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The year of Baldwin, Bronx Music Heritage Center

Ron Scott | 4/17/2014, 5:03 p.m.

The novels, poems and essays of James Baldwin are stimulating words, sharpened with the truth, that instigate change and promote activism in some form or another. He was a word warrior-activist rallying for a change in society’s thinking.

In honor of Baldwin’s legacy, and of one of the most profound voices of the 20th century, the second annual Live Ideas Festival at New York Live Arts (NYLA) will present “James Baldwin This Time!” a year-long, city-wide celebration that runs from April 2014 to June 2015 at various venues throughout the city.

This year would have marked the playwright’s 90th birthday (Aug. 2, 1924). The year of James Baldwin will open with 20 events over five consecutive days, reflecting various facets of his life, beginning April 23.

“Jimmy at High Noon” is a series of five daily readings April 23 to April 27, at noon.

The opening keynote conversation April 23 will feature Bill T. Jones, choreographer and executive artistic director of New York Live Arts; Carrie Mae Weems, novelist and essayist; and Jamaica Kincaid, writer, at 8 p.m.

April 26, Carl Hancock Rux will present “Stranger on Earth.” The piece, performed by Rux and vocalist Marcelle Davies Lashley, imagines a chance meeting between writer Baldwin and singer Dinah Washington at a jazz club in Harlem in1963. Together they address the issues of race, identity, music and the future of a world they are struggling to understand (2 p.m. in the NY Live Arts Theater).

It is quite natural that writer, director and actor Rux would produce a piece featuring the jazz singer Dinah Washington and Baldwin. Baldwin was an avid jazz fan and was often seen in Harlem jazz clubs with singer Billie Holiday and others.

His short story “Sonny’s Blues” (1957), which later appeared in the 1965 story collection “Going to Meet the Man,” was considered by some to be the best jazz short story ever written.

April 25, Mark Stewart, the singer/songwriter/playwright who uses the stage name Stew, will present “Stew on Native Song,” a preview of “Notes of a Native Song,” a new work by Stew, commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage (8 p.m.).

All performances and discussions will take place in the NY Live Arts Theater, located at 219 W. 19th St. in Chelsea (Manhattan). Admission ranges from $10 to $60. For a complete schedule, visit newyorklivearts.org or call 212-691-6500.

Most recently, musician, arranger and composer Maxine Roach; flautist and tenor saxophonist Carol Sudhalter; and drummer (bandleader of Jazzberry Jam) Paula Hampton were featured on the panel Women in Jazz (as part of the Maxine Sullivan Women in Jazz Series) at the Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab (1303 Louis Nine Boulevard, near Freeman Street). The Women in Jazz series was co-produced by Virginia Capers, a pianist who resides in the Bronx.

The women discussed their personal experiences of successfully surviving in the male dominated world of jazz. “Women still aren’t well represented, so we are carrying on the tradition,” said Hampton.

Akura Dixon and Quartette Indigo followed the panel. The string quartet featured violinists Gwen Laster, Ina Paris and Patrisa Tomassini, and Dixon, cellist, composer and conductor.