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Gerald Wilson To Be Honored by Congressional Black Caucus

Virtuoso Jazz Violinist, John Blake, Jr.
Gerald Wilson

Now celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will host its annual jazz gala headlined by a special performance of Gerald Wilson’s jazz masterpiece “Detroit” featuring the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, conducted by David Baker, with special guests to include fellow Detroit natives Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave and Joan Belgrave. Also performing will be violinist John Blake with Howard University’s Afro Blue Alumni Jazz Choir.

The event, officially titled the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) Jazz Issue Forum and Concert will take place on Thursday, September 16, 2010 from 7:30 to 10:30 pm at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C. The gala is hosted by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., a steadfast supporter of jazz for many years. The event is free and open to the public.

Bill Brower, a former Conyers staffer and longtime concert and special event producer, told JT that the event first started in 1985. “Congressman Conyers called a meeting of folks in DC who were into jazz,” said Brower, “and asked their assistance in organizing an Issue Forum with a music reception and it’s all evolved from that.” That first event featured a distinguished panel of jazz artists, educators, and broadcasters, such as Wynton Marsalis, David Baker, and Hal Jackson. And it directly led to Congressman Conyers launching a campaign to pass House Concurrent Resolution 57 designating jazz as an “American National Treasure.” That measure was eventually approved by the Congress a year later.

Over the years, among the performers who have appeared at the Gala are Donald Byrd, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, the Heath Brothers, Ruth Brown, Shirley Horn, Abbey Lincoln, Lionel Hampton and many other legendary jazz artists. Brower has fond memories of many of the shows, but resisted picking out one special one. “They are just too numerous,” he told JT “We have had Count Basie, Dizzy, Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter and Ron Carter, and the last performance that Elvin and Hank [Jones] did together. It goes on and on.” Brower believes that the crowning achievement is the aforementioned HR 57 and he hopes that there’s more to come. “We are now developing a new legislative initiative: The National Jazz Education and Preservation Act,” said Brower.

Brower said Wilson, who just turned 92 years old last week, was a natural fit given his common roots in the Motor City, where he attended Cass Technical School as a young man. “Gerald has a substantial association with Detroit and Rep.Conyers represents Detroit. The music was commissioned to celebrate Detroit and certainly members like to showcase their districts. It’s all been very natural and organic.”

According to Brower, the event is attended by an interesting cross-section of people from the legislative community as well as the jazz community, including: “Congressional Black Caucus members who are interested in jazz like Representatives Cleaver, Watt, Waters and Rangel and others. Also persons attending the CBCF Annual Legislative Conference, as well as members of the Washington jazz community and the general public.”

For more information about the event, you can call 202-225-5126.

Originally Published