T.K. Blue, HSA Dance, celebrating Ella

Ron Scott | 5/12/2017, 5:32 p.m.
The multi-saxophonist, flutist, composer and arranger T.K. Blue has an unwavering sound that grew out of his parents’ Afro-Caribbean roots.
Ella Fitzgerald

May 13, free dance performances take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Free dance classes that include ABT Master classes with Richard Toda for ages 8-12 take place from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. A Dance Sampler class will be led by HSA’s music director, Aubrey Lynch, from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. for ages 12-17. Hip-hop with Armanda Pope for ages 9-17 will take place from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Eleven of HSA’s dance students were accepted into the ABT Bridge class, and a 12th is on the waiting list. The two-year program allows students to train at ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School while remaining in their home schools.

This accomplishment may not mean much to the average person, but for the dance community, particularly HSA Dance, it is a profound achievement. This achievement demonstrates that HSA is on course with one of the top schools in the world. In the world of the Brown ballerina, this development is nothing to be taken lightly, particularly in the Black community.

To RSVP for the free dance classes, visit the website www.HSAnyc.org.

“Is it live or is it Memorex?” a popular television commercial and slogan (one of the few ever devoted to a jazz theme) some time ago featured the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald singing a high note that breaks a glass. Of course, the television audience was never informed but those who saw Ella live had no doubt Memorex was not in play when Ella hit that high note.

Fitzgerald’s centennial (born April 25, 1917) is being celebrated around the globe. Here in New York City, a town she made shine from her days with the Chick Webb big band, from the Savoy Ballroom, to the Apollo Theater, to Carnegie Hall. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared her birthday, April 25, “Ella Fitzgerald Day.”

The celebration continued at Jazz at Lincoln Center with the “First Lady of Song’s” artistry with the Ella Fitzgerald Festival, in concerts at its home, Frederick P. Rose Hall (Broadway and 60th Street).

One of the concerts in late April included the saxophonist, composer and bandleader Branford Marsalis (sitting in for his brother Wynton Marsalis), with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, featuring guest vocalists Kenny Washington and Roberta Gambarini (with arrangements by JALCO members).

Washington is a vocal treasure, the ideal vocalist to celebrate Fitzgerald. He swings hard, scats like a hardcore bebopper and sings the blues with lively awareness. His rendition of “Bewitched” was laced with Fitzgerald trimmings from the soft opening to the escalated swing time that necessitated some foot-tapping.

In “Too Close for Comfort” Washington’s scat phrasing was quite succinct but moved like a locomotive. “Almost Like Being in Love” was a lively duet with Gambarini, taking the high notes as Washington sailed midstream with accented vigilance.

Gambarini was in full bloom on Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” She cut loose on the nursery rhyme hit “Old MacDonald” (arranged by Andy Farber) as Marsalis provided a mean, stirring saxophone that ignited the blues and hard swing time.

Washington and Gambarini (their range and improvisational skills were quite comparable) delivered the goods on the “Great American Songbooks” that Fitzgerald so elegantly recorded, from Duke Ellington, to Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer (arranged by Kenny Rampton), to Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart (arranged by Marcus Printup).

The festival continues June 7 and 8 with “Michael Feinstein: Ella on My Mind,” two shows in the Appel Room at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The multiplatinum-selling interpreter of American song will perform classics made famous by Ella Fitzgerald.