer and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, who chairs Jazz Day along with the sitting UNESCO director-general. The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.
There are a lot of people who are unaware that this celebration takes place on an annual basis.
It would be easier for me to let Jazz speak for herself while I take a backseat. So here is Jazz, the person of the hour:
“First I would like to say I am honored and appreciative that the United Nations saw fit to give me my own special month that culminates April 30 with a big bash. And a special shoutout to Herbie for making it happen; he has always represented me well.
During this special month, I have mixed feelings as I ponder such special times as Black History Month, Hispanic Month and Women’s History Month. Gosh, it’s great that we have these special months, but it’s as if somebody screwed up and felt badly that we weren’t getting the respect or equality we deserve, so they gave us a mere month to try to make up for it.
Thirty or 31 days out of 365. There is so much history, so many details and so little time. I should be on the calendar 365 days per year. People should listen to me every day, sing songs by Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald or Carmen McRae, or dance to Count Basie or Duke Ellington, to Craig Harris, Robert Glasper or Jason Moran’s swinging funked-up tunes.
You see, I am misunderstood. I am the most misunderstood genre under the musical rainbow. People say I’m too complicated, or I’m uppity—You know, bourgeois.
I guess you never heard Ray Charles sing ‘Busted’ or ‘Hit the Road Jack’ or Oscar Brown Jr. sing ‘But I Was Cool’ or ‘Signifyin’ Monkey’ (You know about playing the dozens, right?). These songs are swinging R&B tunes, but the fact is gospel, spiritual hymns, blues, rock & roll, R&B, bebop, doo wop, hip-hop, jazz fusion, Latin jazz and Cuban jazz are all relatives of mine.
Come on—a cappella singing was derived from doo wop. Young brothers singing in project stairwells to get that echo for the high notes and deep bass. Rhyming is the basis for hip-hop—that is a cappella set to rhymes. So don’t act like you don’t know we all street. Dig?
My little brother hip-hop is always saying to me, ‘Yo Jazz, you got to get that paper. Your peeps out there making maybe one or two CDs a year and may not sell over 50,000. Damn, kid, Common or Snoop sell more than that in their sleep.’
The market seems to be twisted, but everyone says ‘Jazz is America’s original art form.’ If that is true, then why am I treated like a stepchild? I never receive my Grammy during primetime television, so I’m never invited. No, the camera has never scanned me in the audience with any one of my many representatives, from Herbie Hancock to Nicholas Payton, Craig Harris, Dianne Reeves and Charenee Wade.
I wouldn’t mind being on a late-night talk show. My musicians have some very interesting stories and loads of jokes to share! Sure, why not the ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ or ‘The Late Show with Steven Colbert’ or ‘The Daily Show’ with Trevor Noah? Let them sit on the couch instead of just being a guest musician in the band. What about the morning shows such as ‘Kathie Lee and Hoda,’ and afternoon shows such as ‘Ellen?’ We are missing out on so much publicity. We have a wonderful story to share aside from music.
All those news and radio shows. You know there are very few jazz radio shows. Come on, call me. We will have loads of fun and great music. Maybe, on April 30, every radio station should play a few jazz tunes or interview a jazz musician.
It is clear I need more exposure. The problem is that I was there from the beginning. I was there on the slave ships coming to America, witnessing the brutality and horrendous murders. That terrible experience was the beginning of the blues, which made its way to the cotton fields where the rhymes of call and response hollered out in pain.
The ring house where worship took place manifested praise shouts and frenzy dancing, as the blues stood by with his cousin spiritual hymns, which became a part of the Baptist Church.
The preacher with a white handkerchief in one hand and a clenched fist, hollering to the heavens in a syncopated rhythmic voice that flowed like a tenor saxophone. His deacons followed with a call and response that mimicked the same syncopation. They came back with such responses as ‘Take your time,’ or ‘I’m with you,’ and the simple word ‘Well.’ My cousin gospel came along singing praise.
