The Independent Ear

LaFrae Sci

I first met drummer-bandleader LaFrae Sci back in ’97 when we decided to honor Ella Fitzgerald with a “Remembering Ella” theme for the 1997 edition of Tri-C JazzFest. In Ella’s honor we placed an emphasis on women artists on the festival, particularly for our artists-in-residence education component. Among our artists-in-residence that year were Joanne Brackeen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Marion Hayden, Ingrid Jensen, and Cecilia Smith. One afternoon Ingrid Jensen was giving a masterclass for students and came to a point she wanted to illustrate with a rhythm section. Usually when that happens some eager trio of students is recruited. But on this occasion seemingly out of nowhere a trio of women materialized to assist Ingrid, with LaFrae on the drums. Even a surprised Ingrid exclaimed “where’d you guys come from!”

LaFrae was impressive enough in that role that I made a mental note to watch out for her. But not long afterwards I lost track of her, in part because at that time she went by the name Olivia Sci. Seems she relocated to New York and worked under the name LaFrae Sci, as she does today. Among her many current professional affiliations she’s now an educator herself, including serving as a faculty member for Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Middle School Jazz Academy. In addition to working in jazz, blues, pop, rock, world music, and hip hop settings LaFrae is also a Jazz/Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Lately that assignment has taken her to Eastern Europe, including Siberia. For more on that assignment dig this clip from what LaFrae refers to as “the Siberian 60 Minutes”…

The Independent Ear caught up with the fast-moving LaFrae Sci recently for some questions about her far-flung enterprises…

Please give us some background on yourself and how you got to this point.
Willard, I moved to NYC with $600, a drumset, & a backpack of clothes. My foundation is church, to blues to jazz, but I’m an Air Force kid, born in Okinawa, and traveling for my whole life. I also spent early years in dance studios as my Mom was a choreographer for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in the 70s. Lots of drumming there. Later Mom was the director of the Paul Lawrence Dunbar house for over 20 years, and tours with a solo presentation of the African American elocutionist, Halley Q Brown. I studied political theory and economics at Oberlin, and did several internships in D.C. before I was inextricably bitten by a love of swing, jazz, and drumming. I mention these details to suppose that the sum total of those experiences led me to become a cultural ambassador, composer, educator, band leading drummer, firmly rooted in the tradition, and with a developed sense of myself, and my place in the world as an African American woman.

How were you chosen for this cultural ambassador opportunity and where have your travels taken you?
Initially I auditioned for the program that is formerly known as the Jazz Ambassador program that first sent Louis Armstrong, and Dizzy Gillespie to showcase this beautiful jazz music of ours that embodies the very best of what America can be… democratic, and free.

What’s been the response to your work in the different countries you’ve visited?
The world loves the blues, and every culture has their blues. I teach the folk music of my culture, and in turn I learn other folk traditions. The whole world respects the concept of tradition in some way. This is a real great starting point. Additionally, the music builds a community in the moment, connecting cultures, generations, and experiences. The response has been exponentially positive as social media facilitates international connection. One example is getting 75 friend requests from Montenegrin middle school students who are now finishing college, or getting married, and still say hello.

Talk about some of the education programs you’ve presented as part of this program.
I was an educational consultant/mentor to outgoing groups for the State Department program. I would meet with the bands before their tour a couple of times in seminar settings in the big studio room of Jazz at Lincoln center. What I realized is many “cats” are rightfully convinced of their ability to teach based upon their stature, experience, and station in their career. But this is a different challenge, not a theory class at a Jazz School. Chalk and talk doesn’t constitute teaching in this setting where Masterclass participants may or may not be musicians, may or may not have instruments, AND most assuredly English is not their first language, and with or without an interpreter, it makes things simpler to have clear ways to express ideas in succinct sentences, which requires preparation. Honestly, you can walk into a room and sing Twinkle Twinkle for and hour and smile a lot and talk to people and probably achieve a positive outcome, but I always thought, why not optimize this once in a lifetime mutual exchange moment, find ways to make sure that everyone walks out of that masterclass understanding maybe 3 main points, and a positive personal experience that they can cherish for a lifetime? This requires finding a way to relate the music to every day life, not just potential professionals.

