When discussing the tenor saxophone’s soul or its rhythm and blues swing vernacular, it is necessary to bring both Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt into the conversation.
Together and separately they played a pivotal role in the 1960s soul jazz movement. Their extended approach became an influence for upcoming tenors such as Stanley Turrentine and Houston Person.
June 4, VTY Jazz Arts will pay tribute to these two “Boss Tenors, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt,” at Mount Vernon’s Bass Line (130 E. First St.), from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The hardworking rhythm section will include the pianist James Weidman, bassist Chris Berger and drummer Steve Williams. With such a creative force, the tenor saxophonists Anthony Nelson Jr. and Lawrence Clark will swing in a variety of directions, but be assured it will be a soulful fling.
Similar to Jimmy Heath, Stitt had to basically give up the alto saxophone and switch to tenor to avoid being regarded as a Charlie Parker clone. In Heath’s early days with his alto, he was referred to as “Little Bird.”
The jazz drummer and bebop innovator Kenny Clarke noted, “Even if there had not been a Bird, there would have been a Sonny Stitt.”
Ammons and Stitt first met in 1945, when they both played in Billy Eckstein’s big band. Later they recorded a number of impressive records. Many regard these recordings as some of Ammons’ and Stitt’s best work. Their collaboration was entered into the jazz bible as one of the best dueling performances in jazz, alongside Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and Johnny Griffin with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.
For reservations, call 917-882-9539 or visit the website www.vtyjazz.com.
Reocurring dreams can drop a dreamer straight into the scary depths of “The Twilight Zone.” Hey, wake-up! Wake-up! Then again, “ReOcurring Dreams,” the selected works from the South African artist Samson Mnisi with accompanying photographs and silk screens by Canon Hersey, will have you on the shores of South Africa.
The exhibit, now on view through June 16 at the RAW Space Gallery (2031 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. between 121st and 122nd streets), will offer the walking alert a creative springboard to delve deeper into the concept of global radical resistance.
An interactive exploration into abstract resistance, “ReOccurring Dreams” exams continual themes and commentaries on resistance from apartheid to new forms of millennial global oppression.
Mnisi’s paintings bring viewers face to face with the ancestral spirit that today is actively involved in a manic dysfunctional society. It is a journey with symbols that have sacred and high spiritual meanings.
Mnisi was raised in Soweto, South Africa and developed a resistance to the apartheid regime and left to become an artist in the global art market. For his mostly large-sized paintings, he uses patterns, lines, symbols and color to define a contemporary South African expression.
His creative force draws on modern patterns that you may have seen in various traditional African fabrics. His work is representative of Africa as a whole and takes on different perspectives each time it is viewed.
Because of our colonial history, we have struggled to interpret ourselves even in post-colonial times. “Can the mind be decolonized?” asked Mnisi. “I therefore believe that by honestly looking at our history in totality—pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial times—we can truly understand where we are and how we should relate to the world and the future. In my work I am finding a new interpretation for an old language.” Mnisi lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa and in Brooklyn.
Built on the 35-mm photographic image, Cannon Hersey creates artworks utilizing silk-screen, photo-etching, mixed-media, light-box and installation. He and Mnisi have collaborated on various artworks. Hersey is committed to connecting art and the public in unique and unexpected ways to explore the meaning of race, religion, culture and commerce in the modern global world.
“ReOcurring Dreams” is curated by JaSon Auguste for the Wadada Arts Foundation. For appointments, contact email@example.com or call 646-707-2586. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The violinist and composer Regina Carter was welcomed with outbursts of admiration during her recent four-day engagement at Manhattan’s Jazz Standard. She was celebrating the release of her latest CD, “Ella: Accentuate the Positive” (Okeh Records).
“Whenever I hear an Ella recording it grabs me at my core,” says Carter. “I’m so excited to celebrate Ella Fitzgerald, an artist who has meant so much to all the notes in my musical life.”
When recording a tribute CD to the likes of the great “Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald, it becomes difficult not to be redundant. After all, she recorded the songs of damn near if, not all, of the “Great American Songbooks”—Harold Alden, Rodgers and Hart, Ira and George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Cole Porter.
At the beginning of her set, the MacArthur fellow noted, “I didn’t want to interpret all those songs Ella has turned into popular standards. So for this recording, I decided to use her B-side songs, some of which you may not have heard before.”
Her statement was so true. I was only familiar with two of the nine-tracks on the CD that were performed that evening. The title track (“Accent-tchu-ate the Positive”) was song by her special guest and noted vocalist Carla Cook. She infused this standard with more soulfulness and swing as Carter’s violin just heighten the case for more zing.
The other song was “Crying in the Chapel,” which ironically was a hot cross of the blues with twinkles of gospel truth. The song became a hit in the Black community through the voices of the 1950s R&B group, the Orioles.
Carter’s version, arranged by the bassist Ben Williams, takes in the blues on a midtempo scale. Her violin strings become entwined with your heart strings, but that is the magic of Carter’s musicianship. Then the electric piano comes in and just changes the course for a brief moment.
The title “I’ll Never Be Free” can take on an abundance of meanings, but for this performance and recording, the quintet was immersed in the blues. Carter has mastered her instrument to the point where it can holler out in amazement or swoon in sweet sounds of joy.
Her longtime standing band that would still be perfect in the dark included acoustic and electric guitarist Marvin Sewell, bassist Chris Lightcap, pianist Brandon McCune and drummer Alvester Garnett. Special guests on the album included vocalists Miche Braden and Carla Cook (pianist Xavier Davis also appears on CD).
Fitzgerald’s perfect pitch turns every lyrical phrase into a rhythmic soliloquy, and Carter’s enticing strings adds a most inventive tribute to the “First Lady of Song.”