My little brother hip-hop told me, ‘You got to go in hard if you want to get noticed.’ Cool, we did during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. We were strong. The drummer Max Roach came out with ‘We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,’ featuring Coleman Hawkins and Olatunji (Candid, 1960), Herbie Hancock recorded ‘The Prisoner’ (Blue Note, 1969), the Last Poets threw out some serious revolutionary rhythms (and that was years before hip-hop was even born) and John Coltrane recorded ‘Alabama’ (Prestige, 1963). Miles Davis came out with the hard-hittin’ ‘A Tribute to Jack Johnson’ (Columbia, 1970). The music was a part of the revolution called jazz fusion, those funky guitar riffs, the yelling cymbals, steady jabbing drumbeat and Miles steps up playing a brash trumpet solo all up in your face with fast flying riffs that knock your shoes off like a hypnotic Jack Johnson right hand to the head. You see it coming but man, the groove is so strong you can’t move. Bam!
You know the Black Panthers and Stokely Carmichael were playing some Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.
Everybody loves James Brown, ‘the Godfather of soul.’ Brown was an avid Charlie Parker fan. Which seems obvious when you realize his reed section included the noted saxophonists Maceo Parker, Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis and St. Claire Pickney. They were playing hardcore R&B swinging funk. Hey, R&B is my cousin, ‘Say It Loud.’
It’s true I doesn’t get the mega bucks and have little notoriety, even though I can be heard on songs by Issac Hayes, on Motown and The Sound of Philadelphia, from the O’Jays to Teddy Pendergrass. Come on, all those musicians played jazz, R&B or whatever. They are playing Black music, my family.
Just listen to that music and hear that groove. There’s nothing to understand. Just clap your hands. Can you dig it? I ain’t no complicated thing. I’m just music. I’m all those talented musicians who love of their music.
When Dizzy Gillespie was faced with his college concert tour being canceled in the 1940s because of his playing bebop, he couldn’t understand it. ‘They said they couldn’t dance to bebop,’ Gillespie commented. ‘That’s crazy. I can dance my ass off to it.’
The answer is easy: Forget the categories and labels, and, as Michael says, ‘Put that 9 to 5 on the shelf and just enjoy yourself/living crazy is the only way.’
Listen to Donald Byrd’s ‘A New Perspective,’ the song ‘Cristo Redentor,’ Oscar Brown Jr.’s ‘Brown Baby’ or ‘Maggie,’ Randy Weston’s ‘Little Niles’ or Ella Fitzgerald on ‘Lullabies of Birdland,’ ‘Ella Hums the Blues.’ These songs are standards that will be here after the sun has flown off with the stars.
For this Jazz Appreciation Month and International Jazz Day, everyone promises to take their friends or family to a live jazz show. Or introduce them to a jazz recording. OK if they are into Kenny G, then you have to start off with someone hip, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Stanley Turrentine, Lou Donaldson’s ‘Alligator Bogaloo’ or Houston Person.
If they are children, invest in a children’s jazz book: ‘Love to Langston Hughes’ by Tony Medina and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Lee & Low Books); ‘Little Melba and Her Big Trombone’ by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Frank Morrison (Lee & Low Books); and ‘I Live in Music,’ poems by Ntozake Shange and illustrations by Romare Bearden (Welcome Books).”
This month is the month to celebrate jazz musicians both present and past, a time to be grateful that such musicians walk the Earth and bless the planet with their magical music.”
Dakota Staton, a versatile vocalist with fantastic rhythm
Whenever a notable person appears in a profile, particularly when that person is a relative or a close associate, I find it difficult to ignore that individual, and that is certainly the case with songstress Dakota Staton. Those of you who follow this column weekly know that last week I featured Fred Staton, who passed away at 102. He was Dakota Staton’s older brother, and an equally talented musician.
Among his comments about his sister, Fred Staton cited that she was a Gemini, and she was born June 3, 1930, in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. and began dancing and singing at an early age. After several years attending Filion School of Music, at 16 she starred in the stage show “Fantastic Rhythm.” She attended George Westinghouse High School, which produced a number of stellar musicians, including Billy Strayhorn, Ahmad Jamal and her brother. Two years later, she was the featured vocalist with a band led by Joe Wespray, after a rewarding stint with the Kadets, a swing band.
After a lengthy residency at Detroit’s famous Flame Show Bar, Staton began making a name for herself and attracting a large contingent of fans. Soon her voice was requested throughout the Midwest, and this increased popularity made an appearance in New York City a logical next step. As a headliner at the Baby Grand she drew standing room only crowds and a number of record producers, including Dave Cavanaugh of Capitol Records. He signed her and she released her debut single, “What Do You Know About Love?” in 1954. A year later, Downbeat magazine saluted her with its Most Promising Newcomer award.
