Riffs: Music News from Out and About

By Patricia Myers


This month of April 2015 is the 14th annual Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) and the fourth annual International Jazz Day 2015 will be celebrated worldwide and in Phoenix on Thursday, April 30. That date was designated in 2011by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to honor this nation’s art gift to the world. The day was proposed by pianist Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, in cooperation with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, citing jazz as a vector of freedom, symbol of unity and peace . . . that breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for mutual understanding and tolerance.”                 International Jazz Day has spread to 196 countries since its launch in 2012 when 70 nations participated. Last year, the initiative even reached Antarctica, where staffs at the McMurdo and Palmer research stations performed standards. The daylong program will include jazz education programs and performances in all 20 districts of Paris, said Tom Carter, president of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which is presenting the event in partnership with UNESCO.

UNESCO organizers initially considered Paris as the host city to celebrate its legendary place in jazz history, dating back nearly a century to World War I when African-American troops brought the music to France. But the deadly January attacks on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish food market have given this year’s event added significance, said Hancock. “Jazz has been a bridge for bringing people together,” he said in an interview. “It’s not sectarian and it’s not just for people of a particular ethnic group. It’s for human beings. We need to recognize that which makes us similar, while at the same time honoring that which makes us different.”

An All-Star Global Concert at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters will be offered on live-stream around the world. That offers a vital message, said Irina Bokova, UNESCO director general. “Jazz is not simply music. Jazz is about civil rights, human dignity and dialogue among cultures. Jazz emphasizes the importance of creativity and freedom of expression.”

France often is recognized as the second birthplace of jazz after the United States, and since World War I, Paris has been one of the main centers for the creation and diffusion of jazz worldwide. Thanks to the energy of knowledgeable jazz fans and supporters, the music has not only been listened to and followed, but also analyzed and preserved for its artistic value. The presence of American musicians influenced the development of multiple generations of French jazz musicians, who in turn enriched the genre with their own contributions.

The birth of jazz in France has been tied to the arrival of the famous Harlem Hellfighters battalion in 1917.This 369th American infantry regiment composed exclusively of black solders, whose orchestra, led by James Reese Europe, could be heard performing the syncopations of ragtime during their long march through the French countryside. The popularity of certain American dances and the interest of composers such as Debussy and Ravel in black American folklore made for an enthusiastic welcome for jazz in the City of Light after the Great War, notably by the artistic intelligentsia of the time. As a symbol of this enthusiasm for African-American music, the singer and dancer Josephine Baker made an impact on the Paris cultural scene that signaled an evolution in popular interest in black culture, of which jazz was a major part.

For Hancock, who won an Oscar for best original score for the 1986 film “Round Midnight” about expatriate American jazzmen in Paris, the French capital is a most appropriate host city. “The feeling you get in Paris … is of deep respect and honor from the French people,” said Hancock. “They really look up to jazz as being a great art music.”                 The global webcast from Paris on April 30 will feature Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Lee Ritenour, Marcus Miller, Hugh Masekela, Dianne Reeves, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ravi Coltrane, Rudy Perez, Claudio Roditi, Dee Dee Bridgewater, saxophonists Igor Butman (Russia) and Guillaume Perret (France), oud master Dhafer Youssef (Tunisia).and others. More information @ unesco.org/jazzday.                The largest Arizona event on that day, one of 196 celebrations worldwide, will present free live-jazz performances at Cityscape Phoenix, 1 E. Washington St., Phoenix 85004 (info 480-947-7772). The 4 to 9 p.m. outdoor event, again produced by William “Doc” Jones, founder-executive director of theNextStudent Academy of the Arts in Phoenix,will feature Azar Lawrence-sax (Los Angeles), Nayo Jones-vocals (New Orleans), Royce Murray-Hammond B3 organ, Dowell Davis-drums, Kerry Campbell-alto sax, Jones-keys, Carlos Rivas (MexSal leader)-vocals-guitar, Phoenix Country Day High School Jazz Band, a Billy Strayhorn Tribute and more. There is optional $100VIP seating @ Copper Blues, funds to benefit the nonprofit NextStudent Academy of the Arts, nextstudentmusic.com, 602-524-7998.

On the previous night, Jones is producing two back-to-back concerts titled “A Taste of New Orleans + Tribute to Billy Strayhorn” at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale. Those will feature Nicholas Payton-keys-trumpet-vocals (Grammy winner, New Orleans), Azar Lawrence-sax-composer (Los Angeles), Nayo Jones-vocals (New Orleans), Dowell Davis-drums, Ted Sistrunk-acoustic bass, Yanni Goudelis-piano, Kerry Campbell-alto sax and Jones-keys. Songs from Lawrence and Payton’s new live CD, “The Seeker,” will be featured. The concerts are at 6:30 pm and 9 pm Wednesday, April 29. Admission is $65 premium, $50 reserved, $35 GA, co-presented by 504 Magazine & ASU Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 N. Scottsdale Road (at Rose Lane), Scottsdale, 480-596-2660, info @ asukerr.com, nextstudentacademyofthearts.com, 504mag.com (New Orleans-based jazz, blues, fusion publication).

