Jazz Comes Back in Harlem

Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival to take place May 9-15 with 35 events at eight venues

Jason Moran
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Jason Moran performs with the Bandwagon at the 2010 Rosslyn Jazz Festival
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In Hank O’Neal’s book The Ghosts of Harlem, the author and several of his elder jazz musician subjects made the argument that jazz (both the clubs and the musicians) had left the Harlem neighborhood by the late ’60s as a result of many factors, including desegregation, crime, and the end of the big-band era. However, Harlem has always had a jazz scene, albeit not one comparable to its heyday when there were jazz clubs going full-tilt in the ’30s. Clubs like the Lenox Lounge and Minton’s Playhouse have been doing their best to keep that tradition alive and are fixtures on the city’s present day jazz scene

Now a group of organizers are making an effort to celebrate the iconic neighborhood’s rich past as well as its present with an event called the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival. Held on May 9-15, 2011 the inaugural version of the festival will feature 35 events at eight venues throughout Harlem, including the famous Apollo and Minton’s Playhouse. The events will include concerts, panels, exhibits and jam sessions. Among the artists scheduled to appear at the weeklong festival are: Jason Moran & Meshell Ndegeocello, T.S. Monk; Jerry Weldon; Wycliffe Gordon; Jonathon Batiste; Greg Osby; Geri Allen; Carla Cook; Oscar Hernandez and The Spanish Harlem Orchestra; and many more.

This particular event has its roots in a similar series organized back in 1998 by Mikki Shepard and an organization called 651ARTS. “It was under [that] umbrella that the idea behind celebrating ‘lost’ jazz shrines came about,” Shepard explains. “My conversations with the late David Jackson, the Memphis-based writer, gave rise to this idea of paying homage to these historic ‘community’ sites located throughout the United States that provided the early support for the birth (in many cases) and platform for jazz and its artists. I conceptualized this initiative with a primary goal of preserving the memory of the evolution of jazz in African-American communities throughout the United States.” Given those parameters, Harlem as a site proved to be a logical extension to the earlier Lost Shrines project.

Shepard, who is an executive producer with the Apollo, says that the current project is a group effort, with the focus on the local community. “For the three partnering organizations (Apollo, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile) the commitment to serving our immediate community is paramount,” she says. “However, we also see opportunity-we see the audience as local, city-wide, US and international tourists, young and old. The overall concept, programming themes and artists presented are intended to attract a diverse audience. It’s been documented that one of the primary reasons tourists come to Harlem is because of its jazz history. The Harlem Jazz Shrines concept and its many themes – Fats Waller, the Apollo’s first show in 1934-Jazz a la Carte-were designed with this in mind.” Pianist Jason Moran will be headlining that Waller show with bassist/singer Meshell Ndegeocello on Friday, May 13.

Shepard says that they wanted to be sure to include artists of the current generation, rather than rely too heavily on the past. “There are many younger artists both emerging and established participating in the festival-a strategy to attract their jazz followers, but also a younger audience,” says the longtime cultural activist. “The festival offers 35 events and many different jazz experiences over seven days. The different presentation formats-concert hall (Apollo), club settings (Lenox Lounge & Minton’s) and ballrooms (Alhambra)-offer opportunities for attendees to shape their own festival experience.”

Thus far, the festival organizers have been gratified by the response from the local community. “There’s been great enthusiasm,” says Shepard. “Preliminary discussions with community based organizations indicate excitement and pride about the festival and its celebration of the community through these sites. Local businesses-Showman’s for example-is thrilled to be part of a larger initiative that celebrates their work, especially when they made the commitment to stay during some very difficult times in Harlem. We are also promoting local restaurants through this process, as another way of supporting local businesses.” She says that they have been selling tickets for the past few months and that several shows are almost sold out with very little marketing, with most of the marketing hitting in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Shepard says that the organizers have several goals for the festival in its first year. “We want to first present an accessible and affordable range of high-caliber live music events that will assert Harlem’s distinctive role in the development of jazz as well as celebrate and advance jazz as a 21st century art form,” she explains. “Equally as important for us, will be to create a forum for younger, emerging artists to present their work and to develop a consistent audience for jazz uptown from local and city-wide audiences as well as tourists.”

