Hopefully, everyone is safe and being very careful during this COVID-19 pandemic. This virus has completely changed our lives. Words like “social distancing” and “quarantine” are now a part of daily conversation. The most important thing is to follow the rules of the CDC and Department of Health.
More importantly, we must realize that even during the most severe of times, from two World Wars, Vietnam, 9-11…America will survive, and the sound, the music, the great improvisations, the rhythm and blues of it all called jazz or Black music will continue to ease psychological and physical anxiety. As much as we may listen to “The Source” by saxophonist, composer Jackie McLean featuring the iconic Dexter Gordon, we may want to follow that up with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” or maybe some James Brown to make it all funky, or the melodic soul of Will Calhoun with his own band or Living Colour.
We are now in the moment of the 2020 Twilight Zone, while falling into a crazy but realistic chapter from a novel by science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler; or the wild, politically based fiction novels of Ishmael Reed. Reading any of their works will definitely take you to the music of musicians such as flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell (with her “Xenogenesis Suite” (200 tribute to Octavia Butler), Oliver Lake, Ornette Coleman, William Parker, and the musical spirituality of John and Alice Coltrane.
Those of you who have jazz collections, whether albums or downloaded music, now is the time to break them out. My comment was usually “too much music, not enough time.” Well, now we have nothing but time to listen to all that music.
Unfortunately, this pandemic has made it a necessity for the government to call for a complete HALT to live music. This is the first time in modern history that live music worldwide has stopped. The global closing of all entertainment complexes from jazz clubs to concert halls, and music festivals (see short list below), leaves a dramatic impact on the music industry.
Here in New York and the tri-state area, the monthly jazz calendar magazine Hot House had to stop publication because the clubs and other locations that are distribution outlets are closed and there is no way for the magazine to actually be delivered to readers. This will be the first time in 50 years that the magazine will not be printed.
Here are a few festivals and music events that have been cancelled or postponed: Jazz Foundation of America “A Great Night in Harlem,” Apollo Theater, postponed, new date TBD; Jazz House Kids Spring Gala 2020, City Winery, in Manhattan, postponed, TBD; DC JazzFest, Washington, D.C., postponed until the fall, new dates TBD; Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, postponed, TBD; Exit Zero Jazz Festival, Cape May, N.J., rescheduled for June 5-7, 2020, Nov. 6-8, 2020, and April 23-25, 2021; National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters events, San Francisco, postponed, new dates TBD; New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans, postponed until fall 2020; Saint Lucia Jazz Festival, St. Lucia, canceled for 2020; Sunfest, West Palm Beach, Florida, canceled for 2020, next festival will be April 29-May 2, 2021; and Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Town, South Africa, postponed, new dates TBD.
During these turbulent times it is extremely difficult for musicians—they are all out of work and the non-profit organizations, as well as the local musician unions, are unable to simultaneously accommodate thousands of musicians throughout the United States when they too are fighting for survival. It is essential that we all come up with alternative plans for income. It is apparent that music writers as well need to come up with new ideas since there are no concerts or festivals to review or previews for upcoming artists in various jazz clubs. For the upcoming weeks I have some stuff to keep you informed and in the mix during these improvising times.
Jazz, like life’s improvisations, becomes more vigilant during times of adversity and crisis. While we may not be able to see our musicians live, their music will remain a powerful healing property that will keep us cool as Oscar Brown Jr., hip as Miles Davis, and swinging like Ella Fitzgerald.
Due to the coronavirus, musicians have come up with exciting alternatives to keep their music and faces in front of their many fans, as well as getting paid for the gig.
Just recently Allan Harris started a weekly live concert stream on Facebook and he will continue to do it every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. Check out Allan Harris: Harlem After Dark, Unplugged. Tickets are on Facebook via PayPal. The party is still happening in Harlem. Facebook.com/theallanharrisband. The composer and pianist Fred Hersch starting this Sunday, and every day at 1 p.m. EST, 10 a.m. PST, 7 p.m. in Europe, will perform a live mini concert of piano music from his home. You can see and hear the concert here:
Jazz on the Tube is presenting a video of the alto saxophonist Marcelo Peralta, reported as the first jazz musician to have succumbed to the virus (March 5, 1961-March 10, 2020). This video is a performance of Peralta with his trio at the Getxo International Jazz Festival in Spain in 2015.
For musicians looking to live stream please visit the website below:
The website below is live-streaming resources for teachers, performers and producers: https://www.jazzonthetube.com/ we-can-do-this/.
Visit your favorite artists’ website and buy an album, many are now offering live streaming performances in the comfort of their homes as we watch in the comfort of our homes. But remember, at the end of the show the band must still be paid even though you may be watching from your comfy couch.
Right now in the eye of this pandemic, we need resilience, compassion, love, and resourcefulness to get us to the other side of the tunnel but be ASSURED we will get through. Stay well, be safe, be careful…Wash those hands again. Stay Groovy!