Music Legend Sonny Rollins Endows “Sonny Scholars” Jazz Ensemble at Oberlin College

Jazz Master Sonny Rollins (photo via knkx.org)

via jbhe.com

Sonny Rollins, the legendary jazz saxophonist, has made a generous contribution to establish the Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble Fund at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.

Beginning in spring 2018, Oberlin College jazz studies majors may audition for the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble. Each student’s candidacy will be considered on the basis of four criteria: an audition for Oberlin’s jazz faculty, evidence of academic achievement, thoughtful response to a question about the place of jazz in the world, and service to humanity.

“Sonny Scholars” must dedicate at least two semesters to performing in the ensemble. They must also complete a winter-term project that embodies Rollins’ spirit of giving.

In explaining the rationale for this aspect of the program, Sonny Rollins said “people are hungry for a reason to live and to be happy. We’re asking these young musicians to look at the big picture, to tap into the universal power of a higher spirit, so they can give people what they need. Giving back to others teaches inner peace and inner spirituality. Everything is going to be open for them if they devote themselves in this way.”

Rollins gift to Oberlin grew out of his friendship with author and musician James McBride, a 1979 graduate of Oberlin College. The gift was made in recognition of the institution’s long legacy of access and social justice advocacy. In particular, Rollins was moved by Oberlin’s place as the first institution of higher learning to adopt a policy to admit students of color and the first to confer degrees to women, and by the contributions of alumni such as Will Marion Cook, a black violinist and composer who graduated in 1888 and who went on to become an important teacher and mentor to Duke Ellington.

Andrea Kalyn, dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, stated “that the legendary Sonny Rollins — an artist of truly extraordinary accomplishment, soulfulness, and character — would entrust Oberlin to steward his legacy is the highest honor, and deeply humbling.”

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2017/11/music-legend-sonny-rollins-endows-a-jazz-ensemble-at-oberlin-college/

Happy 100th, Ella! American Musical Legend Ella Fitzgerald Born on this Day in 1917

Early Hardship Couldn't Muffle Ella Fitzgerald's Joy

Legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald (photo via npr.org)

article by Tom Vitale via npr.org

Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 today, was one of the most beloved and versatile singers of the 20th century. In a career that spanned six decades, Fitzgerald recorded hundreds of songs, including definitive versions of many standards. Along the way, she influenced generations of singers.

But the first thing that strikes you about Fitzgerald is that voice.

Cécile McLorin Salvant, who won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album, says a combination of qualities made Fitzgerald’s voice unique. “When you hear the tone of her voice — which has kind of a brightness, kind of a breathiness, but it also has this really great depth, and kind of a laser-like, really clear quality to it — it hits you,” she says.

Salvant, 27, says she learned to sing jazz standards by listening to Fitzgerald’s versions.

“I remember being 17 and living in France and feeling really homesick and wanting to go back to Miami, and listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,’ ” Salvant says. “And I would listen to that all day. All day. For, like, weeks. And it felt — it created a home for me.”

Fitzgerald had perfect pitch, impeccable diction and a remarkable sense of rhythm. And it all came naturally to her, as she told the CBC in 1974.  “What I sing is only what I feel,” she said. “I had some lady ask me the other day about music lessons and I never — except for what I had to learn for my half-credit in school — I’ve never given it a thought. I’ve never taken breathing lessons. I had to go for myself, and I guess that’s how I got a style.”

That style was an immediate hit. Fitzgerald was discovered at an amateur contest and began her professional career when she was only 16, singing with the Chick Webb Orchestra at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. When she was 21, she became internationally famous with a hit record based on a nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”

Tony Bennett says that when he was starting out as a young singer, Ella Fitzgerald was his idol. “She was a complete swinger,” he says. “She just understood the whole art of jazz phrasing.” Continue reading

The New Yorker’s Tribute to the Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture Is Everything

Newyorker

article via clutchmagonline.com

The New Yorker recently unveiled its latest illustrated cover, and it’s gorgeous.

Featuring Kadir Nelson’s stunning “Harlem On My Mind” painting, the Feb. 16 issue pays homage to the Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture.

Nelson said he wanted his painting to be “a stylistic montage” that honors “the great Harlem Renaissance painters: Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, Norman Lewis, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Archibald Motley, and Palmer Hayden.”

Also included in the beautiful illustration are Black cultural giants Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and the Nicholas Brothers.

R.I.P. Grammy Award-Winning Singer and Chart-Topping Artist Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole performing in 2007. (Credit: Radek Pietruszka/European Pressphoto Agency)

Natalie Cole, the Grammy Award-winning singer whose hits included “Inseparable,” “This Will Be,” “Our Love,” “Pink Cadillac” and “Unforgettable,” a virtual duet with her father, Nat King Cole, that topped the Billboard charts in 1991, died in Los Angeles on Thursday. She was 65.

Maureen O’Connor, a spokeswoman for Ms. Cole, confirmed her death without giving a cause, according to The Associated Press. Ms. Cole had undergone a kidney transplant in 2009 and had suffered from other ailments recently, forcing the cancellation of a series of tour dates in November and December.

Ms. Cole — who was raised around jazz royalty in the company of her father and her mother, Maria Hawkins Cole, a singer who worked with Duke Ellington and Count Basie — came into her own as a singer in the 1970s by staking out her own territory in R&B. Her first album, “Inseparable,” in 1975, won two Grammys, and “Sophisticated Lady,” on a follow-up album the next year, won another.