Once we were in Suriname and we arrived to find 70 participants ages 5 – 75. Some with instruments, some without. We had no way of knowing this many people would come in advance, so I had about 10 minutes to assess the space, and formulate a plan for the 2 hour masterclass. Each member of my band is a engaging educator, so we broke the group up and in a speed dating style, rotated the groups and gave them 15 minutes to lean each musical element with their voice, body, and or instrument, then for the second hour, we came together, reflected on the first hours experience, then launched into an amazing jam integrating everyone and creating a vibration that could have thrown the earth off its axis. 🙂
LaFrae teaching

Detail the music you wrote for the Siberian orchestra and how that all came together.
I first traveled to Russia for the state Department. We played a concert for the U.S. Ambassador, and some festivals around the country including Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. While in Siberia I connected with some people who were interested in my work, and I was invited to teach Masterclasses there in December 2012. Someone suggested I read the novel by Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita. I was intrigued by the chapter of the devils ball where the Author described a one hour annual celebration in a great hall with Strauss and his orchestra in one hall, and a jazz band in another hall. I began to imagine, ” what if my band was invited to the ball, what music would we play?” And I wrote that music. I also wrote themes for the main characters in the book.

(Editor’s note: LaFrae recently wrote that the Putin government has now banned the novel “The Master and Margarita” – the first time that’s been banned since the draconian Stalin government.)

I returned to Siberia that summer and taught at a camp for village kids 10 hours out of the main city. Unpaved roads through beautiful, natural nothingness. I met later with the music school director and the head teachers and pitched the collaboration, then I secured the sponsorship of the festival there, which is the largest international festival in Russia that almost NEVER has American participantsts. Next I wrote the American Ambassador appointed by Obama, Hon. Michael McFaul, and he answered my email within 30 minutes on a Saturday, the weekend before the New Year- the biggest Russian holiday season. I’m grateful that this international musical collaboration also has international partnership in funding. It is my dream come true.

Dig LaFrae Sci & 13th Amendment in performance in Paris…

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Vision Festival 19

Charles Gayle

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
— Victor Hugo (from The Quotable Musician by Sheila E. Anderson)

Vision Festival 19 opens on Wednesday, June 11 at Roulette in Brooklyn honoring the indomitable, force-of-nature saxophonist Charles Gayle with its Lifetime Achievement award. Other festival honorees include two recent ancestor champions of the festival, the late trumpeter Roy Campbell and poet laureate Amiri Baraka, whose artistry helped define this uncompromising event. The Vision Festival, whose core programming is “avantjazz”, is based on a foundation of “Art that exhibits a disciplined disregard for traditional boundaries.”
Roy Campbell

The primary movers and shakers of the Vision Festival, which is presented by the not-for-profit Arts for Art (AFA) organization, are dancer-choreographer Patricia Nicholson Parker and bassist William Parker. Regarding more on the philosophical underpinnings of the Vision Festival we recently sought out Ms. Parker with some questions. Following our dialogue is the complete Vision 19 schedule.
William & Patricia Parker

In your latest AFA post on the festival there is this line: “LISTEN TO MUSIC that changes your perspective…” Tell us what you mean by that, as far as the change of perspective aspect.
Most people are most comfortable with what is familiar to them, the known. To stay in the boundaries of what we know to be good or acceptable, greatly limits us. When we ‘get out of our comfort mode, allowing ourselves to experience and contemplate different ideas or new sounds, we have the capacity to grow and our perspective evolves.

When art challenges us – new ways of perceiving the world and our relation to it become possible. For any of this to happen we must wholeheartedly embrace this process of freeing – letting go of all of the must dos, should haves, and could haves – and open our minds to the unknown. If we don’t, the alternative is static.