Jazz might have been her forte, but Staton could hold her own in the rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues realm, and she was often in concert with such major performers as Big Joe Turner and Fats Domino, when they were crowd pleasers at Alan Freed’s rock ‘n’ roll showcases. Freed, on his daily WINS show, often played Staton’s version of “My Heart’s Delight.” But those early recordings were dress rehearsal for her national acclaim with “The Late, Late Show” in 1957.
The recording was a crossover chartbuster climbing to No. 4 on the Billboard pop list. In 1958, she was equally impressive with “The Dynamic Dakota” and attained a No. 22 spot. Even more significant for her career was having Sid Feller as her conductor and arranger. They would have a highly successful collaboration that kept her on the charts and on the stage.
Along with her union with Feller was her marriage to Talib Ahmad Dawud, a trumpeter who introduced her to the Islamic faith, and for a while she performed under her Muslim name, Aliyah Rabia. As members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and the Muslim Brotherhood, they were often at odds with the Nation of Islam over their involvement in the entertainment industry. Whatever their differences, the controversy stalled Staton’s fast rising career, but just a bit because her recording of “Crazy He Calls Me” in 1959 did fairly well on the charts, even if the crossover impact dimmed. Her marriage to Dawud ended in divorce.
Having acquired acclaim on Capitol records, Staton signed with United Artists in 1963, and debuted there with “From Dakota With Love.” After a couple of more recordings, she made no more for eight years. But she was not silent. She had concert dates at hotels and on cruise ships, particularly after she moved to England. Practically forgotten, she returned to the states in the early ’70s and signed with Groove Merchant and on that label released her comeback album “Madame Foo Foo,” with organist Richard “Groove” Holmes.
Her last appearance in her hometown of Pittsburgh was at the Hill House Auditorium as part of the Mellon Jazz Festival in 1996.
Among her last recordings were sessions with Muse and Simitar records and in 1999 she signed with High Note for her final studio recording, “A Packet of Love Letters.” She also recorded “Broadway,” which, much like “The Late, Late Show,” had a bouncy up-tempo beat that was extremely popular in New York City. Her rendition of “My Funny Valentine” also earned her kudos from lovers of Tin Pan Alley tunes.
In 2006, Staton appeared at Skullers in Boston, and writer Rob Mariani recalled that moment for the All About Jazz website. It had been 40 years since he first heard her at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan. “…In her two-point stand atop her stiletto heels,” he wrote, “Ms. Staton looks up, acknowledges the audience with a broad smile, lifts her chin, opens her mouth and presto! Suddenly, any signs of age vanish from her face. And the voice, the very same identical voice I’d heard over 40 years ago in the Village Vanguard, emerges, unchanged, strong and full of beautiful, lyrical energy.”
Mariani recalled, “I think she must have done almost the same set of tunes I’d heard her do the first time. But they still sounded amazingly fresh. The audience was a mixture of people like myself who knew Dakota Staton from her ‘Late, Late Show’ days and a generation who probably did not even know the reference to the early TV show alluded to in the album title.”
Her health began to fail shortly afterward, and she died April 10, 2007, at the age of 76.
New York’s jazz station goes beyond the airwaves
Walking through the halls of public radio jazz station WBGO 88.3 FM, it’s not hard to figure out why the nearly 40-year-old station is a epicenter of the American music genre aiming to keep dedicated jazz aficionados pleased along with getting the ears of new listeners.
Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, Billie Holiday and Bud Powell fill the airwaves with sounds of yesterday, but current jazz figures such as Jazzmeia Horn, Christian Sands, David K. Matthew and Shamika Copeland are also staples.
Being the only jazz radio station in the jazz capital of the world might seem like a hard task, but WBGO 88.3 FM doesn’t seem to have a problem also being one of the nation’s leaders in jazz for the past 39 years.
Along with music and news, the public radio station based in Newark, N.J. has strong community partnerships, educational programing and one of the nation’s most listened to jazz playlist, with a listenership of more than 400,000 and online listeners around the world.
“Something is happening here all the time,” said WBGO President and CEO Amy Niles. “Anytime of the day or night, there is something live and interactive happening. It’s an exciting physical place to be.”