Jazz in Arizona has scheduled a series of JAM events this month, most of them at The Nash. For information, go to TheNash.org. One event is the 20-piece Sonoran Serenade Big Band directed by Mike Crotty for a tribute to Billy Strayhorn 7:30-10 pm April 30, $20 adults, $15 students, The Nash, 110 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, thenash.org                                               *             *             *                     The Buzz: Arizona’s gift to the jazz world, drummer Lewis Nash, was married in Scottsdale on March 21 to Maya Dillard-Liddell of Tucson. She is president of the Southern Arizona Association for the Arts. They met several years ago in Tucson when he performed for that organization’s annual Jazz Legends concert. Nash recently was featured at two concerts in Gilbert at the annual Highland High School-ASU Jazz Festival, and another at The Nash in an Art Blakey tribute.        A recent email from Helen Daley, longtime president of the Arizona Classic Jazz Society, was illuminating and encouraging for mainstream-jazz fans: She wrote: “More scientific studies are reporting the benefits of music to health. Music can reduce chronic and postoperative pain.  One theory regarding pain is that music causes the body to release endorphins that actually counteracts the sensation of pain.  Listening to music can reduce blood pressure. Music is good for your heart and speeds post-stroke recovery. Music boosts immunity. Listening to Mozart has been shown to reduce seizure recurrence. Music can help early stage tinnitus. It enhances brain function and memory performance. Listening to music makes exercise more enjoyable, improves body movement and coordination and enhances athletic performance. Music can heal your soul by lifting your spirits with bright and cheerful music — a cure for the blues.” Ay-men to all of that! Let’s all keep listening to live jazz, as well as our prized recorded collections.

Several more benefit events have taken place since the Nov. 23 afternoon of jazz starring Danny Long and Friends that raised $20,000 for Long’s grandson. Stephen Dwyer, 16, a high school varsity swimmer, is a cancer patient who has had extensive treatment that included a bone marrow transplant. Donations now have passed $50,000, and recently the non-profit Children’s Organ Transplant Association donated an additional 10 percent. Stephen, the son of Rick and Trish Longo Dwyer, has faced multiple health crises before and since his transplant, and faces life-long medical challenges. The next fund-raiser is a golf tournament at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Western Skies Golf Club in Gilbert. No music at this event, but the benefit will include dinner, a silent auction, prize raffles and a performance by Danny’s brother, Peter Longo, a PGA Life Member, former PGA Tour player and trick-shot golfer. Non-golfers who want to help can donate silent auction and raffle items, or help get event sponsors, said COTA for Stephen D community coordinator Addie Wurster (Danny’s sister-in-law, 480-275-5169, lwurster@earthlink.net or Rick Dwyer, rdwyer@hotmail.com). More information or to donate: cotaforstephend.com/WaysToHelp#sthash.bbo5oTzC.dpuf

                                               *          *          *

            Musicians News: review by Jack Bowers at AllAboutJazz.com focused on the new album of former Arizona tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino. Part of it stated: “With so much jazz these days soaring into realms that are often uncharted and at times unfathomable, it is a pleasure to hear groups such as tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino’s “No Net Nonet,” which are remarkably creative even as they adhere to the basic precepts of melody, harmony and rhythm . . . His world-class ensemble has had a regular gig at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City since March 2013. Since leaving high school, he has studied with Dave Brubeck at the Brubeck Institute, earned degrees from the New School and Juilliard, and performed at home and abroad with a number of renowned musicians including Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, Christian McBride, Carl Allen and David Sanborn. Now he leads his own group, and what a talented alliance it is.” Among the 11 tracks is “Sunday Play,” described as an homage to Pino’s mentor, our own Charles Lewis, who often performed with Pino and other youth musicians, calling them his “Cubs.” The Pino nonet is Mat Jodrell, trumpet-flugelhorn; Alex LoRe, alto sax; Andrew Gutauskas, baritone sax; Nick Finzer, trombone; Rafal Sarnecki, guitar; Glenn Zaleski, piano; Desmond White, bass; and Colin Stranahan, drums. The album was released this year by Origin Records.

*          *          *

Quotable: “Originality’s the thing. You can have tone and technique and a lot of other things but without originality you ain’t really nowhere. Gotta be original.” Lester Young.                       *       *       *               Final Chorus: Orrin Keepnews, 91, Riverside-Milestone record producer-jazz journalist, March 1 in El Cerrito, CA; Lew Soloff, 71, trumpet (jazz, Blood Sweat and Tears), March 8 in New York City.

Categories: News