You’ve expanded the reach of Arts for Art into more of a year-round presenting profile as well as what appear to be partnerships with other presentations of a like mind. How do you see that element of a year-round presenting profile enhancing the core festival every June?
Those things and people who become meaningful in our lives have in common the way that they are consistently present in our lives. If you only exist once a year, you affect peoples’ lives in a much less substantive way.

If the festival is to have impact – it needs to be as present as possible through time. This will then make it possible to make a real difference – for the artists, the audiences and a growing community.

Each year the Vision Festival appears to expand, either artistically or in sheer scope. What broadening of your festival can your audience expect for the 2014 event?
More so than broaden, what I have tried to do is to deepen the understanding of who the artists are and why they have dedicated their lives to sharing their art.

We also are interested in contextualizing it as art and music in present time and history. This lends greater meaning to the art and to the audience’s experience of the art. We don’t just book groups, we attempt to reveal and talk about the Vision behind the art. As opposed to presenting entertainment in a vacuum, AFA endeavors to draw connections, and create context for the music and art. We talk about the back-story (through the interviews, poetry and essays we now print in our Vision booklet) so people have greater understanding of what it all means.

For example, this year, AFA is honoring Charles Gayle and we publish his words on the music to which he has dedicated a Lifetime, so that the world hears about him from him. We honor Jeff Schlanger, the musicWitness, who has been documenting the music in drawings that have since become closely associated with creative music in general and this music in particular. So we are printing his ideas and other artist’s informed ideas on his work so that the audience can gain insight into his process. AFA believes that the artist must have a hand in defining his or her own work.

We are honoring Roy Campbell who is so loved for his craftsmanship and also for defying the boundaries that have been set up within Jazz and for his support of his fellow artists. And we honor Amiri Baraka who loved and supported free jazz and our Vision Festival. Amiri is a constant reminder of the power of art to make a difference. Through his art he defended the rights and dignity of African Americans. By honoring the African American, white America can begin to regain its self-respect. When we belittle African Americans, gays, women, Latinos, Asians and others who have been oppressed- the oppressors are themselves degraded.

At the festival we are honoring Amiri Baraka. We will have a poet reading one of his poems as well as their own. And the panels that are being hosted this year recognize the Legacy of Amiri Baraka: Art in Action. These panels further deepen the understanding of what this music and this festival is about. Amiri reminds us of what it means to be human.

What is the theme of this year’s Vision Festival?
This year the theme is Studies in Freedom – as we try ourselves to deepen our understanding of what Freedom means for us as creative responsible human beings.

The freedom found in music is an indicator of the capacity of inner freedom and the ability to think for oneself and respond in real time to life as it happens. Real freedom is a journey that involves much discipline, self-discovery as one loses the dictatorship of the mind and opens oneself to the listening present. How this kind of music sounds – is personal. I like Charles Gayle idea about titling this music, he prefers the title Personal Music over avant-garde. But nowadays, I am going with Free Jazz.

Who are some of the artists the festival will present for the first time at this year’s event?
For the first time:
Poets: Quincy Troupe, Ramya Ramana, musicians who never performed at all: Susan Alcorn, Antoine Roney and Angelica Sanchez & Omar Tamez & Satoko Fujii New Trio+1 – none of them played except for Todd Nicholson and Mary Halvorson is leading her own group for the first time at Vision and Michael Wimberly is leading a group on the main stage for the first time. James ‘Blood’ Ulmer and Jemeel Moondoc haven’t played Vision for years.

What advice would you have for artists like yourself who want to do something in their community as far as presenting events that either fill a void in that given community or expand the perspectives of their community in terms of the more uncompromising?
Don’t be afraid to tell your truth. Look for the ways that you can be heard. Listen to others. Deepen your understanding of ‘self-determination’ Understand who you are and set yourself free. For example, or to begin with, don’t let others tell you what music is good or not or enforce rules that don’t feel intrinsic to you. Define your music instead of waiting for others to define it. And don’t be divisive. Find commonalities for as even the right wing will say, “Divided we fall’ United we stand.”

