Generations Jazz Fest, Nuyorican Tuesdays, George Curry
Ron Scott | 9/1/2016, 3:29 p.m.
The seventh annual Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival brings together legendary jazz masters and emerging artists from Sept. 1 to Oct. 2 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (60th Street and Broadway).
For Dizzy’s, this festival is a rigorous but creative set of mainly one-nighters, featuring more than 200 musicians in 32 nights. The festival includes three special series: “Lessons from Our Masters,” featuring jazz legends, “Big Band Mondays” and “Flip Side Sessions,” which pairs two distinct line-ups led by emerging artists.
The festival opens with the young trumpeter Bruce Harris and the Big Sax Section, with tenor saxophonists Jerry Weldon and Grant Stewart, baritone saxophonist Frank Basile, alto saxophonist Andy Farber, pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Pete Van Nostrand.
Sept. 3, the baritone saxophonist Dayna Stephens brings together the seasoned trumpeter Tom Harrell and Miles Davis alumnus, the drummer Al Foster, along with bassist Ben Street and pianist Aaron Parks in the Dayna Stephens Quintet.
The following evening, the Nate Smith Trio will feature the renowned bassist and Miles Davis alumnus Dave Holland, with the younger alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, a longtime member of NEA Jazz Master Roy Haynes’ Fountain of Youth band. The drummer Smith is also a member of Holland’s big band.
A “Salute to Orrin Keepnews” (jazz writer and record producer) Sept. 8, featuring the NEA Jazz Masters, the tenor saxophonist and composer Jimmy Heath and the pianist/composer Randy Weston, along with Gary Bartz, drummers Akira Tana and Jack DeJohnette, bassists Ray Drummond, Rufus Reid and Sam Gill and pianist Larry Willis.
Sept. 9 to Sept. 11, the saxophonist Dave Liebman celebrates his 70th birthday, featuring Expansions, his new band with pianist/keyboardist Bobby Avey, reeds player Matt Vashlishan, acoustic/electric bassist Tony Marino and drummer/percussionist Alex Ritz.
The Miles Davis alumnus will play elements of free jazz and rearrangements of jazz standards. For a complete listing, visit the website www.jazz.org. There are two sets each night at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Since 1973, The Nuyorican Poets Café has been a New York City haven for poets, musicians, actors and visual artists. It is a revolutionary forum that continues to spark the Nuyorican arts movement in the 21st century.
Latin jazz and hot salsa rhythms jump every month at the Lower East Side spot. The first Tuesday of each month, the percussionist Chembo Corneil performs with his quintet, featuring pianist Darwin Nogueroa, tenor saxophonist Hery Paz, bassist Ian Stewart and drummer Joel Mateo.
These same abled musicians accompany him on his latest CD, “Land of the Descendants” (Chemboro Records), with the exception of Frank Fontaine, who plays saxophones and flute, and invited guests vocalist Kat Gang and trumpeter James Zollar.
In the liner notes Corneil stated, “This project is a reflection of the here and now deeply rooted in the African-based rhythms and Nuyorican jazz. It is my contribution to the growing body of work that represents our musical heritage.”
The title cut swings to hot Latin rhythms with a swift salsa flow, saturated sax riffs and heavy percussive and drum persuasions. Of the eight tracks, the most touching is “Transparent Souls,” led by Fontaine on flute interacting with a soft piano, cool percussive sounds and Benjamin Sutin’s violin. The CD overall swings with a blues connection that moves from African rhythms to Latin jazz.
Corneil has been playing monthly at the Nuyorican since 1995. The percussion and conga player was a member of the Corso house band, the earlier blazing shrine of salsa. He has played with vocalists Larry Harlow and Joe Bataan, and the pianist Hilton Ruiz.
He was nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Latin Jazz Album, 2010) for “Things I Wanted To Do.” His CD, “Afro Blue Monk” (Chemboro Music, 2012) is a furious combination of African rhythms, blues and Latin Jazz.
The cut “Afro Blue” takes on a somewhat haunting melody with vocals by Ileana Santamaria, Frank Fontaine on clarinet and Elio Villafranca on piano, which transforms into a hip bolero. Special guest trumpeter Jimmy Owens steps out on the title cut, “Blue Monk,” adding a jaunting high fly.
The second Tuesday of every month is Latin Jazz Big Band night, featuring the drummer/percussionist/composer Victor Rendon & Bronx Conexion. The 21-piece big band plays Latin standards and the charts of Count Basie but are there for the ferocious salsa tunes.
The big band hinges on those days when the Allegra All-Stars, Johnny Pacheco and Charlie and Eddie Palmieri was holding court at the Concord Plaza and Hotel Diplomat.
Although most of the musicians have fulltime jobs, they are all professionals who have been a part of noted bands at large. Rendon often invites his music students from Lehman to sit in. He has played with Mongo Santamaria, Chico O’Farrill and Carlos “Patato” Valdés.
Rendon is an instructor at Lehman College in the Bronx, where he co-leads the Latin Jazz Ensemble. Rendon and the big band have appeared at the Nuyorican since 2012.
Rendon and the big band recently released their debut CD, “True Flight” (Tortilla Flat Music, 2016).
Corneil is also a member of the band and appears on this recording. This outing includes originals such as Rendon’s “Café Sin Leche” (“Coffee No Milk”) an up-tempo salsa/mambo, and covers such as Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” reconstructed into a Latin-tinged swing with melodic drum and conga beats.
Latin music reigns supreme the first and second Tuesday of every month, featuring the Chembo Corniel Quintet and Victor Rendon & Bronx Conexion, respectively. The music begins at 9 p.m. with an admission price of $10 and $7 for students.
Like many, I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear about the journalist and activist George Curry passing Aug. 20 from a heart attack at the age of 69.
He had so many goals he wanted to attain. One of them was resurrecting Emerge magazine, of which he became the editor-in-chief in 1989. I met Curry during our membership in the New York Association of Black Journalists. He was actively involved in the organization and committed to our summer internship program for high school students.
When the activist, novelist and author Ishmael Reed coined the phrase “writin is fightin,” he could have had Curry in mind. Curry was a warrior. His pen was his sword and his computer became his international cellphone to inform America and the world on the issues of Black America.
Curry had the wisdom and courage of the abolitionist, orator and writer Frederick Douglass. He inspired thousands of young writers, including his peers. It is his shared courage that will enable fellow writers to carry the torch that he so gallantly held.