BassistRussell Hall (292625)
Credit: Contributed

As COVID-19 continues its horrific scourge across the world, musicians continue to come up with alternative concepts for performing live in the midst of jazz clubs, concert halls, and festivals still on lockdown.

The Jazz Gallery, known for presenting musicians who blaze trails for others to follow, offers their online live music performances “Happy Hour Hangs” on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m. The interaction with the host, artists and other musician friends dropping by adds to the excitement.

On Saturdays catch the Lockdown Sessions at 5 p.m. Vocalist and songwriter Theo Bleckman did something different—he sang from his bathtub. Check website jazzgallery.org.

On Tuesdays at 9 p.m. the Jazz Gallery presents Zoom Dance Party. Visit the website jazzgallery.org for the upcoming live shows.

The following is a national list of COVID-19 resources for musicians (compiled by the Chamber Music America (CMA), Gargi Shinde, program director).

South Arts: The Jazz Road Quick Assist Fund is a new, temporary emergency relief fund for jazz artists around the country who have lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited number of $1,000 grants to artists whose tours and gigs in March, April, or May 2020 have been cancelled. Apply: https://jazzroad.southarts.org/quick-assist-fund/

Afro Latin Jazz Alliance: ALJA’s Emergency Artist Fund provides assistance to musicians and other performing artists facing the unexpected hardship of lost income from canceled shows and/or classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund will prioritize artists in New York and New Jersey from the Afro Latin and Latin Jazz musical community. Individual grants are up to $200. Apply: ALJA’s Emergency Artist Fund

Creative Catalyst Fund: For Newark, N.J.-based individual artists or unincorporated artist collectives working in any artistic discipline. Awarded funds may be used to cover any expenses related to the artist’s practice, including but not limited to rent for studio/rehearsal space, supplies or equipment, or costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Grant range: $1,000 – $10,000. Deadline: May 1. Apply: https://cityofnewark-arts.submittable.com/submit?utm_source=Arts+Ed+Newark

Artist Relief: Artist Relief, launched with a generous $5 million seed gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in collaboration with several foundations will offer $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19. Apply: https://artistrelief.submittable.com/submit

National Association for Latino Arts and Cultures: Latinx artists in the U.S. and Puerto Rico can apply for $500 micro-grants as short-term emergency financial assistance to compensate for loss of income due to the cancellation of an event, engagement, project or employment. Application in English/Spanish. Apply: https://nalac.org/actos-de-confianza-apply/

Newport Festivals Musicians Relief Fund: Focus and priority will be on artists who have played the Newport Jazz or Folk Festivals and those in the Rhode Island community through rapid micro grants of up to $300. Apply: https://form.jotform.com/NewportFestivals/nffmusicianrelief

Sweet Relief Musicians Fund: Funds go towards medical expenses, lodging, clothing, food and other vital living expenses to those impacted due to sickness or loss of work. Apply: https://www.sweetrelief.org/covid-19-fund.html

The Jazz Foundation: COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund to help musicians and their families with basic living expenses. Apply: https://jazzfoundation.org/covid19fund/

MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund: Music industry professionals may apply for basic living assistance (rent or mortgage). Initial grant requests can be made up to $1,000 to compensate for cancelled work that was scheduled and lost. Apply: https://www.grammy.com/musicares/get-help/covid-19-relief-fund-faq

Musicians Foundation: One-time grants up to $200 will be available to professional performers, educators and composers who meet requirements. Apply: http://www.musiciansfoundation.org/apply/

International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers COVID Relief Commission Grants: ISJAC will fund 10 commissions of $500 each to members. Apply: https://isjac.org/awards/covid-19-relief-commission-grants

Foundation for Contemporary Arts: Experimental artists who have been impacted due to postponed /canceled performances. One-time $1,500 grants. Apply: https://foundationforcontemporaryarts.submittable.com/submit/b9feb8b2-3b40-4a12-bee3-b0e71294d17f/fca-emergency-grants-covid-19-fund

From the start it was apparent pianist and composer Aaron Diehl had an exceptional sound that would ignite eardrums around the world.

On this current album “The Vagabond” (Mack Avenue Music, 2020) Diehl’s virtuosity stands out like an eagle taking flight and his ballads represent a beautiful swan parading the length of a sun-drenched pond. Out of the album’s 11 tracks Diehl wrote seven. He is accompanied by double bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. The music is thoughtful, serene, soothing, and reflective. It is music for now, faith above fear. Each piano note touches the heart of your soul. This is his fifth album and third release on Mack Avenue Music.

“The Vagabond” is a weaving movement of classical music rhythms dancing in the openness of jazz. “Kaleidoscope Road” offers drummer Hutchinson a chance to raise his sticks in swinging momentum highlighting Diehl’s riffs and accented tones. “Treasure’s Past” is a beautiful ballad with piano lead; the drum hits and cymbal splashes are so quiet it seems like a piano solo. On “March from Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 12” (by Sergel Prokoflev), Diehl’s arrangement turns this classical composition on its ear with Hutchinson’s dexterity, drums up and down and Diehl on all cylinders from classical to straight up jazz with avant movements. This is Diehl once again at his best. He dedicated this album in the memory of his trusted drummer and friend Lawrence Leathers.

For the bassist, composer and bandleader Russell Hall, each performance, studio or live, is another opportunity to expose his audience to yet another jazz experience. He leads his own band, Bessie and the Rainbowkids (a group comprised of artists from around the world), when he isn’t playing with a varied list of artists like Kathleen Battle, Barry Harris, Roy Haynes, Mwenso and The Shakers, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the Jon Batiste and Stay Human night show band.

Recently Hall celebrated his debut album “The Feeling of Romance” on his independent label Bessie Records (2019). The bassist wrote the music for all eight tracks and this album also marks his singing debut. He is supported by a large ensemble made up of assorted drummers, pianists, saxophonists, three vocalists and the tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman. “I like all the sounds and characters that make up this band; each member enhances various songs with their personal perspective,” said Hall. “My music is a journey through the African Diaspora that takes in vaudeville, jazz, reggae, funk, dance and song.”

The pianist Davis Whitfield’s solo and accompaniment on “The Loneliest” is outstanding under alto saxophonist Ruben Fox, whose riffs and rhythmic tone are soaring.

His favorite pianist Emmitt Cohen enters a jubilant swing on “The Lady” as Hall comes in on vocals. “Nothing to Be Done” is a riotous outbreak of crashing rhythms, tap-dancing harmonic rhythmic beats and shouts. Hall comes in singing as the mood transcends to reggae and segues into the ballad “I Lost My Mind.” Hall sings as he moves into a new segment with brass horns in the background gradually rising as drums accelerate into the title cut. It sounds like an outrageous hardcore big band. “It was a blessing to have so many people playing this music,” said Hall.

No, the album wasn’t recorded live—it’s Hall’s sense of humor adding applause from a live show he recorded on his cell phone. That loud applause was definitely warranted for this debut album. Hall explores, composes, plays and sings just outside the jazz border for an exceptional musical expedition.

In the midst of this pandemic our lives seem like an existential novel, but once I play that “Charlie Parker with Strings” album with tracks like “Just Friends,” “Everything Happens to Me” and “April in Paris” (a few of the tracks), his horn is so beautiful you want to cry and I realize it’s going to be alright—life is tough but we are tougher. Remain vigilant and wash those hands.