We've just completed Grand Opening Week at Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home, Frederick P. Rose Hall
, and its been an incredible launch for the "House of Swing." Historical. Right up there with events like the first Newport Jazz Festival of 1954. Jazz Festival Grand-daddy and Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member George Wein joined in the celebration, as did Jazz at Lincoln Center CEO Hughlyn F. Fierce and Executive Director Derek Gordon
It is a wonderful time for jazz. Everywhere you turned, jazz was in the headlines. From CNN to the Danish Broadcasting System to TV Tokyo, jazz was the subject of attention worldwide. That is, afterall, what the mission is all about. Promoting jazz music.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis puts it best, "When it comes to jazz music, we play it, we teach it, we write it, we dance it, we sing it, we photograph it, we film it, we produce it, we archive it, we record it, we broadcast it, we commission it, we celebrate it, we love it, we share it. And now we have a home for it! So step on in and take a look around. Our motto is, as always, 'Welcome!'"
Wynton, the board and the staff at Jazz at Lincoln Center have worked together for years to get this massive event off the ground. As a non-profit organization, Jazz at Lincoln Center had to take it to the limit to raise the funds to make it all happen. Hats off to all those offering donations to promote this great American art form. Nurturing the arts is a noble deed. We need the arts. The arts, in turn, nourish us.
The week kicked off early Monday morning at the fountain of Lincoln Center, just up Broadway from the new home. It was a beautiful, sunny, cool day in Manhattan. Autumn in New York. Wynton Marsalis and an entourage of jazz musicians there to have fun, started the ignition to the machine - and an ol' school New Orleans second line jazz parade was on! The joy of the people waving bright, red umbrellas and white handkerchiefs was everywhere. You could just feel the excitement. This was history in the making. "When the Saints Go Marching In" playing down Broadway! Anything is possible in New York. It gave you goosebumps. Tubist and LaGuardia High School Band Director Bob Stewart from Harlem, clarinetist Bob Wilbur from England...they came from near and far to join in the celebration. Side-by-side, musicians and masses...together...the way it should be.
From the 65th Street Lincoln Center location, down to Broadway at 60th Street, to Jazz at Lincoln Center's new digs, the parade cheers of the community made way to the buzz of mass media cameras as a press conference began upstairs in The Allen Room overlooking Columbus Circle. An official Irene Diamond Education Center ribbon-cutting ceremony, punctuated by Slide Hampton's fanfare were event highlights. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented a proclaimation for "Jazz at Lincoln Center Month" and the race was on.
Just the day before, one of the highlights of my week took place. On a sunny Sunday, in the quiet, empty, acoustically incredible Rose Theater, Tony Bennett rehearsed. Filling the space with his strong, radiant, recognizable voice, I stood in awe. An empty house, Tony Bennett rehearsing. Somebody pinch me. It was truly a moment in time.
But back to the Monday Grand Opening evening...with all three venues swingin' at the same time, "Live from Lincoln Center" was broadcast on PBS, NPR and WBGO. "One Family of Jazz" offered the Marsalis family, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and special family guests performing in Rose Theater. This is the largest of the three new performing venues and seats about 1200. (The Allen Room seats about 500 and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola seats about 140.) Special guests in Rose Theater included Roy Haynes, Abbey Lincoln and Tony Bennett, to name only a few. (Check our website for more information, www.jalc.org.) As Wynton left the band performing in Rose Theater, he took his horn and strolled over to The Allen Room. There, Arturo O'Farrill was leading the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Red-hot horn players ignited the fiery display of power, punctuated with percussion and passion.
Marsalis eased onto the stage to offer his christening contribution and Cuban Clarinist/saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera frolicked with the band as salsa dancers threw in an added visual element. And there was a lot to the visual element as The Allen Room's wall of glass offered an incredible view of Columbus Cirlce, Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.
From there, Wynton walked next door to Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola , where the Bill Charlap Trio was busy jamming. Charlap's mother, famed Broadway singer Sandy Stewart, made jaws drop with an incredible performance. Veteran saxophonist Frank Wess joined in. It is a beautiful thing. From this day on, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will be open to the public, offering fine food, great jazz and a great view of New York City.