Vanessa Rubin

Over the years some  jazz musicians have attempted to start their own record labels such as Charles Mingus and Max Roach (Debut Records); on the West Coast pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory started the Black Jazz Record label in 1969. Both labels are now defunct. Playing music is fun but the business of music isn’t based on creativity or talent. However, two musicians, trumpeter, composer and arranger Charles Tolliver and pianist/composer Stanley Cowell (transitioned in 2020) in New York City were able to make a real business out of owning their own record label called Strata-East founded in 1971. The label released over 50 albums in the 1970s. Many of those releases are now hailed as innovative jazz influences, the most popular being Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s album “Winter in America” that featured the hit single “The Bottle.”

Although Strata-East is not signing acts, the label remains active. The impressive catalogue boosts albums recorded by Charlie Rouse (Thelonious Monk’s favorite saxophonist), Sonny Fortune and The Heath Brothers. There is a rare configuration led by bassist Larry Ridley with Sonny Fortune, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Cornel Dupree and Grady Tate, the album “Sum of Parts.” This one has to be a collector’s item, Cecil Payne’s “Zodiac” with Kenny Durham, Wilbur Ware, Wynton Kelly and Albert Heath.  “Trying to record our own records, tour and play local gigs while attempting to run a record label wasn’t an easy task, but I would like to think we did a pretty good job and made some great records along the way,” said owner Tolliver. “Yes, Stanley and I did a pretty good job and I am still holding it down.”

On Nov. 19, in tribute to the efforts and perseverance of Tolliver and Cowell, VTY Jazz pays tribute to Strata-East Records, at the Cutting Room (44 E. 32nd St.), 3 p.m.-5:45 p.m. The abled quintet assigned to play the creative contributions of Strata-East will be trumpeter Josh Evans, alto saxophonist Bruce Williams, pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Carl Allen with special guest vocalist Melvis Santa (whose Cuban roots always take audiences on an exciting journey). Tolliver has given her some original music he wants her to interpret with a mix of her Cuban roots and New York City jazz experience from Harlem to Brooklyn. The writer T.J. English will be available for a book signing of “Jazz and The Underworld Dangerous Rhythms.”

For reservations call 917-882-9539.

On Nov. 19, The Family Gathering: 2022: Artists & Friends Fundraiser Celebration takes place at the Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente (107 Suffolk St., NYC), 6 p.m. Avant-garde music is known for its outer zone rhythms, its inner soul emotions and its audacity to BE as humorous as a Boondocks cartoon series. A host of these spirited musicians will appear from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Come out and support the cause in the moment.

The evening will open in pursuit of the Big Band, some of the band members are trombonist Dick Griffin, bassoonist Claire deBrunner, baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson, pianist Sam Yulsman and drummer Lesley Mok. Sure to be an exhilarating journey with Cooper-Moore on solo piano. Followed by the captivating ensemble of trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, bassist William Parker, drummer Francisco Mora Catlett with dancer Dayalois Fearon. A quartet with types of possibilities will feature tenor saxophonist, composer James Brandon Lewis, pianist Eri Yamamoto, bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer TA Thompson. Poets will include Raymond Nat Turner and Patricia Spears Jones. “My family, my community, from the teachers to the storekeepers, all played a role in who I have become,” said Cooper-Moore. “This event is about community—my responsibility is to lift people up.”

For a complete schedule and tickets visit the website 2022.   

The tenor saxophonist George Coleman has been playing for some time. The NEA Jazz Master has enjoyed extensive recording and tour dates with Chet Baker, Elvin Jones, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Miles Davis and of course that memorable intro on the title track of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.” The master brings his years of experience, improvisations and interpretations to the Smoke Jazz and Supper Club Nov. 17-20; he will be accompanied by two first-call guitarists who when not leading their own bands find joy in contributing added dimensions to fellow musicians, guitarist Peter Bernstein and Nov. 19 guitarist Russell Malone (he is the mainstay in Ron Carter’s trio).  

Sistas’ Place (456 Nostrand Ave.), the little oasis in Brooklyn Bed-Stuy. The music is revolutionary soul roots of the African diaspora no chaser straight up Black music improvisational hardcore swinging oh no dancing so keep your happy feet under the table stand up clap shout that’s all right. 

On Nov. 19 the singer/lyricist Vanessa Rubin comes to Sistas’ stage. She’s basically a Brooklyn person where she’s lived for over 20 years but is a native of Cleveland. Rubin is one of those wonderful jazz vocalists coming out of the Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn school of singing, you know she lays a ballad out you may have to suck up your tears, she tells the story with crystal clarity, warm enticing timbre. Of her albums my favorite remains “Girl Talk” (Telarc, 2001). As a lyricist she’s penned some lovely songs for herself including “Once Was Not Enough” and “If You Ever Go Away.” To her credit she also wrote lyrics for Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” (vocally re-titled “All For One”) and Tadd Dameron’s “The Dream Was You” (vocally re-titled “Reveries Do Come True”). 

Vanessa Rubin Trio had me on an emotional rollercoaster some years ago during her one-woman performance of the play “Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday” written by Renee Upchurch and directed by Woodie King Jr. That role earned her the 2011 Kevin Klein award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. She is the epitome of a well-rounded performer. While she has received some accolades, she deserves much more as one of America’s influential jazz singers. Well, enough with the words, get out to Sistas’ so you can see and hear for yourself.  

Two sets at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Each set is $25. Call 718-398-1766 for more info and reservations.

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