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Virtual Jazz: A Hallmark Achievement from Jazz at Lincoln Center

Nick Catalano By

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Virtual reality and the concomitant world of digitalization has received remarkable new attention because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every conceivable art or music entity usually presented in a live format has adapted the technology and audience responses everywhere are so favorable that this new approach will certainly continue to develop long after the present crisis ebbs.

Of all the virtual musical programming experienced in the last weeks none has impressed more than the "Worldwide Concert for Our Culture: Jazz at Lincoln Center's 2020 Virtual Gala." Opera, Symphonic, Chamber, and Pop shows from the past have all been welcome virtual experiences but on April 15 JALC produced a brand new show. The result was nothing less than astounding. In a studied opening monologue Wynton Marsalis welcomed the worldwide audience stating that the show would feature virtual performances from everywhere on the planet. Artists from Belgium, Germany, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa, France and the States were soon on computer screens performing from their homes and studios.

The opening selection was a new arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" by Rich de Rosa with each musician in his own box on the computer screen, and the entire group wailing with absolute synchronicity. The band swung so cohesively that it was hard to believe they were in 15 odd different places. Veronica Swift and Camille Thurman rendered magical vocal interludes and great solos from Ted Nash, Sherman Irby et al. created what will surely become an oft requested chart in the band book.

International jazz artists—Richard Galliano, Chucho Valdes, Diane Reeves, Igor Butman, Makoto Ozone, Nduduzo Makathini, et al., and two other orchestras (Brussels and WDR) followed in the 90 minute "first of its kind" global jazz concert. The panorama will go down in jazz history alongside the Benny Goodman 1938 Carnegie Hall show and other notable performances. The entire production is available on YouTube and is an absolute must see.

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