Along with the music, WBGO offers a wide range of programming to bring jazz to the community. From daytime concerts in Newark at the Gateway II building to Monday Night with WBGO at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan and Kids Jazz, which introduces the music to young people in Essex County.
Founded in 1979, the WBGO frequency, 88.3 FM, was originally owned by the Newark Board of Education. Before the jazz format, the school board used the station to broadcast classes for people seeking to earn their GEDs.
Today the station is the New York City’s lone jazz station that also does news and operates as a nonprofit organization. WKCR-FM at Columbia University has daily jazz programming but also features other genres.
One of the crown jewels WBGOs programing is “Jazz Night in America,” which airs nationally and is hosted by bassist Christian McBride. The weekly program, airing Wednesday nights, is a partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center. The program highlights jazz music today with an experience that includes audio and online video.
“Jazz Night in America” is the most listened to jazz show and most diverse offering of any program distributed by NPR.
“We don’t just play music, it’s always an experience,” Niles said. “The hosts we have are pretty much the most knowledgeable people you can imagine about the music. We want to keep this music thriving. We do everything that we can. We don’t just dabble in it, we are very invested in this music.”
Although most radio stations log music into a digital system, WBGO stays true to tradition. One of the features of the station is the music library that features rows and rows of CDs and vinyl records of jazz music.
Music director and host of “Morning Jazz,” Gary Walker, has been at the station for 35 years and said the music is selected that goes far beyond the notes.
“We play music that has a connectivism with the audience,” he said. “There’s a soulfulness that’s sometimes missing in the creative process. Sometimes the soul of a tune is the space between the notes. Jazz can be frightening to the average person because they think they’re not smart enough. The key here is you have to make it palatable in an emotional level as opposed to a purely academic level.”
WBGO is in the middle of its 39th anniversary. The station is also preparing for its upcoming pledge drive.
Benny Carter, the master arranger of big band swing
For a couple of reasons Benny Carter stayed on my mind this week. His memory was first evoked during a discussion of the history of the Apollo Theater. In 1934, when the Apollo introduced its Amateur Night show, with Ralph Cooper as the emcee, the Benny Carter Orchestra was featured. He crossed my mind again last week when the Classroom profiled Jackie Carter. They were not related, but they possessed a similar zest for life and versatility.
Born Bennett Lester Carter, Aug. 8, 1907, in Harlem, he received his first music lessons from his mother. She taught him the fundamentals of music, and from neighborhood musicians he learned the art of jazz improvisation. But he was basically self-taught, beginning on the trumpet before switching to the saxophone. He was a teenager in Harlem when he began sitting in with various groups, most notably with the Earl Hines band.
It was during a year with Fletcher Henderson’s band that Carter acquired wider recognition, particularly for his arrangements. A brief stint with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, the Detroit-based unit, was an opportunity to perfect his ability on the alto saxophone, his principal instrument, as well as his technique of arranging. By 1932, he assembled his own orchestra.
After helping to launch the shows at the Apollo, Carter left for London. During his sojourn there, he was staff arranger for the BBC Dance Orchestra. From his base in London, he traveled throughout Europe, establishing a highly respected reputation that put him in great demand. When he wasn’t in the studio, Carter found time for sessions in British after-hour clubs.
“I always played there when I had time,” he told a reporter. “I used to play in a club called the Nest, and there was another one called the Shim-Sham. Not only was I sitting in with a lot of the local musicians, but I was recording with them, too, because I was allowed to make records.” There were dates with Ted Heath and Albert Harris, among others, he recalled.
“One disc, which as far as I know was the first disc in three-four time, which I must add was Leonard Feather’s idea, was ‘Waltzin’ the Blues,’” he said. “It perhaps wasn’t as revolutionary as it might have felt at the time, with people now doing seven-four and eleven-eight, but at the time, it was kind of refreshing for a change.”
In 1938, he was back in the states and back in Harlem, where he led the house band at the Savoy Ballroom. It was his band at the Savoy when the Lindy-hopping Malcolm Little, later to become Malcolm X, was on the floor, demonstrating his prowess with dance partners.
Carter left the Savoy in 1942 for the West Coast, where he would live for the rest of his life. Hollywood presented him not only recording sessions in the studios but also a chance to write arrangements for films and television. One of his most memorable early assignments was for the film “Stormy Weather” in 1943, starring Lena Horne. He played in the orchestra as well but received no credit for any of his participation. In this capacity, Carter opened the door for other jazz musicians to score films and to work in television. He played a critical role in promoting the Musicians Union in the city, along with occasional concert dates with major performers.
