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/

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem Finds a Permanent Home

The musicians Terri Davis, left, and Bill Saxton at the opening of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. (YANA PASKOVA FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

article by Nate Chinen via nytimes.com

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem has always been, like the music it honors, a study in adaptability. For the last 15 years, it has operated out of a modest fourth-floor space in East Harlem, while developing big plans for a permanent home. Now, after weathering a few disappointments, the museum has relocated to a new storefront on West 129th Street, in a move that signals not only an improvement to its public facilities but also a renewal of its mission.

“Being in a new space has shifted our approach to what is possible,” Ryan Maloney, the museum’s director of education and programming, said during an opening reception on Tuesday night, as a quartet led by the pianist Marc Cary played a hard-swinging Hank Mobley tune.

The museum now sits off Malcolm X Boulevard, a couple of blocks north of Sylvia’s and Red Rooster, the emblematic culinary institutions of old and new Harlem. It occupies the ground floor of a new condominium building, and while it’s not a large footprint — just under 2,400 square feet, of which 1,900 is devoted to public space — the design and layout were carefully considered.

In some ways, the embrace of that small scale reflects well on the institution. Founded in 1997 by Leonard Garment, former counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem began with noble intentions but limited resources. “We flailed around for several years, and while we did, the money ran out,” Mr. Garment wrote in a 2002 article for The New York Times. (He died in 2013.)

The museum found its footing, in incremental steps, under the executive leadership of Loren Schoenberg. A veteran saxophonist, pianist, educator and historian, Mr. Schoenberg brought an air of authority to the museum, while strengthening its bonds with the jazz public and institutions like the Smithsonian. He enlisted two artistic directors, both still actively involved: the bassist Christian McBride and the pianist Jon Batiste. (Mr. McBride is the recently announced new artistic director for the Newport Jazz Festival; Mr. Batiste, the bandleader on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” was one of Mr. Schoenberg’s students at Juilliard.)

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Toni Morrison Receives $25,000 Honorary Award From PEN for American Fiction

article by Hillel Italie via blackamericaweb.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has received an honorary prize named for another Nobel winner, the late Saul Bellow.

PEN America, the literary and human rights organization, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Morrison has been given the $25,000 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American fiction. Morrison, 85, is known for such novels as “Beloved,” ”Song of Solomon” and “Jazz.”

“Revelatory, intelligent, bold, her fiction is invested in the black experience, in black lives, and in black consciousness, material from which she has forged a singular American aesthetic,” awards judge Louise Erdrich, herself a prize-winning novelist, said in a statement. “Toni Morrison not only opened doors to others when she began to publish, she has also stayed grounded in the issues of her time.”

PEN announced several other prizes on Tuesday.

Lisa Ko’s “The Leavers” won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, a $25,000 award. John Schulian, a sports writer for numerous publications, received the $5,000 PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. Ed Roberson was given the $5,000 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.

Three playwrights received prizes: Lynn Nottage, whose works include the Pulitzer-winning “Ruined,” was named a Master American Dramatist; Young Jean Lee was cited as an American Playwright in Mid-Career and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins as an Emerging American Playwright.

To read more, go to: http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/03/01/toni-morrison-receives-25000-honorary-award-from-pen/

R.I.P. Composer, Pianist and Jazz Crusader Joe Sample

Joe Sample at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2011. His last solo album, “Children of the Sun,” is to be released this fall. (Credit: Jean-Christophe Bott/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Joe Sample, who became a jazz star in the 1960s as the pianist with the Jazz Crusaders and an even bigger star a decade later when he began playing electric keyboards and the group simplified its name to the Crusaders, died on Friday in Houston. He was 75.

The cause was mesothelioma, said his manager, Patrick Rains.

The Jazz Crusaders, who played the muscular, bluesy variation on bebop known as hard bop, had their roots in Houston, where Mr. Sample, the tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder and the drummer Nesbert Hooper (better known by the self-explanatory first name Stix) began performing together as the Swingsters while in high school.

