Rene McLean (304544)
Credit: Photo courtesy of the artist

Poet, activist and founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe Miguel Algarín, set the tiny stage that projected a mighty creative roar with an appetite for the butt-naked gritty truth. Since 1973, the Poet’s Café has been the revolutionary hub for activism introducing a forum for poets like Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange, Saul Williams, muMs da Schemer, Sandra María Esteves, and Nancy Mercado [open mic jams, comedy, visual arts and theater such as Rome Neal’s “Monk” and Ishmael Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

The legacy of warrior playwrights continues with the 2021 Online Theater Festival, which features world premieres of 13 short plays and monologues, written and performed by a talented lineup of artists including Caridad Svich, reg e gaines, Ashley L. Calderón, Jossie Ortiz, and Nia Akilah Robinson. The festival that began April 30 ends this weekend May 14 -15 (7 p.m.). Performances will take place on Zoom only! Order your tickets ($10) at 

Finally, after a year of being shut-in due to the horrific grasp of the COVID-19 pandemic we are beginning to see the light just in time for spring and summer. While social-distancing and wearing masks remain a reality, being able to attend live concerts up close in person is once again a joyous interaction.

Giant Step Arts with additional funding from Jazz non-profit Generation’s KEYED UP! continues the concert series, Walk With The Wind (Free) performances in Central Park at Summit Rock in Seneca Village. The concerts that will run thru June, celebrate the legacy of congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.

This series curated by photographer Jimmy Katz and drummer/composer Nasheet Waits will take place at pop-up locations in New York City’s Central Park (closest entrance is Central Park West & 82nd Street). Shows will be rescheduled in case of inclement weather. 

Walk With The Wind is giving musicians the opportunity to return to playing in front of live audiences again. The series offers an engaging array of configurations such as: May 15 saxophonist Mark Turner Trio with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Johnathan Blake; on May 16: Antonio Sanchez Trio with Donny McCaslin, Matt Brewer; May 22: Johnathan Blake Quartet with Chris Potter, Mark Turner, Dezron Douglas; May 23-24, Nasheet Waits Quartet “Live” Recording Project with Mark Turner, Steve Nelson, Rashaan Carter (Giant Step Arts); on May 30 saxophonist Antoine Roney Trio with his dynamite son Kojo Roney on drums, other member tba.

While enjoying the great music it is important to know you are standing on the sacred grounds of Seneca Village, the first Black community in New York City founded by free Black men in 1825. The community with its 264 residents boasted three churches, a school and two cemeteries. They were the first Blacks to own property after slavery in NYC, by owning at least $250 worth of property they were allowed to vote. Of the 13,000 Black New Yorkers, 91 were eligible to vote, and 10 of them lived in Seneca Village. Following many heated debates and protests the community was destroyed in 1857, when city developers and city hall used eminent domain to push out residents (who also included  Irish and German immigrants) so their homes could be demolished to erect Central Park. In 2001, a historical plaque was unveiled, commemorating the site where Seneca Village once stood. The plaque is located near the modern-day Mariners Playground, near 85th Street and Central Park West.

“The pandemic has been disastrous for musicians, many of whom normally earn a living through live performances and tours,” says Katz. “Walk With the Wind is a way to continue supporting musicians, bring them together with audiences safely, and enable them to have a payday!” The series began August 28, 2020.

For a complete listing and times visit the website

During those days when musicians toured the earth as giants and carried their axes for cutting sessions and burning up performance stages alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator Jackie McLean had a piercing distinct sound that earned him an extensive contract with Blue Note Records from 1959 to 1967, as a leader and ultimate sideman. The varied array of musician configurations with McLean, whose prolific recordings made Blue Note a major recording force included; Lee Morgan, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Redd, Billy Higgins, Grachan Moncur III and Bobby Hutcherson.

Like his former bandleader Art Blakey, McLean could spot young talent. During the 1950s and ’60s tenor saxophonist Harold “Tina” Brooks, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, pianist Larry Willis, as well as drummers Tony Williams, Lenny White and Michael Carvin, all gained significant experience under his tutelage.

McLean’s Blue Note recording of “Let Freedom Ring” (1962) is one of his most outstanding works, his definitive hard bop insignia swings with infusions of roller coaster improvisational riffs, screeches and screams reflecting genres of black music. Many critics described the recording as avant-garde but as McLean noted it was “modern music” he thought the term jazz was too prohibitive. Of course, his intuitive musicians; pianist Walter Davis, Jr., bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Billy Higgins made it a tour-de-force effort. The one non-McLean track is Bud Powell‘s ballad, “I’ll Keep Loving You.”

The Artists Collective, Inc. of Hartford, Ct. founded by McLean and his wife, Dollie McLean, along with bassist Paul (PB) Brown, where he drew students for some of his later bands including Steve Davis and his son René, who is a saxophonist and flautist, as well as an educator. 

On May 16th in celebration of McLean’s 90th birthday (May 17, 1931) VTY Jazz Arts Another Sunday Serenade will present Rene McLean & Music Of The Spirits with; trombonist Steve Davis, pianist Hubert Eaves III, bassist Nat Reeves, percussions Neil Clarke and drummer Eric McPherson will perform at the Cutting Room (44 East 32nd Street in Manhattan), from 4 p.m.-6:45 p.m. Yes, this is a live gig for a live in-person audience. COVID-19 restrictions are in effect, for reservations call 917-882-9539. Music charge is $30.

“We are celebrating J Mac’s spirit and taking no prisoners,” stated McLean. This will be my first time playing live since the pandemic and the cats and I are ready to hit. This is our dynasty band we were the last band led by my father to play the Five Spot the last week prior to their closing in 1975. Our repertoire will be a combination of J. Mac’s material and my own.”