Vision Festival

(sponsored by Robert D. Bielecki)

7:00 Charles Gayle Trio + Dance
Charles Gayle – bass & piano Daniel Carter – reeds
Miriam Parker – dance + Guest Michael T.A. Thompson – drums

8:15 Charles Gayle Quartet
Charles Gayle – tenor sax William Parker – bass
Dave Burrell – piano Michael Wimberly – drums

9:15 Quincy Troupe reading from the work of Amiri Baraka + his own poetry

9:45 Charles Gayle & the Vision Artist Orchestra
Charles Gayle – piano, conduction
Kidd Jordan, Hamiet Bluiett, Ingrid Laubrock – sax
Ted Daniel – trumpet Steve Swell – trombone
Jason Kao Hwang, Mazz Swift – violin, viola
Nioka Workman – cello Shayna Dulberger – bass
Andrew Cyrille – drums

6:30 CHILE•NEW YORK•AfghanIRAQ by Michael Lucio Sternbach,
documenting the work of Jeff Schlanger / Music by William Parker & Roy Campbell

7:00 Steve Dalachinsky reading from the work of Amiri Baraka + his own poetry

7:15 Wimberly’s Harlem Ensemble ‘Signs & Rituals’
Michael Wimberly – drums, percussion Larry Roland – bass
Antoine Roney – tenor, soprano sax Nioka Workman – cello
Dyane Harvey-Salaam & Souleymane Bodolo – dance, choreography

8:15 Mary Halvorson + Susan Alcorn
Mary Halvorson – electric guitar Susan Alcorn – pedal steel guitar
9:15 Cardinal Points
Ned Rothenberg – alto, clarinets, shakuhachi
Gamin – piri, taepyeongso, saengwhang
Samita Sinha – vocals Satoshi Takeishi – percussion

10:15 Peter Brötzmann + Hamid Drake + William Parker
Peter Brötzmann – reeds William Parker – bass Hamid Drake – drums, percussion

4:30 Panel:The Legacy of Amiri Baraka: Art in Action: Part 1
Cultural Identity / Self Empowerment / the role of Free Jazz
A retrospective in the First Person Moderator: Mike Burke Democracy Now
Panel : Oliver Lake, Wiliam Parker, Jason Hwang, Mazz Swift, DD Jackson, Fred Moten

7:00 Whit Dickey Quartet
Whit Dickey – drums Mat Maneri – viola
Rob Brown – alto saxophone Michael Bisio – bass

8:00 Ramya Ramana Poet – reading her own work and that of Amiri Baraka

8:15 Women with an Axe to Grind
Kris Davis – piano Shayna Dulberger – bass
Mazz Swift – violin Patricia Nicholson – dance, words, rhythm

9:15 Jemeel Moondoc Quintet Remember Roy
Jemeel Moondoc – alto saxophone
Steve Swell – trombone Nathan Breedlove – trumpet
Hill Green – bass Newman Taylor Baker – drums

10:15 James “Blood” Ulmer Music Revelation Ensemble revisited
James “Blood” Ulmer – electric guitar
Calvin “The Truth” Jones – bass Cornell Rochester – drums

Forum on : The legacy of Improvised Music
Dave Sewelson, Connie Crothers, T.A. Thompson, Lisa Sokolov, William Parker

2/ 4pm Music Is Mine Youth Groups
2:00 Visionary Youth Band–Bklyn / Jeff Lederer, Jessica Jones directors
2:30 Achievement First Middle School Band – Brooklyn / Gene Baker director
3 :00 P.S.182Q – CCNY “Quest Band ” Queens / Michael T.A. Thompson director 3:45 All students (70 musicians) under direction of Jason Kao Hwang + guests

4:30 Panel– The Legacy of Amiri Baraka: Art in Action Part 2
Decolonizing the Music: The conversation continues: Moderator: Basir Mchawi
Panelists: William Parker, Juma Sultan, Ahmed Abdullah, Mae Jackson, Hamid Drake