Several of the events are free and most are priced at a maximum of $10 for admission. Shepard says that the lower price structure was something that was a key part of their planning. “[The pricing was] extremely important, especially in the first year of the festival,” she confirms. “In fact this speaks to one of our goals and is a part of our marketing strategy. We don’t want price to be a barrier to attendance and we want to encourage people to attend more than one event a day. The point here is accessibility. As we look towards developing new audiences, we want to encourage students to attend. We want people to bring their families. This is truly a festival experience that is meant for everyone from all walks of life to enjoy.”

For more information about the festival and its events, you can visit their website.

Here is the complete schedule of events:

MONDAY, MAY 9 – SATURDAY, MAY 14, 10 A.M. – 6 P.M.
ENVISIONING JAZZ


Photographs by Kwame Brathwaite, curated by Erica Agyeman

Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts (2960 Broadway (at 116th Street)

Free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required.

Exhibit information: 212-854-1324 or [email protected]

________________________________________
MONDAY, MAY 9, 9 P.M.

MONK AT MINTON’S


T.S. Monk

Minton’s Playhouse (206 W 118th Street)

$10 Tickets at Door; Cash Bar

________________________________________
TUESDAY, MAY 10, 7 P.M.
BLAZING TONGUES: THE SINGERS & WRITERS OF LENOX LOUNGE


Queen Esther, vocals; Farrah Griffin, words

Lenox Lounge (288 Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard124th & 125th)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum

The music of Billie Holiday and writings of Zora Neale Hurston.

________________________________________
TUESDAY, MAY 10, 8:30, 10 & 11:30 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Akiko Tsuruga Trio

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 7 P.M.
BATTLE OF THE BIG BANDS & SWING DANCE COMPETITION


featuring the George Gee Big Band and the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra

with special guest artists

The Alhambra Ballroom (2116 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard)

$10 Tickets; Cash Bar & Food Available

________________________________________
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 7 P.M.
Blazing Tongues: The Singers & Writers of Lenox Lounge


Marcelle Davies-Lashley, vocals; Carl Hancock Rux, words

Lenox Lounge (288 Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard124th & 125th)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum

The music of Dinah Washington and writings of James Baldwin.

________________________________________
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 7:30 P.M.
AMATEUR NIGHT AT THE APOLLO


Apollo Theater (253 W 125th Street)

$19, $25, $29 Tickets

________________________________________
WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 8:30, 10 & 11:30 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Jerry Weldon Trio

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 7 P.M.
INSPIRED INNOVATION: STANLEY CROUCH


Minton’s Playhouse (206 W 118th Street)

$10 Tickets at Door; Cash Bar; Seating at 6 p.m.

________________________________________

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 8:30, 10 & 11:30 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Derrick James Trio

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 9 P.M.
INSPIRED INNOVATION: JONATHAN BATISTE QUINTET


with Joe Saylor, drums; Phil Keune, bass; Eddie Barbash, alto sax; Chris “The Monster” Kapich, bass clarinet; Matt “Silky Soul,” tenor sax

Minton’s Playhouse (206 W 118th Street)

$10 Tickets st Door; Cash Bar

________________________________________
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 8 P.M.
WYCLIFFE GORDON’S JAZZ à LA CARTE


featuring Wycliffe Gordon, music director,

with Carla Cook and Nikki Yanofsky, vocals; Savion Glover, tap; Grace Kelly, sax; Corey Wilcox, trombone; Temple University Big Band, Robbie Todd, MC

Apollo Theater (253 W 125th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 9 P.M.
FATS WALLER DANCE PARTY: SMALL’S PARADISE TRIBUTE


featuring Jason Moran, piano & Meshell Ndegeocello, vocals/bass, with Mark Kelley, bass; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Charles Haynes, drums; Lisa Harris, vocals; Leron Thomas, trumpet; Corey King, trombone

Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 9 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Seleno Clarke/Harlem Groove Band

with David Lee Jones, alto sax; Roger Coles, drums; Gerald Brazel, trumpet; Joe Friedman, guitar

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 10 P.M.
GERI ALLEN “JAMS” WITH TIMELINE


Featuring Geri Allen, piano

with Kenny Davis, bass; Kassa Overall, drums; Maurice Chestnut, tap; and special guests Don Byron, clarinet; Jaimeo Brown, drums; JD Allen, sax; Chris Sholar, guitar

Apollo Music Café (253 W 125th Street)

$10 Tickets; Cash Bar opens at 9 p.m.