In the post-war years, he was a member of the popular “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concert series. This series increased his exposure and kept him in touch with the veteran musicians and with a coterie of newcomers.
By the 1950s and 1960s, he began devoting more time to writing arrangements for vocalists, including Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Appearances at festivals and nightclubs with small ensembles and touring the globe occupied much of his time in the 1970s. It was also during this period that he began to venture into the classroom, teaching at several universities. On two occasions, he was in residence at Princeton University.
Carter’s fame as an arranger should not obscure his singular impact on the alto saxophone, matched by Johnny Hodges before the emergence of Charlie Parker. His tone was crisp and mellow with a lilting melodic flavor. To hear him on his composition “When Lights Are Low” is exemplary of his style and the influence he would have on a generation of musicians. He was still very proficient and energetic into the 1980s, and evidence of this can be seen on YouTube in 1985, when he fronts an ensemble with trumpeter Nat Adderley. Not much has been written about his trumpet performances, but the characteristic purity of tone and execution displayed on the alto and clarinet occurs in Carter’s trumpet solos.
Like his concert performances, Carter’s recordings stretch across more than 60 years, from the early 1930s to the 1990s. Toward the end of his life, he was the recipient of numerous awards and tributes. He was saluted by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, and in 1998 he was honored at the Third Annual Awards Gala and Concert at Lincoln Center. Among his other awards was the National Medal of Arts in 2000 from President Clinton.
His music was performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, and was given the Center’s award for Artistic Excellence. When Carter was unable to attend, Marsalis accepted the award on his behalf.
In the “New Grove Dictionary of Jazz,” almost two pages are devoted to recounting Carter’s life and music. “As an arranger,” wrote Edward Berger, “Carter was a principal architect of the big band swing style; his arrangements for Fletcher Henderson ‘Keep a Song in your Soul’ (1930) in particular is often cited as a landmark in the evolution of jazz arranging.”
In his book, “A New History of Jazz,” Alyn Shipton observes that Carter “learned his craft in the band led in Wilberforce, Ohio by [Fletcher] Henderson’s brother Horace, and in early 1928 spent some months in the orchestra of Henderson’s New York rival, Charlie Johnson.” Shipton also notes some aspects of Carter’s musical journey and the influence that saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer had on him.
Carter was 95 when he died in 2003, living just long enough to see a website created for him, which is a must-visit to find out more about his life and legacy.
Announcing the 2018 Smooth Cruise Series lineup
Cruise series features Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Peter White and others aboard Hornblower Infinity yacht
This summer, New York’s premier summer jazz series returns to the Hornblower Infinity yacht as the annual Smooth Cruise Series marks its 21st year! The series features an all-star lineup, anchored by Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns Tour. The summer series features headliners including The Whispers, Jonathan Butler, Gerald Albright, Rick Braun, Peter White, Rachelle Ferrell, Norman Brown, Bobby Caldwell, Najee and others.
The Smooth Cruise season kicks off Saturday, May 12, with a special Mother’s Day Weekend cruise with The Whispers. The Whispers emerged as the leading romantic singers of their generation, racking up one gold album after another and charting numerous R&B hits. Wallace “Scotty” Scott, his twin brother Walter Scott and Leaveil Degree continue to perform the music that has made The Whispers one of the iconic R&B groups of all time. The Grammy-nominated group has a legacy of hits spanning four decades, including “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady.”
Friday, June 22, Jonathan Butler and special guest Eric Darius take the stage. Butler’s self-titled debut album garnered two Grammy nominations, one for the R&B pop vocal statement “Lies” and the other for “Going Home.” Well known for his hit “Sara Sara” and his live rendition of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” Butler brings a World Music sensibility with influences ranging from Miriam Makeba to Stevie Wonder to George Benson. Aboard the Smooth Cruise, he’s joined by saxophonist, composer, producer and vocalist Darius, who has collaborated with superstars such as Prince, Jamie Foxx, Mary J. Blige and others.