Ms. Cole’s reputation declined for several years, partly because of struggles with drug addiction. But she came back, creating the biggest hit of her career by uniting, at least in the studio, with the legacy and voice of her father, singing along with him on a recording of his standard “Unforgettable” and winning several Grammys in 1991.

The song reached a level of success that Ms. Cole said stunned her, even with the combined wattage of her name and her father’s.

“The shock of it all is that this record is getting airplay,” Ms. Cole said in an interview at the time. “It’s absolutely shocking to see it between Van Halen and Skid Row on the charts, totally out of its element. It should be encouraging to record companies and my contemporaries.”

Watch Ms. Cole perform one of her biggest hits, her debut single from 1975, the #1 R&B hit and #6 Pop hit “This Will Be”, live on “Midnight Special” below:

article by Randy Kennedy via nytimes.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Alvin Ailey To Make its Feature Film Debut Today in Theaters Nationwide

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 9.05.41 AM

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been amazing audiences around the world since 1958. However, even after almost 60 years in business, it is still breaking ground as a modern dance company.

On Thursday, Oct. 22, Ailey will be debuting its first-ever feature film as part of the Lincoln Center at the Movies series, Great American Dance. In movie theaters nationwide, audiences will have the chance to watch the Ailey company perform some of its most classic, popular pieces like “Revelations,” “Takademe” choreographed by Robert Battle and “Grace” by Ronald K. Brown.

Hosted by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, the film will also feature behind-the-scenes footage from shows and exclusive interviews with members of the company.

Considering that this is a one-night only affair, this event is the opportunity of a lifetime. The Ailey company is critically acclaimed for its brilliant choreography and innovative scores featuring some of the most loved and revered musicians in Black music including Duke Ellington, Roy Davis and Fela Kuti.  The entire show is performed to African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues.

Interested? Check local listings (the show starts at 7 pm local time) here or here and check out the trailer below:

article by Monique John via hellobeautiful.com

THEATER REVIEW: Fantasia Barrino Celebrates Harlem’s Jazz Age In “After Midnight”

fantasia barrino After Midnight

Fantasia Barrino performs at ‘After Midnight’ Broadway opening night curtain call at Brooks Atkinson Theatre on November 3, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — NEW YORK (AP) — There are few things that bring smiles to even the most jaded faces — balloons, blaring trumpets and tap dancers. A new Broadway revue has two — no, make that all three — so no wonder it leaves you feeling lighter than air.  After Midnight, a candy sampler of some two dozen musical numbers that showcase dance, jazz or singing, opened Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre led by musical genius Wynton Marsalis, an endearing Dule Hill as its host and a thrilling guest singer in Fantasia Barrino.

The show, which first surfaced in 2011 off-Broadway, tries to re-create the energy and fun of Harlem’s famous Cotton Club nightclub in the 1920s and 30s, when Duke Ellington and his band made everything cool. It does so with panache but avoids sounding old-fashioned: There’s even room for some breakdancing and popping.  As 17 musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center play, the night includes Fantasia belting out a super “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” a subdued “Stormy Weather” and an infectious “Zaz Zuh Zaz.” Adriane Lenox plays a hysterical boozy hellcat in two numbers, “Women Be Wise” and “Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night.”

Continue reading

R.I.P. Jazz Icon, Grammy Award-Winning Musician and Composer George Duke

GEORGE DUKE | Aug. 5 (age 67) | The legendary keyboardist released more than 40 albums during his four-decade-plus career. He memorably collaborated with artists such as Michael Jackson, Jill Scott and Miles Davis.

GEORGE DUKE | The legendary keyboardist released more than 40 albums during his four-decade-plus career. He memorably collaborated with artists such as Michael Jackson, Jill Scott and Miles Davis. Jean-Christophe Bott, AP

Jazz musician George Duke died Monday in Los Angeles at age 67.  A pioneer in the funk and R&B genres, he had been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia, according to his label Concord Music Group, which confirmed his death.  “The outpouring of love and support that we have received from my father’s friends, fans and the entire music community has been overwhelming,” said his son, Rashid Duke, in a statement. “Thank you all for your concern, prayers and support.”

Born in San Rafael, Calif., Duke aspired to a music career from an early age, after his mother took him to a Duke Ellington concert.  “I remember seeing this guy in a white suit, playing this big thing, which I later found out was a piano,” Duke told USA TODAY in 1997. “He had all these guys around him, and he was waving his hands conducting, and he spoke very intelligently and seemed to be having a good time. And his name was Duke, and my last name was Duke. I told my mom, ‘I want to be him.’ That moment in time set the stage for me.”

Over the course of his four-decade-plus career, the Grammy Award-winning keyboardist put out more than 40 albums and collaborated with artists such as Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Jill Scott and Michael Jackson. His music was also sampled by Kanye West, Daft Punk and Common.  “It’s a wonderful thing that has happened under the banner of jazz,” Duke told USA TODAY of his career longevity. “In R&B and rock, when you are over a certain age, they say goodbye to you. But in jazz, you just kind of level off and continue to gain respect, so long as you keep your integrity.”

Duke’s final album, DreamWeaver, was released July 16 and made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard‘s contemporary jazz chart. It was his first new music since the death of his wife, Corine, last year.  To learn more about Duke’s life and music, click here.  Also, watch a video of Duke recording his classic “Dukey Stick” below:

article by Patrick Ryan via usatoday.com