As the Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its third week, donations from around the world are being sent in support of the Ukrainian people. Here in New York City the non-profit music activist organization Arts for Art will present 10,000 Tones for Peace on March 18 to benefit Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine. The event at the Clemente Flamboyan Theater, (107 Suffolk St., Manhattan) will feature an all-star lineup of avant-garde artists, who believe in taking this music called jazz to an upper stratosphere.
Jazz musicians have always played an active role in social consciousness as it relates to local and international conflicts and World Wars dating back to James Reese Europe in WWI.
Historian Kimberly St. Julian Varnon has studied race, foreign policy and Russia for years and called Ukraine home back in 2013. “It’s one of those things where, if you are a person of color and you work in Eastern Europe, and you research Eastern Europe, racism isn’t new, I mean, racial discrimination is not new, but to see it on display and being exacerbated by war, it was just really heart-wrenching,” she told CBS News’ Jericka Duncan. Every war the United States has fought is stained with racism and discrimination and yes, it is heart-wrenching but here once again jazz musicians respond with heartfelt music, compositions for resilience.
Some of the many artists to perform will be: Oliver Lake, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, D.D. Jackson, Jason Kao Hwang and Mark Dresser. The concert will be in-person and virtual tickets are available on Eventbrite or visit the website artsforart.org. Funds raised will go to Doctors Without Borders Ukraine.
There was a time when female bassists could be counted on one hand. Fortunately, those days have faded away, giving us a host of female jazz bassists to captivate jazzheads, Mimi Jones happens to be one of them. In honor of Women’s History Month, the bassist, vocalist, composer and producer comes to Sista’s Place (456 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn) on March 19 for two sets at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
During her more than two decades on the jazz scene, Jones has recorded three CDs as a leader on her own Hot Tone Music label; “A New Day” (2009), “Balance” (2014) and her third CD for the label, “Feet in the Mud,” being her most powerful, and personal recording to date. “‘Feet in the Mud’ to me means being true to one’s own self despite your race, age, gender, size, etcetera,” Jones says. “It’s about finding true joy within yourself, having an open mind and spirit and a connection to the earth.” She launched the label in 2009 which has produced nine albums thus far.
When Jones isn’t producing, touring or working in her new role as a filmmaker, she is on the first call list for such bandleaders as Kenny Barron, Beyoncé, Bertha Hope, Tia Fuller, Marc Cary, Toshi Reagon, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy award-winning “The Mosaic Project.”
At the age of 12 she studied classical guitar with her first music instructor, James Bartow, at the Harlem School of the Arts, where she also studied percussion, songwriting, voice, drums, and dance. Jones switched to cello after being accepted at the famed LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. The band director heard her messing around with an acoustic bass and recruited her to play in the school jazz band, which at the time included budding young lions such as Abraham Burton, Eric McPherson, Walter Blanding Jr., and Michael Leonhart.
“Once I switched to bass, I began listening to Jimmy Blanton and Oscar Pettiford. They had their own sound and their individual approach to weaving bass lines and improvisation. Milt Hinton took me under his wing, and gifted me a scholarship to the jazz camp at Skidmore summer camp. He had an early influence on me to sing and play bass,” Jones fondly recalls. “I grew up listening to a lot of Miles Davis, which naturally exposed me to the great Ron Carter, Sam Jones, and Paul Chambers. Later on I experienced the Oscar Peterson trio, which exposed me to Ray Brown. Wow!”
Jones was awarded a full scholarship at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. She studied classically under the tutelage of Linda McKnight and simultaneously attended weekend classes at the historic Jazzmobile on Saturday mornings with bassist Lisle Atkinson. She also studied with jazz masters such as Barry Harris, Ron Carter, Dr. Billy Taylor, Yusef Lateef, Max Roach, and Maria Schneider.
In addition, Jones co-directs with Arcolris Sandoval a project called The D.O.M.E. Experience, a multimedia project that is meant to inspire its audience to become aware of environmental and social issues, within the community and globally, by original compositions performed by a 20-piece jazz orchestra, dance and cinematography. Mimi also created an original mini musical production about the great migration and Harlem renaissance, with a cast of seven entitled “Next Stop Harlem.”
With reservation $25, call 718-398-1766 to reserve.
The vocalist/songwriter earned a reputation as a sultry songbird, who blends her soulful sounds of Africa with marinated jazz rhythms during her vivid heartfelt storytelling.
On March 19, Somi: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba comes to the Apollo Theater. She will perform music from her newly released album “Zenzile: The Reincarnation of Miriam Makeba.” She will be joined by Grammy-award winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves and South Africa’s most influential vocalist and songwriter Thandiswa Mazwai. Somi has been working on this tribute to Makeba for some time, it was for her a joyful commitment.
Makeba was one of South Africa’s first female singers to bring her native music to a Western audience, popularizing world music and its nuances. Aside from her recognition as an international singer/songwriter Makeba was a strong advocate against Apartheid and during her stay in New York she became a civil rights activist alongside her mentor Harry Belafonte. This tribute is Somi’s praise and respect for Makeba, whose compelling words of conscious activism became just as significant as her songs.
For tickets visit the website: https://www.ticketmaster.com/apollo-theater-tickets-new-york/venue/6.
Harlem Stage is known for its eclectic programs from avant-garde to straight ahead jazz, hip hop flow, gospel choirs, and black documentary premiers. On March 23 they will continue their journey exploring the Black diaspora as they present Repertorio Espanol: In the Time of the Butterflies/En El Tiempo de las Mariposas. The performances are free, live in-person with reserved seating. There will be two performances; 1 p.m. matinee and evening at 7:30 p.m.
“Butterflies” is a fictionalized account of the story of the courageous Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic, based on Julia Álvarez’s critically acclaimed novel. The book is written in the first and third person, by and about the sisters inspired resistance cells throughout the country against the dictatorial regime of General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo—the regime brutally murdered the “butterflies,” their secret code name, in 1960. Playwright Caridad Svich and director José Zayas deliver a warm and dramatic production in which the martyred butterflies come to life, all in the intimate setting of the Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue). Performed in Spanish with English supertitles.
The book was first published in 1994, the story was adapted into a feature film in 2001. Having read the book and seen the film more than once, I can say it swings hard like Miles Davis’ album “Jack Johnson” making no apologies; with the compassion and commitment of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”
This is a special collaboration with Harlem Stage and Repertorio Espanol founded in 1968 by Artistic Director René Buch and Producer Gilberto Zaldívar.
For tickets visit website harlemstage.org or call 212-281-9240.