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Gotham's Big Bash: The New Opening of Jazz at Lincoln Center

Nick Catalano By

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The realization of this facility signifies that our culture has matured to the point of accepting jazz as an art form deserving of an international home. —Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director
Perhaps the greatest gala in jazz history will occur this month with the opening of the new home for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Located in the new Time-Warner building in Columbus Circle (site of the old New York coliseum), the new jazz world capitol contains the first-ever facility specifically designed for the acoustics of jazz. The Fredrick P. Rose Hall is a 100,000 square foot integrated performing arts center that can accommodate dance, theater, opera, and classical music. Other spaces include The Allen Room - a unique Greek amphitheatre type hall with soaring windows overlooking Central Park, and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola an intimate 140-seat jazz club. In addition, The Irene Diamond Education Center, a 3,500 square foot area will house rehearsal space, classrooms, a recording studio and the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame.

The opening of the new facility coincides with the launch of the 14th season of Jazz at Lincoln Center as a year-round worldwide producer of jazz performance and educational programming. Commenting on the opening of this historic new home for jazz, artistic director Wynton Marsalis noted, "the realization of this facility signifies that our culture has matured to the point of accepting jazz as an art form deserving of an international home."

Grand Opening Day: One Family of Jazz (October 18th) will feature an inter-generational celebration of notable jazz families. The evening, by invitation only, will offer performances on the three main stages broadcast nationally on Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. The Rose theater will feature The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guests Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Kenny Barron, Cyro Baptista, Marcus Roberts, Mark O'Connor and Abbey Lincoln. The supper club style of The Allen Room will open with a performance by the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with Arturo O'Farrill and special guests. Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will be ushered in as the Bill Charlap Trio with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington perform.

The Grand Opening Festival (October 18 to November 6, 2004) presents an array of concerts, special celebrations, dance productions, human rights speeches, and an evening of comedy and jazz starring Bill Cosby with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Dizzy Gillespie's 87th birthday will be celebrated, speeches by Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy and others will be set to newly commissioned music by such composers as Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Heath and Toshiko Akiyoshi. "Jazz In Motion" will feature jazz artists premiering new work with some of the world's finest dance companies including Garth Fagan Dance Company and the New York City Ballet.

The list of events goes on and on and is too prolix to continue here. However, in future columns I will frequently allude to this special season's happenings at the new facility. I've had countless e-mails requesting tidbits of info on this historic opening until it seems that the whole world has a stake in this remarkable cultural spectacular. I've just completed the program notes to Cassandra Wilson's opening week show and working with and watching the amazing Lincoln Center staff has been an edifying experience. At a time when culture is forced to take a back seat to tragic political events, it is comforting to know that in Gotham the world of art and music is riding higher than ever.

Visit Jazz at Lincoln Center on the web at www.jazzatlincolncenter.org .


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