Three esteemed Harlem cultural organizations – the Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile – have joined forces to present the first Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival May 9-15, 2011.
Celebrating the unique legacy of jazz in the uptown community, the Festival will bring both established and emerging artists to some of the famed venues where jazz flourished in Harlem: Lenox Lounge, Showman’s Caf√©, the Apollo Theater, Alhambra Ballroom, and Minton’s Playhouse. Other festival events will take place at Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Columbia University and a variety of locations throughout the Harlem area.
Highlights of the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival include:
* Wycliffe Gordon’s Jazz √† la Carte – The Apollo’s variety shows of the 1930’s make a comeback under the direction of Wycliffe Gordon with the Temple University Big Band, featuring vocalists Carla Cook and Nikki Yanofsky, tap savant Savion Glover, sax wunderkind Grace Kelly, Director/Choreographer Ken Roberson, and trombone prodigy Corey Wilcox, among others.
* Fats Waller Dance Party: Small’s Paradise Tribute with Jason Moran & Meshell Ndegeocello – Harlem Stage presents two nights of Waller’s music taken to new heights in a social mixing dance party featuring 2010 MacArthur Genius pianist Jason Moran & dynamic singer/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello.
* Late Night Jam Sessions & Conversations with Legends at Minton’s Playhouse – Jazzmobile re-creates Minton’s legendary “cutting contests” with emerging jazz talents and an all-star house band curated by T.S. Monk with Robert O’Meally leading provocative discussions.
* Geri Allen Quartet Jam Session – During the 1940’s and ’50’s, the Harlem jazz scene was famous for its after-hours “jam sessions.” Jazz pianist and producer Geri Allen “jams” with her quartet and special guests at the Apollo Music Cafe.
* Blazing Tongues: The Singers & Writers of Lenox Lounge – Harlem Stage, in partnership with Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies and Institute for Research in African American Studies, curates two evenings of music and literature.
* Battle of the Big Bands – Jazzmobile produces two nights of big bands featuring the Jimmy Heath Big Band and the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra at the Alhambra Ballroom.
The Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile have partnered specifically to create a resurgence of jazz opportunities in Harlem with this week-long festival. Jazz will be presented in all its various forms and diverse formats including jazz dance, concert, club, cabaret and dance events. Conceived as an annual offering, Harlem Jazz Shrines will enable the partners to create a dynamic range of programming, highlighting the role that local Harlem venues have played in the development of jazz.
The three partnersare also collaborating with Columbia University and its Center for Jazz Studies and Institute for Research in African American Studies to bring humanities programming that will further highlight the cultural significance of the Festival.
High-quality artistic performances and other events will all be offered at the affordable price of $10. Events are designed to draw a diverse audience of neighborhood residents, New Yorkers, and tourists with a mix of programming appealing to both jazz novices and aficionados. To generate attendance to multiple events and venues, Festival programming is arranged so that people have the option of attending several events each day. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Festival will provide a shuttle bus to transport audience members to area venues.
“For much of the 20th Century, Harlem was synonymous with jazz. Few other communities fostered jazz as a popular art form for both musicians and audiences as Harlem did,” said Mikki Shepard, Executive Producer of the Apollo Theater. “Throughout its history, the Apollo has been a champion of jazz and of jazz musicians. From the historic night in 1934 when Ella Fitzgerald first won Amateur Night, to performances by Benny Carter, Nat “Cannonball” Adderley, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway, the list of jazz greats who played the Apollo goes on and on. We are proud to celebrate Harlem’s heritage, and to be a part of Harlem Jazz Shrines alongside Jazzmobile and Harlem Stage.”
Pat Cruz, Executive Director of Harlem Stage added, “Harlem became an internationally renowned community primarily as a result of the incredible flowering of music and art that occurred between the 1920s through the ’50s. Contemporary musicians continue to be inspired by that rich legacy. Extending this legacy into the future with young, dynamic artists is a core and critical part of our mission. Harlem Stage is proud to partner with the Apollo and Jazzmobile in the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival.”
“With a 46-year history of presenting both emerging artists and the giants of Jazz on the Jazzmobile float, Jazzmobile is pleased to be partnering with the Apollo Theater and Harlem Stage as co-presenters of this premiere Festival,” stated Robin Bell-Stevens, President & CEO of Jazzmobile. “Our pioneering education programs came from our founder, the legendary Dr. Billy Taylor, one of the master Jazz artists who performed in many of the shrines being highlighted during the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival, most notably Minton’s Play House. Although we are saddened that Dr. Taylor can’t enjoy this great intergenerational festival, we are proud that this program continues to build on his legacy.”