Since its 1964 founding by Dr. Billy Taylor and Daphne Anstein, Jazzmobile has presented live jazz performances to over 4 million people residing in and/or visiting New York City. Musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Pharoah Sanders, and Archie Shepp have all performed during the summer months in one of the city’s five boroughs.
From July 6 through Aug. 31 Jazzmobile’s Summerfest will continue the evolution of jazz as musicians offer their own interpretations of this music they continue to push to infinite spaces.
Trombonist, composer, arranger Craig Harris Harlem Night Sounds will appear on July 8, at Marcus Garvey Park (5th Avenue at 124th Street), 7 p.m. Harris will take you on a consuming journey with an opportunity to consume funk, dance, straight ahead jazz no chaser and the outer limits of avant garde. Harris is about good music so he plays it all, no categories no jazz police, stand, dance, shout; Harris discovered the indigenous Australian wind instrument the didgeridoo, which he may have with him.
Harris, who is a long-time music advocate, will be presented with the Jazz Journalists Association’s Jazz Hero Award by this writer. When Harris is not on tour, he is busy organizing a concert series (Harlem Jazz Boxx) in his community of Harlem from churches to a Harlem Parlor series in his brownstone.
On July 9 singer/songwriter Antoinette Montague and pianist Danny Mixon will perform in Brooklyn at 500 MacDonough St. (4 p.m. – 5 p.m.). Montague and Mixon have a musically intuitive relationship, there isn’t much talking, just sincere music offering magical possibilities; they swing hard from jazz standards to bebop and some blues. On July 13, Montague returns to Grant’s Tomb (Riverside Drive and 122nd Street) with her group The Antoinette Montague Experience (7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.).
This will be Montague’s debut performance on the Jazzmobile stage as a leader of her own group. The Experience will include pianist Danny Mixon, bassist Melissa Slocum, tenor/soprano Gene Ghee, tap dancer AC Lincoln, and student Mimi Block on vocals and violinist. “I like to support and encourage all young people,” said Montague. “We have to make this a multi-generational affair where we learn from each other.”
The vocalist has been working with this group she organized for some years touring in the U.S. and internationally. Her repertoire for Jazzmobile will cover, as she says, “music that I love straight from the Motherland. We are going to celebrate the music from New Orleans, standards, blues and jazz and civil rights songs like ‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.’” She has released several CDs, her latest being “World Peace in the Key of Jazz” and a children’s CD, “Jazz Woman to the Rescue.” Montague is an entertainer, she understands the show and has the chops, vocals to sing you from blues and all around the sphere of jazz music. Check her website for upcoming gigs antoinettemongue.com.
On July 15, the pianist, composer, producer Marc Cary performs at Marcus Garvey Park, 7pm. Cary having grown up in Washington, D.C. on the go-go scene is an all-around musician. His concept of contemporary jazz is all about the funk, the soul and body movement keep it real keep it in the pocket. He was the music director for Betty Carter and also played with the other jazz diva Abbey Lincoln. He learned from Jackie McLean and Carlos Garnett and collaborated with Roy Hargrove. Cary’s contemporary jazz isn’t smooth, more James Brown, George Clinton funk.
For a complete Jazzmobile schedule visit their website Jazzmobile.org.
The Vision Jazz Festival is one of the most vibrant, engrossing festivals in New York City. The programming is strictly organic, the music grows from the deep roots of Africa in the American jazz tradition. It is still baffling why avant-garde jazz takes place downtown on the Lower East Side and straight-ahead jazz resides primarily in the West Village and Upper West Side. Regardless of such antics this year’s 2022 festival “A Light in Darkness” featured documentaries such as “The Black Artists’ Group: Creation Equals Movement” and a panel on Black Music/White Business—The Influence of Institutions in Jazz/Free Jazz.