________________________________________
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 10 P.M.
REVIVE DA LIVE: LATE NIGHT AT MINTON’S


Greg Osby

Minton’s Playhouse (206 W 118th Street)

$10 Tickets; Cash Bar

________________________________________
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 11 P.M.
FATS WALLER DANCE PARTY: SMALL’S PARADISE TRIBUTE


featuring Jason Moran, piano & Meshell Ndegeocello, vocals/bass

with Mark Kelley, bass; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Charles Haynes, drums; Lisa Harris, vocals; Leron Thomas, trumpet; Corey King, trombone

Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 11 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Seleno Clarke/Harlem Groove Band

with David Lee Jones, alto sax; Roger Coles, drums; Gerald Brazel, trumpet; Joe Friedman, guitar

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________

SATURDAY, MAY 14, 1 P.M.
VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF JAZZ


Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts (2960 Broadway (at 116th Street)

Free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required.

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2 P.M.
JAZZ AND THE SPIRIT: THE ARTS OF HARLEM IN THE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS IMAGINATION


Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts (2960 Broadway (at 116th Street)

Free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required.

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 5 P.M.
WYCLIFFE GORDON’S JAZZ à LA CARTE


featuring Wycliffe Gordon, music director

with Carla Cook and Nikki Yanofsky, vocals; Savion Glover, tap; Grace Kelly, sax; Corey Wilcox, trombone; Temple University Big Band, Robbie Todd, MC

Apollo Theater (253 W 125th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 7 P.M.
(COUNT) BASIE’S LOUNGE RE-CREATED


Hosted by Cynthia Holiday

Nectar Wine Bar (2235 Frederick Douglass Blvd at 121st Street)

$10 Tickets; Cash Bar

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 8 P.M.
WYCLIFFE GORDON’S JAZZ à LA CARTE


featuring Wycliffe Gordon, music director

with Carla Cook and Nikki Yanofsky, vocals; Savion Glover, tap; Grace Kelly, sax; Corey Wilcox , trombone; Temple University Big Band, Robbie Todd, MC

Apollo Theater (253 W 125th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 9 P.M.
FATS WALLER DANCE PARTY: SMALL’S PARADISE TRIBUTE


featuring Jason Moran, piano & Meshell Ndegeocello, vocals/bass

with Mark Kelley, bass; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Charles Haynes, drums; Lisa Harris, vocals; Leron Thomas, trumpet; Corey King, trombone

Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 9 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Cynthia Scott, vocalist

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 10 P.M.
GERI ALLEN “JAMS” WITH TIMELINE


Featuring Geri Allen, piano

with Kenny Davis, bass; Kassa Overall, drums; Maurice Chestnut, tap; and special guests Don Byron, clarinet; Jaimeo Brown, drums; JD Allen, sax; Chris Sholar, guitar

Apollo Music Café (253 W 125th Street)

$10 Tickets; Cash Bar opens at 9 p.m.

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 11 P.M.
FATS WALLER DANCE PARTY: SMALL’S PARADISE TRIBUTE


featuring Jason Moran, piano & Meshell Ndegeocello, vocals/bass

with Mark Kelley, bass; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Charles Haynes, drums; Lisa Harris, vocals; Leron Thomas, trumpet; Corey King, trombone

Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street)

$10 Tickets

________________________________________
SATURDAY, MAY 14, 11 P.M.
SHOWMAN’S LATE NIGHT JAZZ


Cynthia Scott, vocalist

Showman’s Jazz Club (375 W 125th Street)

No cover charge. Two drink minimum per set, per person

________________________________________
SUNDAY, MAY 15, 5 & 7 P.M.
HABANA/HARLEM: PARK PALACE AND THE AFRO-CUBAN LEGACY


featuring Oscar Hernandez and The Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street)

$10 Tickets