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Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall

By Published: October 10, 2004
The Rose Theater is the largest of the Frederick P. Rose Hall's three performance spaces. The room features a retractable ceiling and movable seating banks, allowing it function both as proscenium theater with 1,100 seats and a concert hall seating 1,231 listeners, with variable acoustics that will also be suitable for opera and symphonic music, which will be booked to help defray expenses and integrate the facility with the rest of the arts community. J@LC CEO Hughlyn F. Fierce states, "It is our hope that other Lincoln Center constituents, the dance community and a variety of performing arts organizations will use it, too. If that happens, it will open up the possibility for all kinds of collaborative programming".

The first important multimedia collaboration will take place the first week of November. Jazz In Motion will bring music and dance together on the Rose Theater stage. "We need to deal with all aspects of the music", says Marsalis. "One of those is dancing, from ballet to the lowest forms of popular dance". The program will explore the relationship between the two art forms. Marsalis will premier his piece Welcome (the all encompassing theme of the Rose Hall's first season) with choreography by Peter Martins featuring Charles McPherson a dancer from the New York City Ballet. Another world premiere will feature Marsalis' music and dance by tap visionary Savion Glover and his ensemble.

The Joe Chambers Percussion Ensemble will collaborate with Elizabeth Streb's Action Movement Dance Company with a premier composition The Pit and the Pendulum. Streb's choreography, called "Pop Action", intertwines the disciplines of dance, athletics and gymnastics into a muscle and motion vocabulary that combines daring and strict precision. Chambers describes the accompanying compositions as "challenging" to complete and mold into a "unified" and "integrated" work and promises that "The Pit and the Pendulum" will be percussive, electronic and "quick moving", correlating with the athletic "dance action" of the choreography.

Another collaboration will join spoken word with the music of jazz in Let Freedom Swing, which will feature historic human rights speeches by Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy, Vaclav Havel and others set to newly commissioned music by Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Heath, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Darius Brubeck. Other concerts at Rose will highlight more conventional, but equally impressive groupings, including nights that will combine the artistry of Tony Bennett and Cassandra Wilson; Freddie Cole and Diane Reeves; Taj Mahal and Randy Weston; the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with the Boys Choir of Harlem; and the AfroLatin Jazz Orchestra with Claudia Acuňa and Graciela.

The most impressive of the new venues is the Allen Room, a versatile three-quarters arena that overlooks Columbus Circle and the southern end of Central Park through a 70-foot floor to ceiling glass wall that provides the breathtaking views before which bands will perform. Shaped like an amphitheater that wraps the audience around a spacious dance floor in front of the bandstand, the room can accommodate from 300 and 600 people in a variety of configurations (utilizing angled terrace seating, bleachers and movable chairs) intended to blur the distinction between where the band ends and the audience begins, inviting them to participate in an setting that recalls the atmosphere of classic jazz age nightspots like the Copacabana and Cotton Club. The room will be the perfect setting for the new Great American Songwriters series, which will open with the Bill Charlap Trio with Sandy Stewart and Ernie Andrews. Other concerts will feature Kurt Elling and Luciana Souza and Rene Marie and Bill Henderson. There will also be concerts with the Lincoln Center orchestras designed to get the listeners out of their comfortable seats and bring them out onto the dance floor.

The "anchor" of Rose Hall and perhaps its most important component, is ironically the smallest of the three performance spaces. Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, across the atrium from the Allen Room, is a 140 seat intimate jazz club with sympathetically designed ambience with a view of the Park and acoustics that will present jazz 365 nights a year. Todd Barkan, Wynton's collaborator for the past three and a half years in the musical direction of J@LC's concert series, will manage the new room. He asserts, "What Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is all about is making people (the musicians and audience) feel comfortable — both physically and spiritually comfortable. Through the quality and grace of the music and the quality and grace of the vibe".


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