Mr. Sample met the trombonist Wayne Henderson at Texas Southern University and added him, the bassist Henry Wilson and the flutist Hubert Laws — who would soon achieve considerable fame on his own — to the group, which changed its name to the Modern Jazz Sextet.

The band worked in the Houston area for several years but did not have much success until Mr. Sample, Mr. Felder, Mr. Hooper and Mr. Henderson moved to Los Angeles and changed their name to the Jazz Crusaders, a reference to the drummer Art Blakey’s seminal hard-bop ensemble, the Jazz Messengers. Their first album, “Freedom Sound,” released on the Pacific Jazz label in 1961, sold well, and they recorded prolifically for the rest of the decade, with all four members contributing compositions, while performing to enthusiastic audiences and critical praise.

In the early 1970s, as the audience for jazz declined, the band underwent yet another name change, this one signifying a change in musical direction. Augmenting their sound with electric guitar and electric bass, with Mr. Sample playing mostly electric keyboards, the Jazz Crusaders became the Crusaders. Their first album under that name, “Crusaders 1,” featuring four compositions by Mr. Sample, was released on the Blue Thumb label in 1972.

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Born On This Day in 1917: American Musical Legend Ella Fitzgerald

Ella FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996), also known as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”, was an American jazz vocalist with a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6). She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Fitzgerald was a notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Over the course of her 59-year recording career, she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.

ella_fitzgeralds_96th_birthday-1212009-hpAs Google honors Ella with her own Google Doodle today (pictured left), learn more about her life and music on Wikipedia.org.  Also, it is truly worth watching all seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the video below as Al Jarreau and Nancy Wilson honor Ella with a spectacular version of one of her biggest hits, “A Tisket, A Tasket” at the 1988 NAACP Image Awards.  Then, after 71 year-old Fitzgerald receives her award, she sings a dynamic, swinging, commanding version of “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” that is not to be missed:

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

‘The Girls In The Band’ Gets A 1-Week Theatrical (Untold Stories Of Women Jazz Instrumentalists)

From Shadow and Act‘s Tambay A. Obenson via indiewire.com:

Web-wide reactions to this when I first wrote about this film in late 2011 was strong; lots of excited folks curious and anxious to see it, and with good reason, given the subject matter.  And some of those same people (specifically those who live in New York City) will be pleased to know that it’s getting a 1-week theatrical run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, from May 10 – 16, after a lengthy film festival circuit run.

So if you happen to be in or around NYC during those specific dates, and you’re interested in seeing the film, here’s your chance to do so (I suspect there’ll be other similar limited theatrical runs in other parts of the country; but no confirmation of that).

A quick recap:

Director Judy Chaikin’s documentary, The Girls In The Band, highlights the untold stories of women in jazz and big band instrumentalists, from the 1930s to the present day.

I’d say, for the average enthusiast, it’s likely an easier challenge to name women jazz vocalists than instrumentalists. Images like the one above probably aren’t the first to come to mind when most of us think of jazz music. And Chaikin’s doc hopes to influence that, with this poignant narrative, which includes lots of wonderful archival footage, telling the fascinating stories about the lives and careers of these trailblazing women who endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continued to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them.

The film also looks at the present-day young women who are following in the footsteps of those who paved the way for them in the male-dominated world of jazz.  For more on the upcoming theatrical run, visit the Lincoln Center website HERE.

Watch the trailer below:

The Whitney Museum of American Art Presents ‘Blues for Smoke,’ a Look at Blues, Jazz and American History

Charlie Parker

Beauford Delaney
Portrait of Charlie Parker, 1968, Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

The Whitney Museum of American Art exhibit, “Blues for Smoke,” features an exciting array of works by a wide range of contemporary black artists. But it offers so much more. A journey back in time, the combination of works, inspired by African-American music, slips you, with a heady mix of anticipation and foreboding, into a dark, back alley jazz club that would be easily at home in the ruins of Potsdam, Berlin, or along the steamy backwater canals of New Orleans. The mood of the show captures the feeling of folks gathered at smatterings of café tables as you enter, where you sit and listen to live jazz vocals in an atmosphere tinged with the bite of a gin cocktail and the halo of cigarette smoke.

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