7:00 Satoko Fujii New Trio +1
Satoko Fujii – piano Todd Nicholson – bass
Yoshi Shutto – drums Kappa Maki – trumpet

8:00 David Mills Poet – reading the work of Amiri Baraka + his own poems

8:15 Matthew Shipp Trio
Matthew Shipp – piano Michael Bisio – bass Whit Dickey – drums

9:15 TarBaby
Nasheet Waits – drums Eric Revis – bass Orrin Evans – piano

10:15 Sonic Projections
Nicole Mitchell – flutes David Boykin – tenor saxophone
Craig Taborn – piano Chad Taylor – drums

2:00 Panel Discussion on The Legacy of Amiri Baraka: Art in Action
Part 3 – The Legacy of Art in Social Action – creating our Future
Naima Penniman, Daro Behroozi, Hamid Drake, Dave Burrell? Luke Stewart

5:00 Angelica Sanchez + Omar Tamez
Angelica Sanchez – piano Omar Tamez – electric guitar

6:00 Fay Victor + Tyshawn Sorey
Fay Victor – voice Tyshawn Sorey – drums, percussion, found instruments

7:00 Jordan + Burrell + Parker + Drake
Kidd Jordan – tenor sax Dave Burrell – piano
William Parker – bass Hamid Drake – drums, percussion

8:00 Poet David Henderson reading the work of Amiri Baraka + his own poetry

Connie Crothers – piano Henry Grimes – bass, violin Melvin Gibbs – electric bass

9:30 Roy Campbell Tribute Band led by Sabir Mateen
Sabir Mateen – reeds, conduction Rob Brown – alto saxophone
Daniel Carter – reeds, trumpet Dennis Gonzalez – horns
Andrew Bemkey – piano William Parker – bass
Hamid Drake – drums

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Washington’s historic place in jazz history

Washington Jazz Hist

The all-to-familiar, deeply romanticized up the river from New Orleans lineage of jazz history is a flawed cliche. Several cities can boast of their own indelible contributions to jazz history, some even make compelling cases for historic developments parallel to those of the Crescent City. Other great cities offer their own jazz development spanning over a century or more. One such city is our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, with a documented though often overlooked contribution to jazz history and a vibrant contemporary scene of musicians and venues.

Over a year ago I was invited to a confab at the home of Smithsonian jazz scholar and curator John Hasse to discuss measures aimed at raising the international profile of DC’s importance of place in jazz history. A number of ideas were discussed and not long afterwards Georgetown University professor and author Maurice Jackson and Woodrow Wilson Center VP Blair Ruble, author of Washington’s U Street: A Biography, met with the Historical Society of Washington, DC. The result of their meetings is the splendid new Jazz In Washington edition of the Washington History journal.

Maurice Jackson

Blair Ruble

Quoting co-editors Jackson and Ruble in their editors’ preface: “…The nation’s capital has been a fertile city for jazz for a century. Some of the most important clubs in the jazz world have opened and closed their doors here, some of its greatest players and promoters were born and grew to maturity in town and still play here, some of the institutions so critical to supporting the music remain active.”

They go on to disclaim this as a “comprehensive picture of the vibrant and still vital DC jazz scene. Instead these verbal portraits represent one idiosyncratic gathering of articles about Washington jazz rather than the authoritative collection.” This publication was supported in part by a generous gift from Mrs. Mica Ertegun, widow of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, himself – along with his brother and Atlantic jazz record producer Neshui Ertegun – noted DC jazz history makers during their time in Washington as sons of the Turkish ambassador. Their efforts at bringing black and white Washington together under the banner of jazz at the Turkish Embassy is extensively chronicled in the book The Turkish Ambassador’s Residence And The Cultural History of Washington, DC (info: by John Hasse. Several years ago the Turkish Embassy happily renewed its elegant jazz series evenings, presenting numerous contemporary jazz artists, including DC resident artists and such touring artists as saxophonist Tia Fuller, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, pianist Jonathan Batiste, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Cecile McLorin Salvant.

