Carmen Lundy is a special voice, a smoked honey filtered vocal instrument that intoxicates. She will display her attributes as one of the 21st century’s great female vocalists on Dec. 16, Aaron Davis Hall at City College (129 Convent Ave. at West 135th Street), 7 p.m.
Lundy’s ensemble, another generation of musicians, who are already outstanding but still rising to their zenith, will include pianist Julius Rodriguez, organist and keyboardist Matthew Whitaker, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, saxophonist Camille Thurman, bassists Curtis Lundy and Ben Webster, trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr. and drummer Terreon Gully. This is the same ensemble that performed on Lundy’s Grammy-nominated album “Fade to Black” (City Hall Records, 2022); her album “Modern Ancestors” (2021) was also nominated for a Grammy.
“Fade to Black,” her 16th album, was the result of a grant from Chamber Music of America. “I wrote the songs and arrangements during the pandemic which was a difficult time for all of us, my brother and I lost two siblings,” said Lundy. The music represents an emotional journey of loss, sorrow and healing with a bright future that is more embracing. The 11 tracks also take on today’s social issues, along with love and relationships. “I wasn’t trying to follow any outlines of what jazz is,” says Lundy during a phone interview. “I was just true to myself with great artists with a similar experience. You can hear the essence of us, it is 21st century for now.”
The grant was for two live performances; the first was recently performed in California and now at Aaron Davis Hall. “I haven’t performed in New York since 2019 at the Jazz Standard just prior to the country being closed down. Unfortunately, the Standard is now gone.” Prior to that her last performance in Harlem was about five or six years ago at Harlem Stage. She was wondering if Harlem still remembers her, but how could they forget such a talented woman, who’s been at the helm for four decades making her own path excelling as a composer, lyricist, pianist and artist.
“While I was writing ‘Fade to Black,’ I was also editing the video from the experience of taking my mother and her gospel group, The Apostolic Singers of Miami, into the recording studio,” explained Lundy. “They had been singing for 40 years and never recorded an album. We entitled the recording experience “Nothing But the Blood.” To our joy it won Best Music Documentary at the 2022 Downtown Los Angeles film festival.”
The “Modern Ancestors” album was recorded prior to the pandemic. Lundy says, “It was the end of four decades of my performing. I was a jazz singer in the late 1960s, the Modern Ancestors were on the bandstand when I got to New York. I am acknowledging the ancestors who helped us to where we are in the music whose shoulders we lean on. My vocal experiences include many of our most recent ancestors like Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.”
The diversity of her musical perspectives can be heard on her tune ”Jazz on TV,” phrased with lyricisms that swing like a hip cat riffing on a Harlem street corner. Her cover of The Dells’ “The Love We Had Stays on My Mind” should be an R&B oriented jazz standard. The Dells would be proud. Her harmonic musings fly like birds in the sky.
In 1980 she formed her own trio, performing with pianists John Hicks and Onaje Gumbs. She has also performed with Walter Bishop Jr., Don Pullen, Mulgrew Miller, Billy Childs, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kip Hanrahan, Courtney Pine, Roy Hargrove, Robert Glasper, Marian McPartland and the band Quasimode.
Lundy’s oil on canvas paintings have been exhibited in New York at The Jazz Gallery (Soho), The Jazz Bakery, and in Los Angeles at the Madrid Theater. Her art also appears in the booklets that accompany her CDs. This concert is presented by the Jazz Museum in Harlem and CCNY Center for the Arts.
For ticket information, visit the website Citycollegecenterforthearts.org.
On Dec. 16, improvisational melodies will be in the air during the 34th Staten Island JAZZ Festival presented by Universal Temple of the Arts, at the St. George Theatre, 35 Hyatt St. in Staten Island, steps away from the Staten Island Ferry.
The festival lineup will include rousing drummer Winard Harper & Jeli Posse, they swing from jazz to soul and some in between (he opens the fest), followed by bassist Andy McKee Quintet and closing with composer, arranger and pianist the Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet. Saxophonist and educator Mark Gross will be master of ceremonies, at 7 p.m.
For many years Universal Temple of the Arts has promoted the festival with images by the prolific artist Romare Bearden; this year the festival image will be his piece entitled “Out Chorus.”
Sajda Musawwir Ladner (1940-2021), artistic and executive director of Universal Temple of the Arts, founded the Staten Island JAZZ Festival in 1988. All proceeds from the festival support UTA’s free year-round programming. For further information call 718-273-5610, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.utasi.org.