Friday, July 13, is the highly anticipated Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns Tour featuring Gerald Albright, Rick Braun and Richard Elliot and introducing Aubrey Logan. This not-to-be-missed show features a who’s who of horn players in their only area appearance. The tour comes in conjunction with the release of “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns II.” A free download of the new album will be sent to every ticket buyer on release day! The release follows 2013’s “Summer Horns,” which was honored with a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album and an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Jazz Album. Koz’s career spans more than a quarter century. He’s earned nine Grammy nominations, and nine No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
Wednesday, July 15, Peter White and Euge Groove headline. White got his start in the 1970s as a 20-year-old performing with hit maker Al Stewart (“Year of the Cat,” “Time Passages”) and has kept contemporary jazz fans worldwide enthralled by his spirited melodies, soulful grooves and instantly recognizable acoustic guitar tone. Groove adds a dynamic charm to White’s music with exquisite saxophone artistry and wisdom.
Friday, Aug. 10, Rachelle Ferrell returns to the Smooth Cruises, with special guest Mike Phillips. Ferrell is known for her amazing six-plus octave range and unique vocal stylings. With no two performances being alike, Ferrell’s live shows are always entertaining and high energy, with skillful improvisation delving far beyond her original recordings. Hailing from Mt. Vernon, NY, Phillips is the only musician in the world to have recorded and toured with the legendary “Big Three” of American soul and pop music: Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Jill Scott referred to Phillips as “one of the most amazing artists of all-time.”
Norman Brown and Bobby Caldwell play Friday, Aug. 24. Grammy Award-winning superstar Brown has sold close to 2 million albums, including “Just Chillin’,” which earned a Grammy recognition in the Best Pop Instrumental category. Tonight he’s joined by Caldwell, who’s timeless classic, “What You Won’t Do for Love” has been recorded and sampled by more than 100 artists, including a rendition by Boyz II Men.
Thursday, Aug. 30, Najee headlines, with special guest Nick Colionne. Grammy Award-winning international jazz saxophonist and flutist Najee is one of the original innovators of Urban Contemporary Jazz. He’s joined by Colionne, who’s well into his third decade of making the strings sing with his very own sweet Chicago soul.
The recently remodeled Hornblower Infinity features an open bow, covered sky deck and oversized windows that provide endless opportunities to enjoy sights of New York Harbor as guests kick back with the world renowned jazz artists. The yacht also includes climate controlled interior decks with multiple dance floors and spacious exterior sundecks.
The Smooth Cruises offer food and beverage service at an additional charge. A buffet dinner can be purchased for an additional $30, cash bar. Limited VIP Deluxe Packages are available featuring a separate boarding line, a premium buffet on a private dining deck and open bar.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit MarqueeConcerts.com or SmoothJazzNewYork.com. Tickets are on sale now online and by phone at 1-866-468-7619. See individual show pages on SmoothJazzNewYork.com or MarqueeConcerts.com for ticket details, package pricing, buffet menus and available limited time early bird discounts. The Smooth Cruises sell out quickly and so it is recommended that tickets be purchased early.
Chapman Roberts Broadway Jazz Festival celebrates Ellington
Chapman Roberts, the veteran Broadway choral arranger/singer, actor and composer celebrates the 50th anniversary of his Broadway debut in the smash tribal rock musical “Hair” by producing The Chapman Roberts Broadway Jazz Festival as America’s main event of Herbie Hancock’s International Jazz Day 2018 festivities taking place Monday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Ave. at 54th Street.
The stellar cast of Broadway’s best cabaret/jazz musicians and singers will include Tina Fabrique, Sam McKelton, Alyson Williams, Adrian Bailey, Yolande Bavan, Frank Owens, Clyde Bullard, André De Shields, Ebony JoAnn and a host of others.
With other host cities such as Sydney, Australia and St. Petersburg, Russia, International Jazz Day is a worldwide event in more than 190 countries. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and iconic jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and renowned saxophonist Igor Butman (Russia) will serve as artistic co-directors. International Jazz Day was established by UNESCO in coordination with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in 2011, recognizing the role of jazz in promoting freedom, creativity and intercultural dialogue, uniting people from all corners of the globe. International Jazz Day was last celebrated in Havana, Cuba, hosted by Will Smith.
