Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall

Russ Musto By

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When Jazz at Lincoln Center opens the doors to the Frederick P. Rose Hall this month it will welcome the jazz community to an impressive state of the art facility representing the greatest commitment of resources, both human and financial, to the presentation and preservation of the art of jazz in the music's hundred-year-old history. Located inside the Time Warner Building on Columbus Circle, with its marquee prominently proclaiming its place in polite society from the corner of Broadway and 60th Street, Rose Hall boldly beckons New York City citizens and visitors to enter a venue that will strive to bring jazz to the people in a manner commensurate with its sophistication, without sacrificing the humanity that is the music's heart and soul.

The 100,000 square foot hall, a multipurpose facility featuring three uniquely different performance spaces, as well as a large rehearsal room/recording studio, several classrooms and a gallery/museum, was designed by the internationally-famed architect Rafael Vinoly, but will undoubtedly (and somewhat justifiably) come to be known as the "house that Wynton built." Marsalis calls the hall "the house of swing." He proclaims, "The concept is a complete integration of all forces. The atrium is going to be a hall; everything is a hall. It's all resonant and it's all swinging." This concept of complete integration is extended so far as to even include the facility's freight elevator, the white walls of which have been decorated by one of its operator's with a panoply of hand painted representations of a veritable orchestra of jazz instrumentalists and are further adorned with an already-impressive number of autographs by visitors -from Ornette Coleman to Taj Mahal.

The Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame in the atrium welcomes visitors to the hall. The miniature museum, which will to be open to the general public free of charge everyday, is a multimedia installation designed by the renowned architecture firm the Rockwell Group, with interactive kiosks, audio components and projection screens providing guests with an easily accessible glimpse into the music's rich history. Incorporating materials and shapes "that evoke musical instruments, sound, still and video images and lighting that adjust in intensity and colorï the space strives to achieve the spirit of improvisation," in the word's of one publicist.

One flight up, in the Irene Diamond Education Center, there are lecture halls where the well known Jazz Talks series will continue, as well as classrooms where Phil Schaap, Michael Phillip Mossman and other members of the very knowledgeable Jazz at Lincoln Center teaching staff will instruct students, both young and old, in general and in-depth courses on jazz and its creators, sustaining the organization's fierce commitment to education. Derek Gordon, J@LC's newly appointed Executive Director affirms, "Education is essential to what we do" and expresses a strong desire to continue expanding the scope of organization's educational programs which he calls "truly exceptional in quality."

The Rose Theater will essentially replace Alice Tully Hall as the site of J@LC 's concert series, but will be more versatile than the Lincoln Center hall, which has served Marsalis and company well despite the fact it was designed specifically for classical music. J@LC's artistic administrator Todd Barkan notes, "There's a big difference between Tully and Rose. It's more intimate, it's more organic. The seats are more a part of the oeuvre of the presentation. They're integrated into the entire schematic much better.

Speaking of the "old" Lincoln Center, Wynton notes, "Nothing here was designed for the sound, function and feeling of jazz ï Most concert halls are designed for symphonic music, not jazz. Most of the time we play in halls that have too much echo for our music. The tail of the echo is so long that it makes the music muddy. We have drums playing all the time, which is not the case in symphonic music. We have a cymbal ringing all the time in the high register. And the bass is playing all the time in the very low register. It's like a sandwich between these two extreme frequencies. We set out to build a hall where the sound is made for us ï So, the significance of Frederick P. Rose Hall is twofold: It is the first facility (in the world) designed specifically for jazz and it is the home of jazz at America's most important performing arts center."

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.


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