This superbly illustrated Jazz In Washington journal is chock full of historic photographs and luminaries who’ve made DC jazz history, including a portrait of “Washington’s Duke Ellington” contributed by Ellington scholar John Hasse. One of the historic geographic crossroads in Washington’s vital jazz history is the area around 7th and U Streets. Blair Ruble addresses that deep history, including the essential Howard Theatre, in his chapter “Seventh Street.” Not only this nation’s capital, but long a capital and critical juncture in the history of black America, Maurice Jackson writes on “Great Black Music and the Desegregation of Washington, DC.” And this being the seat of U.S. government, Anna Harwell Celenza tackles the legislative side of jazz in her contribution “Legislating Jazz,” which chronicles jazz at the White House and the Jazz Ambassadors history at the State Department among its elements.

Poet E. Ethelbert Miller contributes three slices of jazzoetry, and Felix Grant Archivist Michael Fitzgerald, co-author of Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce, details the myriad institutions in DC that offer significant sustenance to jazz researchers in his chapter “Researching Washington Jazz History”, including the University of the District of Columbia’s growing Felix Grant Archives, Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and the usual suspects, the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress and the enormity of their respective jazz offerings.

“Jazz Radio in Washington” was contributed by my WPFW colleague Rusty Hassan, a veteran DC jazz radio host for over four decades. Rusty’s stroll through DC’s vibrant jazz radio annals details such important voices as the Voice of America’s Willis Conover, Felix Grant (whose extensive archives are the core of UDC’s Felix Grant Archives), Jimmy “Black Fire” Gray, Yale Lewis, Ron Sutton, and the inimitable Jerry “The ‘Bama” Washington among many other contributors to Washington’s rich radio history.

When Jackson and Ruble were developing their blueprint for this journal, as part of the original study group that met at John Hasse’s home, my sense was hearty approval for the plan to celebrate key elements of Washington’s jazz story. But considering the vibrant jazz scene we continue to enjoy here, my thoughts turned to the continuum; namely what of the musicians making their mark on the DC scene right now? Our host for this special Washington, DC jazz history journal is after all the Historical Society of Washington, DC. With that in mind I recently published my sense of “A Select who’s who on the contemporary DC area jazz scene” as a bit of a companion piece in the Independent Ear on April 4 (

For Jazz In Washington it was my pleasure to spend some revealing interview time in the Capital Hill area apartment of producer-journalist-historian, all around DC jazz scenester and fellow Ohio native transplant Bill Brower. Landing here post-grad from Antioch College, Brower has been a broadcaster, contributor on jazz to the Washington Post, and several other local publications, concerts & festival producer-technical adviser (including the annual Congressional Black Caucus jazz day) and a keen observer of the DC scene for the last four decades. Our interview, “Bill Brower: Notes from a Keen Observer” details elements of jazz in Washington since the 1970s, including Brower’s observations of the essential scene Bill Warrell and his DC Space and District Curators carved out for the cutting edge of jazz.

To obtain a copy of Jazz In Washington visit the website of The Historical Society of Washington, DC on the web at

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Randy Weston lands major Doris Duke Charitable Foundation award

Randy Weston, Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn, NY September 19
(photo credit: Alan Nahigian)

NEW YORK, NY, April 22, 2014 — The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) announced today the first-ever recipients of the Doris Duke Impact Awards and the third group of individuals to receive Doris Duke Artist Awards. Both awards are part of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, a special, ten-year initiative of the foundation to empower, invest in and celebrate artists by offering flexible, multi-year funding in response to financial challenges that are specific to the performing arts. Doris Duke Artist Award recipients receive $275,000, and Doris Duke Impact Award recipients receive $80,000. Since commencing in April 2012, the program has awarded a total of $18.1 million to artists in the fields of jazz, dance and theatre. The 2014 award recipients are:

