By Lonnie Davis
Jazz Arts Initiative Executive Director
“…No America, no jazz…” the legendary drummer Art Blakey once said.
Jazz music has always been a direct reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. With humble beginnings over one century ago, it was born out of the rhythms of Congo Square and the brothels of Storyville right off the river crescent in New Orleans. Like a brewing pot of savory gumbo, it was created with layers of individualized flavors, layers of cultural experiences. Only in America, could this music have been created… all a product of our collective pain, perseverance, creativity, and aspiration. Like skyscrapers and cocktails, jazz is our gift to the world.
Why is jazz relevant in Charlotte? The list may surprise you— John Coltrane, Woody Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Billy Taylor, Max Roach, and Nina Simone – all born right here in the Carolinas. These masters changed our world with their music and even today we are still being influenced by their mastery.
Continuing a legacy of Jazz through Performance
The music of our Carolina jazz masters and others can be experienced first–hand at Jazz Arts Initiative’s (JAI) monthly classic jazz concert series—The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater.The acclaimed inaugural 2013 spring/summer season was highly successful with sold-out audiences enjoying live jazz in the The Stage Door Theater, part of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, at the corner of 5th and College in Uptown Charlotte.
The series’ second season is underway. It continues to take place on the third Tuesday of each month (except for Dec. 10th) at 6 p.m. and features the Charlotte region’s most gifted musicians recreating the sounds of jazz masters like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Dave Brubeck. The Jazz Room @ The Stage Door Theater provides a casual, intimate setting with tables and a full bar. Limited tickets are only $10 in advance and can be purchased at www.carolinatix.org, by calling 704-72-1000, or at the door if available.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Jazz Room: Holiday Edition will feature five of Charlotte’s top jazz pianists playing the music of the legendary composer Vince Guaraldi, (known for scoring Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” Christmas special) and other classic holiday favorites. This festive evening will include a catered pre-reception and a silent auction to support the JAI Jazz Academy and performance-based programs.
Other performances will be on Jan. 21, Feb. 18 and March 18. For The Jazz Room Season 2 lineup, visit www.thejazzarts.org.
Inspiring a passion for music through Education
In the spirit of cultivating and preserving “American’s original art form” for future generations, Jazz Arts Initiative offers education-based programming through its JAI Jazz Academy. The Jazz Academy includes in-school programs, free community master classes, jazz youth ensembles, and summer jazz camps. Students are taught by notable local, regional, and international jazz educators and performing artists. Some of JAI’s past guest clinicians have included NEA Jazz Master Award recipients and internationally renowned artists/educators Delfeayo Marsalis and Jamey Aebersold. On Oct. 8, JAI Jazz Youth Ensemble students were privileged to meet legendary jazz trumpeter and cultural ambassador Wynton Marsalis following his Charlotte concert, “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration featuring the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra,” presented by the Arts & Science Council (ASC), Knight Foundation and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
JAI’s Jazz Youth Ensemble program has been supported in-part by ASC and the NC Arts Council through the Cultural Projects Grant. This popular program includes four jazz workshops for beginner through advanced students from across the Charlotte region in grades 7-12. The Jazz Youth Ensemble program provides weekly learning opportunities in jazz repertoire, improvisation, theory, history, instrument technique and performance coaching. JAI Ensemble students are featured regularly, performing at numerous Charlotte community events and programs. The 12-week spring semester will begin Feb. 9, 2014, with auditions on Jan. 18 and 25. Students interested in joining the Jazz Youth Ensembles program for spring 2014 can register at www.theJazzArts.org or call JAI Executive Director Lonnie Davis at 704-336-9350 for more information. You can also follow Jazz Arts Initiative on Facebook and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/thejazzarts.