UPSTARTS! Young Lions of Jazz
UPSTARTS! The word itself pulsates with youthful energy and vigor, a yearning for learning, to participate, to contribute. Music is the universal language.
UPSTARTS! is the program presented at 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Monday nights at Dizzy's Club Coca- Cola, in the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, where college level jazz bands mix it up with seasoned veterans, playing with a professional rhythm section. It's a learning experience that can't be duplicated. It must be experienced firsthand, on the bandstand.
"It gives students a great opportunity to perform in a venue where professionals play," explains saxophonist Victor Goines, a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra since 1993. "It gives them a chance to play in the most serious ways. They're very serious about going to their gig."
Mr. Goines should know, he serves as the Director of The Juilliard Institute of Jazz Studies - a collaboration between Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Juilliard School. He also directed the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble in their debut UPSTARTS! appearance at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola with featured performer, legendary trumpeter Tom Harrell.
UPSTARTS! is all about young players learning in the trenches with the best players on the jazz scene today. What better inspiration? Mr. Goines says we owe a lot to the vision of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis. "The program as a whole, as Wynton has designed it, is a great idea," he says. "It's personal growth through competition'all those talented people on the bandstand, they show each other what they got, but with lots of love."
Mr. Goines says the caliber of talent with these students performing at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, is top- notch. "I've been fortunate to work with talented students, but never this many at one time. When the big band performed at Dizzy's, we were playing Dizzy's music, serious, but entertaining tunes like 'Umbrella Man.' That tells you about the level of the students."
It is also such a great opportunity for these young cats to stretch out at Manhattan's hippest new jazz club with the incredible view overlooking Columbus Circle, Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, located on Broadway at 60th Street, promises to be the launching pad of the jazz stars of tomorrow, as young, talented musicians hone their chops on the cutting room floor.
"We're bringing the hottest jazz bands in the business to our new club," says Jazz at Lincoln Center Executive Director Derek E. Gordon. "You can expect a spicy variety of musicians to grace the stage. As Jazz at Lincoln Center continues to perpetuate the art form, Monday nights are dedicated to young, upcoming musicians who will showcase their talent. On the other nights, you never know who will show up for a surprise appearance at one of our 'After Hours' sets. We welcome all to come, enjoy the great music, the great view and the great food."
And show up they do. Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Tony Danza, Courtney B. Vance, Wynton Marsalis (sat in several times), Dave Winfield, Morgan Freeman, Freddy Cole (sat in), Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder (sat in), Angela Bassett, Phil Ramone, Glenn Close, Morgan Fairchild, Clark Terry, Tom Harrell, and Paulie Walnuts from "The Sopranos" aka Tony Sirico. That's just an idea of who's been frequenting Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. And yes, Stevie Wonder did sit in. Imagine the youthful UPSTARTS! players rubbing elbows with these legendary musicians. Do you think it will have a profound influence on their lives? The answer is "yes."
"Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is designed to entertain people in the spirit that Dizzy had'very welcoming," Mr. Marsalis explains. "We just want people to have a good time. We want the musicians to feel comfortable to play. We want people to come in and have a memorable experience. This whole facility is designed for international participation. This is a hall of integration."
Wynton offers some closing advice to young, upcoming players like UPSTARTS!, "Our music teaches you the requirements of personal growth, as well as its value. To develop your artistry; you have to work on it for twenty, thirty years. You may have a lot of talent, but you're not going to play well overnight. You have to be patient, but persistent. And even when you learn one technique well, you have to remain humble in order to develop other areas. It's important in jazz to develop many aspects of your musicality, because you never know what the other musicians you perform with will be able to play. In this way, jazz leads us in an acceptance and appreciation of other people's creativity while it helps us understand who we are and what we're capable of."
He continues, "You are currently standing at the crossroads of your musical education, with an extremely important and exciting decision in front of you. From one musician to another: best of luck and keep swinging."
Since this article was written, Ali Jackson has taken over the chair leading UPSTARTS! The Ali Jackson Trio and "Jammin' With Jackson" make the Monday nights move!