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As I write this, I am sitting in the Gran Hotel Havana in beautiful Barcelona, Spain. My friend Joan Cararach, Artistic Director of the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, and the festival promoter Tito Ramoneda asked me to join them in a collaboration to cross-promote our festivals. CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival (Aug. 6th-8th) and Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival (Nov. 3rd-Dec. 4th) are now sister festivals. By the time you read this, I will have had the opportunity to perform with two of Barcelona's fine musicians, Horacio Fumero on bass and Jordi Rossy on drums, in a celebration of this international collaboration.
Why would we do this and what does it mean? It means that jazz crosses all boundaries and there are no borders strong enough to hold it back. The economy, changing tastes in music and the way people listen to music may affect the business, but jazz is stronger than ever. Both cities are gorgeous destinations and to listen to jazz in either place is magical. Jazz is alive and well and people are listening to it passionately all around the world. In fact, I traveled to Europe aboard the luxury cruise liner, the Queen Mary 2 (I prefer the ship to the air and this was even before the volcanic ash problems). Wherever I go I meet jazz fans who are interested in the stories I love to tell about the musicians I have known and promoted.
It doesn't take much to get me talking about the New York jazz scene and the abundance of music we can hear every night of the year. Just look at the listings in this newspaper to see how available and accessible good music is. This leads me to the debut of the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York, 47 events at 22 venues from Brooklyn to the Bronx Jun. 17th-26th.
When there was no jazz festival in 2009, there was a groundswell of support from fans and critics bemoaning the fact that our annual high-powered, 10-day festival was not happening. On some level it helped me appreciate just how important our festival had become, because there have been years when the critics (at least), haven't been as supportive as they might have been. However, when CareFusion, a leading global medical device company, stepped in to help rescue the Newport Jazz Festival, I suggested that maybe we should bring back a June jazz festival in NYC in 2010. They agreed. So here we are.
What I noticed in checking out the jazz scene over many nights out on the town was that in addition to the plethora of musical creativity, there had developed a group of young producers who were totally enmeshed with jazz that was directing their lives. To bring fans some of the best in jazz at affordable prices and at concert halls, clubs, parks and museums across the city, we teamed up with producers at The Jazz Gallery, Jazz Standard, Symphony Space, Town Hall, Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC, Flushing Town Hall, The Schomburg Center, Zebulon, Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Puppets, Central Park SummerStage, The Studio Museum in Harlem, our good friends at Carnegie Hall and other great venues.
One important concernI wanted to make jazz concerts available to the young fan who does not have as much money to spend in his/her pocket. I asked all these venues to charge only $15 admission with no additional minimum. For the majority of locations, this will be the case. Of the 47 events, seven are free and 27 are priced at $15 or less.
High points of interest in the festival are many. On Jun. 24th, we have scheduled a late night jam session in honor of Herbie Hancock's 70 years. This could be a wild affair, with many of New York's best musicians. This session, at my old friend Michael Dorf's City Winery, will be hosted by Jeff "Tain" Watts. It will probably run until 4 am and will be a real jam session. We are all waiting to hear what other guests will be added to Herbie Hancock's celebration of seven decades in jazz at Carnegie Hall (Jun. 24th). India.Arie was recently added to join Terence Blanchard, Ron Carter, Bill Cosby, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Joe Lovano, Wallace Roney and Wayne Shorter. I will be surprised along with everyone else as others join in the festivities. Plus Herbie's bandGreg Phillinganes, Vinnie Colaiuta, Tal Wilkenfeld, Lionel Loueke and Amy Keyesis smoking.
Having João Gilberto again is an exercise in how to present a genius from Brazil; however when I see him turn Carnegie Hall (Jun. 22nd) into a cathedral for Bossa Nova worshippers, it's worth the effort.
With the partnership of my old colleague Danny Melnick, we are able to present THE trio: Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette (Jun. 17th). This is always a privilege. We also teamed up with The Bowery Presents to present Chris Botti (Jun. 19th) as well as the great Cape Verdean vocalist Cesaria Evora. Unfortunately, Cesaria had to cancel her entire summer tour due to illness, so we'll keep her in our thoughts and hope for a strong recovery.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.