This year, two of music’s most creative forces, trumpeter, composer and arranger Wadada Leo Smith and saxophonist, poet, artist and arranger Oliver Lake were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Smith opened the festival playing in varied configurations; duo with drummer Pheeroan akLaff; RedKoral Quartet, String Quartet No. 10 Angela Davis Into the Morning Sunlight; Thulani Davis (his first collaboration with the novelist, librettist, playwright, and poet) with RedKoral Quartet. Smith is a thinker of the 21st century, a Black man, who brings his experiences of truths into the fabric of his many compositions. His music plays within the realm of classical and cerebral introspection. He was one of three finalists for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music for “Ten Freedom Summers,” released May 22, 2012.
“I work almost everyday, if I am not working, I am dreaming of what to create next either compositions or some other concept,” said Smith during a phone interview. “When you look at life it celebrates your whole life as an artist. The Vision Festival works very hard to be advocates for artists so if they give you an award it’s pretty impactful.” Smith recently celebrated his 80th birthday.
The saxophonist, composer, big band arranger, poet and artist Oliver Lake celebrated his Lifetime Achievement on the closing night of the festival at The Clemente. Lake’s creative offerings included tenor saxophonist JD Parran Spirit Stage 2 performing the music of Oliver Lake, the large ensemble included his son, the drummer Gene Lake; “Justice: Vocal Works” by Oliver Lake which featured Sonic Liberation Voices and Sonic Liberation Front. “Justice” is a suite of compositions and poetry by Lake. As a long-time member and collaborator with Trio 3 (one of the most inventive trios in jazz history) with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille, Lake offered flights of his wonderful poetry. The World Saxophone Quartet which Lake co-founded played some of his noted compositions.
“This was such a great honor to be given the Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Lake during a phone interview. “I was so happy my kids were there.” Lake is busy working on new music for an upcoming concert in Philadelphia. ‘I always have compositions in-progress, working on new music plus I have my painting and poetry,” says Lake. In the 1970s Lake started his own record label Passin’ Thru Records which recorded a few of his albums. His non-profit organization which has the same title is dedicated to fostering, promoting and advancing the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the arts. Lake performed at the first Vision Festival in 1996 and has returned regularly for a dozen or more featured performances with his Big Band, his Steel Quartet and his Trio. His compilation of poetry has been published in two books and his visual artwork has been exhibited internationally. Lake has proven to be an exceptional artist in all aspects. When he first arrived in New York in the early 1970s one of the first bands he joined was Smith’s group the New Dalta Ahkri, with members including Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis.
It is difficult to understand why two creative musicians, composers and genius contributors to this music such as Smith and Lake are not NEA Jazz Masters. Something is very wrong. The only difference between straight-ahead jazz and avant-garde jazz is that the moans, groans and hollers of our ancestors are much louder and more pronounced.
The trumpeter and composer Charles Tolliver was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award the same week although his honor came from the Jazz Foundation of America, at the City Winery pier 57. Tolliver and pianist Stanley Cowell co-founded Strata-East Records. The label released over 50 albums in the 1970s. Gil Scott-Heron’s 1974 album “Winter in America” with Brian Jackson became the label’s best-selling recording.
Tolliver is renowned for his big band arrangements such as “Emperor March” and “With Love,” the latter was nominated in 2007 for a Grammy award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble. Tolliver’s debut recording “Paper Man” featured Gary Bartz, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers recorded in 1968. The Tolliver with an all-star line-up recently celebrated the album’s 50th anniversary at Birdland jazz club and the jazz Museum in Harlem.
Tolliver’s sound is riveting bold riffs and soft titillating whispers on ballads; some of his compositions have become jazz standards. “This award is a total surprise, said Tolliver. “I knew the Jazz Foundation of America helped many musicians but I didn’t know they gave out such awards, this is a great honor.
“Man, I have been doing this for six decades and there is still so much to do, more composing more and playing. It’s a lifetime achievement just to stay up on that trumpet, it’s unforgiving, it’s totally a lifetime commitment.”