The Harlem Jazz & Music Festival began Aug. 10 and runs through Aug. 31. This first annual festival is being presented in a variety of venues throughout Harlem.
On Aug. 29 (tonight) the festival celebrates the 55th anniversary of the Harlem School of the Arts (located at 142nd-144th Streets on St. Nicholas Avenue) featuring New York City’s hottest salsa band Aurora Flores & Zon Del Barrio and the Harlem School of the Arts All Stars, at 7 p.m.
On Aug. 30 it’s Uptown Friday Nite at Showman’s Jazz Club (375 West 125th Street) with trumpeter Joey Morant. One of the community’s favorite trumpeters touring and recording with such musicians as Roy Ayers, Tina Turner, George Benson and Morant was a member of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. For reservations call 212-864-8941; music from
9 p.m.-12 a.m.
Just a few blocks away Harlem Late Night Jazz @ Mist Harlem will feature the saxophonist Bobby LaVell (9 p.m.-1 a.m.). His eclectic style has given him the opportunity to play with the Four Tops and his own Bobby LaVell Jazz Orchestra. For reservations call 212-828-6478.
On Aug. 31 Jazz Brunches at Floridita (12th Ave. & west 126th Street) featuring Harlem’s own saxophonist and composer Bill Saxton, noon to 3 p.m. Later in the evening Uptown Saturday Night @ Showman’s salutes “Great Harlem musician” Cynthia Holiday featuring Janice Marie Robinson & Friends. For reservations call 212-864-8941.
The festival celebrates Harlem’s last two remaining historic sites. Showman’s premier jazz club dates back to 1942. Their original location was two doors from the Apollo Theater. It was the haunt where Sammy Davis, Jr., Pearl Bailey and Eartha Kitt hung out between sets. It was a favorite of hoofer Honi Coles and newsmen like Jimmy Hicks and Major Robinson (formerly of this publication), who were looking for scoops. It was told to me that Langston Hughes had a typewriter in the back where he and James Baldwin would retreat for writing.
The final spot still in play is Minton’s, the original house of bebop founded in 1938 by the saxophonist, bandleader and union representative Henry Minton. The trombonist, arranger and composer once noted “there were more musicians online trying to get in Minton’s than regular paying customers.”
The highly anticipated film “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” by award winning filmmaker and documentarian Stanley Nelson opened last week at the Film Forum (209 West Houston Street, Manhattan). It runs now through Sept. 5, and Sept. 6-12 in Brooklyn at BAM. Length of the film is 1:54:58 (Abramorama and Eagle Rock Entertainment, consulting producer Marcia Smith, producer Nicole London, produced and directed by Stanley Nelson).
This is the best film of 2019 and one of the best ever done on a jazz musician. Nelson goes in hard, dismantling many of the Miles Davis myths that spread throughout America and Europe as gospel. “Birth of the Cool” portrays Miles as a human being, a Black man in America with frailties and fears that dropped him into the confines of drug addiction; his personal life experiences and insecurities that led him to abuse women; and his physical confrontation with NYC police in 1959 at the Birdland jazz club in New York City, once again proving racism was alive and well.
Nelson brilliantly captures Davis’ trials and tribulations that were so
intertwined into his musical genius, which set him apart from all the rest, catapulting him to the zenith of jazzdom. He was the innovator and percolator, who changed the direction of jazz; the cultural cultivator, who perpetuated fashion styles and made cool “Cool.”
With full access to the Miles Davis Estate, the film features never-before-seen footage, including studio outtakes from his recording sessions, rare photos and new interviews. Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter are just a few of the luminaries weighing in on Davis’ life and career.
Davis’ life was a blueprint for disaster and success simultaneously, and Nelson brings it all together with compassion and understanding that grabs your attention like “A Tribute to Jack Johnson” with a penetrating truth that touches your heart like “Kind Of Blue.”
“The story of Miles Davis—who he was as a man and artist—has often been told as the tale of a drug-addled genius,” said the director Stanley Nelson. “You rarely see a portrait of a man that worked hard at honing his craft, a man who deeply studied all forms of music, from Baroque to classical Indian. An elegant man who could render ballads with such tenderness yet hold rage in his heart from the racism he faced throughout his life. I’ve been fascinated with Miles since my college years and have dreamed of telling his story ever since. I am beyond thrilled to be working with Abramorama on the release of this film that is very special to me.”
On Aug. 30, Cuba’s impressive young singer, composer, bandleader, and 2018 GRAMMY nominee Melvis Santa will present her project Ashedi (“Invitation” in Lukumi, the Yoruba language adaptation in Cuba). She leads on piano and vocals, and fronts a full percussion section of sacred Batá drums and jazz drums by Cuban master percussionist Rafael Monteagudo, along with special guests; harpist Brandee Younger, pianist Osmany Paredes and bassist Carlos Mena.
Melvis Santa & Ashedí presents “Afro-Latin Roots of Jazz Series” at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (58 West 129th Street) from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Santa will begin with a workshop to celebrate the historic cultural exchange between jazz and Afro-Latin communities, taking the audience on an exploration of the clave and how it intersects with jazz. “The mystery of the clave rests not in the pattern, but in its cultural context,” she says.
With an introduction by Santa, the Cuban artist Carlos Mateu will present his exhibition “Afrolatinidad.” He calls his art style “Pop Geometric.” His paintings fuse elements of cubism with realism, using straight lines and perspective to create a geometric and three-dimensional effect.