The year of Baldwin, Bronx Music Heritage Center
Ron Scott | 4/17/2014, 5:03 p.m.
“I started my first string ensemble in the 1970s and have been doing it ever since,” said Dixon. “My music has an Afro-centric flow, so I look for musicians who can play classical music but also know how to improvise and follow the flow.” She grew up in the Bronx and started studying cello in the fourth grade.
The ensemble opened with the standard “Moon River” and moved on to Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana,” closing out with a rousing boogey-woogey blues tune that elicited a standing ovation.
The event Bronx Rising! was presented by percussionist, composer, producer and activist Bobby Sanabria, along with Elena Martinez (the co-producer of “From Mambo to Hip Hop: A Bronx Tale”). They are the co-artistic directors of the Bronx Music Heritage Center.
Bronx Rising! is a monthly event curated by Sanabria and Martinez. Although the jazz haven of the Bronx, along with its legacy of Latin music and hip-hop, has lost its buzz they are working diligently to bring the music back to the Bronx. “We are looking to bring back the majestic culture that was taken away,” said Sanabria.
This year is the third season of Bronx Rising! “All the programs are relevant to the Bronx,” said Martinez. “Either the musicians are from the borough, or there is a historical reference. Our ultimate goal is to get as many Bronxites as possible to come out. We are happy that folks from other boroughs, and even New Jersey, attend. That is definitely a plus, and it spreads the rich cultural history of the Bronx.”
Later this year, WHEDco will break ground on Bronx Commons, a 361,000 square feet development in the Melrose neighborhood that will permanently house the Bronx Music Heritage Center. With performance, rehearsal and archival space, the BMHC will become the hub for celebrating and disseminating the influential musical forms that are rooted in the Bronx.
Bronx Commons will be a vital part of the community, with 270 affordable green apartments, residential/work space for elder musicians, a green grocer, a hydroponic rooftop garden and recreational space.
During the 1950s, the Bronx was a jazz beehive, with a swinging buzz that gave Manhattan clubs a good run. The Boston Road Ballroom is where Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday performed. Nancy Wilson performed at the Blue Morocco with Cannonball Adderley. Musicians such as Jimmy Owens, Elmo and Bertha Hope, Stan Getz, Irene Reid, Maxine Sullivan and Dave Valentin all lived in the Bronx.
May 17, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Bronx Rising! will present a screening of “Revolutionary Medicine: A Story of the First Garifuna Hospital” at 6 p.m.; the Afri-Garifuna Ensemble, featuring Lucy Blanco at 7 p.m.; and a dance party with DJ Pwhyte at 8:30 p.m. Bronx Rising! events are free to the public. Donations are appreciated.
The Bronx Music Heritage Center, in its effort to promote Bronx music, cultivate Bronx artists and provide free cultural programs to the community, also offer free classes (two days a week) in hip-hop/break dancing, visual arts and percussion. For information on all the events and activities, visit www.whedco.org.