The Chapman Roberts Broadway Jazz Festival as America’s Premiere International Jazz Day 2018 event celebrates the 100-year legacy of the contributions and influences of African-America’s greatest jazz composers on Broadway, with musical and spoken tributes to Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Mary Lou Williams, Hugh Masekela, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller, J.C. Johnson, Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong and Billy Strayhorn performed by New York’s brightest Broadway and cabaret jazz stars.
Three-time Grammy Award-winning Broadway choral arranger Roberts assembles alumni of his Broadway hits such as “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” “Your Arm’s Too Short to Box with God,” “Eubie” and “Smokey Joe’s Café,” and a reunion of the Broadway national and international companies of “Five Guys Named Moe” in a special tribute to the “King of the Juke Box,” Louis Jordan.
The Chapman Roberts Broadway Jazz Festival is a compendium of Roberts’ impressive list of Broadway musical achievements, both on Broadway and on London’s West End.
Upon leaving “Hair” in 1969 at the height of its history-making popularity, Roberts joined “Scandal” actor Joe Morton in a tiny off-Broadway show in a church basement in New York’s Upper East Side, later known as the Manhattan Theatre Club. Leaving the biggest hit on Broadway to accept a role in an obscure off-Broadway show was in those days considered an unheard of act treason, and Roberts was told in no uncertain terms that he would “never work on Broadway again.” The show was called “Salvation” and featured Morton and Roberts in a duet introducing “If You Let Me Make Love to You, Why Can’t I touch You?” which later became a hit single release for another “Hair” cast member, Ronnie Dyson.
Ironically the show became Roberts’ salvation and spurred the beginning of a long career in singing, acting, choral arrangement, musical supervisor and producing. Roberts has performed in such productions as “Jesus Christ Superstar” “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” “The Fantasticks,” “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God” with Patti Labelle and Al Green, “Blues in the Night” with Ruth Brown and Leslie Uggams, “Five Guys Named Moe” and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.”
An assignment as choral arranger for Harry Belafonte and B.B. King led Roberts to produce “Black Stars of the Great White Way” at Carnegie Hall in 2014, and three Grammys later, Roberts’ vocal arrangements have been sung by virtually every African-American performer who has appeared on Broadway in the past 50 years, including Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, Jennifer Holliday, Andre DeShields, Norm Lewis and Nell Carter.
The Chapman Roberts Broadway Jazz Festival on International Jazz Day 2018 will be an anthology of Roberts’ body of work, in tribute to Pastor John Gensel, Duke Ellington and all of the African-American composers whose music has been performed on Broadway during the past 100 years, including J.C. Johnson, Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle and Fats Waller.
BAM and World Music Institute present the Jazz Epistles
Featuring Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya, April 18 & 19
With special guests Ravi Coltrane (April 19) and Freddie Hendrix (April 18 & 19)
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Peter Jay Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Tickets start at $35
Superstar pianist Abdullah Ibrahim comes to BAM in Brooklyn to commemorate the band he helped form. Together for barely a year in the 1950s, the Jazz Epistles recorded the first all-Black modern jazz record in South Africa’s history before the apartheid government shut them down. In this electrifying night of music, Ibrahim and guests look back on this near-mythical band.
The Jazz Epistles were South Africa’s first Black jazz band, pioneering a new musical form influenced by bebop and traditional South African music. Inspired by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the Jazz Epistles formed when the Dollar Brand Trio from Cape Town––which included pianist Ibrahim, bassist Johnny Gertze and drummer Makaya Ntshoko––combined talents with alto saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, the late great trumpeter Hugh Masekela and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa. Their first and only album, “Jazz Epistle, Verse 1,” released in 1959, brought them international acclaim. After the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre and the increasing oppression of the apartheid government––including the prohibition of jazz music––band members emigrated to Europe and North America. Two of them, Ibrahim and Masekela, would go on to become jazz stars in their own right.
In June 2016, Ibrahim and Masekela reunited for two sold-out concerts at the Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg, performing together in South Africa for the first time in more than 50 years. These historic performances inspired the duo to embark on a world tour in tribute to the Epistles legacy. The recent passing of Masekela reaffirms the imperative of these concerts as not only cultural celebration but also cultural preservation. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (April 19) and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix (April 18 & 19) join Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya for this two-night run, which will include new arrangements of the Jazz Epistles’ original compositions, including “Blues for Huey,” “Scullery Department” and “Dollars Moods,” along with Ibrahim’s classic catalogue.