The Jazz Leaders Fellowship funded by the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music is another much needed platform providing Black women and Black non-binary jazz musicians with resources to further develop their craft and pursue their specific creative endeavors. This year’s (2022-23) annual fellowship was presented to singer, poet and composer Jasmine Wilson and pianist, composer, singer and cultural ambassador Melvis Santa.
As a fellowship recipient Santa will be performing a summer night concert at the Recital Hall of BKCM on Aug. 6, at 8 p.m. “The music I will present is a selection of original compositions, lyrics and arrangements I’m currently working on,” explained Santa. “I like to express myself with different formats and instruments, so I will sing, play piano and percussion, including the bata drums. I will also have special guests joining in.”
She will also premiere her song dedicated to Abbey Lincoln on the 92nd anniversary of her birthday. “This new composition is part of a larger project I am developing, a duo with trumpeter and arranger Josh Evans, who will be one of my special guests on August 6th,” said Santa. “Abbey Lincoln’s work-in-progress project was influenced by my fascination with Abbey from my high school years in Cuba. Her particular timbre and the spirit she transmits in every recording reminded me of the powerful oral storytelling tradition I grew up with, so that stayed with me since. Years later I got into acting too, and as I would mature along the process, I would often go back to listen to Abbey’s music and unique style. She definitely is one of my sheroes. ‘My music is mine’ is the title I chose to write and compose an original song inspired by the greatness of Ms. Abbey Lincoln and the impact her legacy still has in me as a singer-songwriter and actress, as well.”
Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Santa is a creative source who employs her varied cultural spirits of the African diaspora into her music as a band leader, composer and singer. Her multi-cultured exploratory bands have included Ashedi, Ellas-Son, Melvis Santa Quartet, and La Rumba de Santa. As a member of Kenny Garrett’s Sextet, she plays keyboards and percussion. This fellowship will only catapult Santa to greater boundless heights.
“I envision a fruitful year of collaboration as a JFL with the BKCM. The fellowship has a performance and an educational component. For the latter I am invited to be part of the jazz program as a guest,” said Santa. “I plan to do a workshop I developed based on two important and recurring topics I’ve encountered throughout my career and personal experience: Movement and Repertoire. The first one I call it Dance for Musicians, and the other one, Female Voices and Songs in Latin Jazz. Today I am thankful and thrilled by the responsibility and the possibilities this award brings along. I think this is worth celebrating from the gate-go!”
For ticket information visit the website Bkcm.org.
On Aug. 7, celebrated jazz producer/promoter Berta will present her 11th annual “tribute to our late jazz heroes” featuring saxophonist Patience Higgins and The Sugar Hill Quartet, a longtime collaborative force of international jazzmen and acknowledged band leaders: pianist Marcus Persiani, bassist Tom DiCarlo, and drummer David Gibson; with vocalists Ghanniyya Green, Lady Cantrese, and Ras Chemash Lamed, and hosted by MC Murphy. The music is so hip don’t be surprised if some swing dancers are on the set.
“Unfortunately, in the past two years many noted musicians have left us, as well as those who joined the ancestors earlier; they include Onaje Allan Gumbs, Donald Smith, Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch, Junie Booth, Alex Lane, and original member of the Sugar Hill Quartet Andy McCloud III,” said Berta. “We have to always remember the great musicians who passed away—it is their legacy we are keeping alive.”
The concert (1 p.m. – 6 p.m.) takes place in Ralph Ellison Memorial Park (150th Street and Riverside Drive. For more information call 646-705-2932.
Good music should do more than just make you feel good, it should knock your socks off and make you shout. On Aug. 11, Jazz at the Schomburg will feature Nite Bjuti, an explosive collaboration of three inventive ladies: vocalist Candice Hoyes, percussionist and turntablist Val Jeanty (evokes the creative subconscious self-defined as “Afro-Electronica”), and bassist Mimi Jones. Together the trio of Afro Caribbean artists swing on music’s esoteric realms, improvising on Haitian drum rhythms, sampling, electronics and spoken word.
Nite Bjuti reflects the centuries old Haitian folklore “Night Beauty,” about a girl whose bones begin to sing in her afterlife, her spirit seeking justice. Together, they improvise to build layers of intimate community both inside the band and with its audiences. This performance will also feature creative collaborators, choreographer/dancer JoVonna Parks and dancer Courtney Sauls (at 6:30 p.m).
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. (corner of west 135th Street). For tickets (donation) visit the website nypl.org/Schomburg.