???2014 Doris Duke Artist Awards
• John Collins (Theatre)
• Joanna Haigood (Dance)
• David Henry Hwang (Theatre)
• John Jasperse (Dance)
• Emily Johnson (Dance)
• Bill T. Jones (Dance)
• Melanie Joseph (Theatre)
• Nancy Keystone (Theatre)
• Lisa Kron (Theatre)
Oliver Lake (Jazz)
Steve Lehman (Jazz)
• Tarell Alvin McCraney (Theatre)
Roscoe Mitchell (Jazz)
Zeena Parkins (Jazz)
• Annie-B Parson (Dance)
• Ranee Ramaswamy (Dance)
• Peggy Shaw (Theatre)
Craig Taborn (Jazz)
Randy Weston (Jazz)

2014 Doris Duke Impact Awards
Muhal Richard Abrams (Jazz) • Ambrose Akinmusire (Jazz)
Steve Coleman (Jazz)
• Anna Halprin (Dance)
• Trajal Harrell (Dance)
• Julia Jarcho (Theatre)
• Jennifer Lacey (Dance)
• Jodi Melnick (Dance)
Ben Monder (Jazz)
• Jennifer Monson (Dance)
• Dean Moss (Theatre)
• Lucia Neare (Theatre)
Aruán Ortiz (Jazz)
Matana Roberts (Jazz)
• Tina Satter (Theatre)
Jen Shyu (Jazz)
• Johnny Simons (Theatre)
• Michael Sommers (Theatre)
• Adrienne Truscott (Dance)
• Cristal Chanelle Truscott (Theatre)

Randy Weston: Pianist, Composer, Lecturer (New York, NY)
Randy Weston has contributed six decades’ worth of musical direction and genius, and continues to be a true jazz innovator. His breadth of work begins with the influences of Thelonious Monk and encompasses the vast rhythmic and spiritual heritage of the Caribbean and Africa. He has added jazz standard staples, such as “Hi-Fly” and “Little Niles,” to the canon and is singular for his collaboration with trombonist and arranger Melba Liston (particularly their 1960 album, Uhuru Afrika, featuring lyrics by poet Langston Hughes). It is his connection to Morocco’s Gnawan music and culture that has fueled his later work. He has recorded The Spirits of Our Ancestors (Verve, 1992) and Zep Tepi, The Randy Weston African Rhythm Trio (Random Chance, 2005), and in 2010, he released the live concert album The Storyteller (Motema). A recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award (2001) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011), he recently recorded The Roots of the Blues (Sunnyside, 2013) with saxophonist Billy Harper.
What are your key goals for the award period? What challenges, desires, drives or needs are inspiring these goals?

My key goals for this award period are:
To start and compose a new suite called Seven Ancient African Queens. This will tell the story of these “African Queens” through music and words.
Digitize my reel-to-reel tapes of my concerts during my State Department tour with my band in fourteen African countries in 1967.
Make documentaries through film and interviews of the Traditional Master Musicians of Morocco and Senegal with whom I have spent years with, learning about the foundation of our music in the Western Hemisphere. These documentaries will provide a way to educate our communities and schools on the origin of African music and culture.

To produce and distribute to schools and cultural centers some of my previous concerts through books, CDs, DVDs, songbooks, and other forms of work.
The ultimate mission of my music is to reach the people who are in tune with Mother Nature be they black, yellow, white, green, red, blue, or brown. I hope to reach the teacher, who will carry my message to our kids about the importance of tradition and culture. I believe I am on Earth because God has given me a gift to provide a heavy spiritual message about who we are, what we have done, and where we are going. My message in music is unity for all People.

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Jane Bunnett’s Cuba immersion expands

Sometimes referred to in print (lovingly or sarcastically) as Havana Jane because of her passion for Cuba and its musicians, one of the most tireless advocates on behalf of Cuban jazz and folkloric musicians in North America has been soprano saxophonist-flutist Jane Bunnett. Along with her equally focused husband trumpeter Larry Cramer, they’ve been an entry point and provided an introductory platform for such exceptional Cuban musicians as pianists Hilario Duran and David Virelles, drummers Dafnis Prieto and Pedrito Martinez, and saxophonist Yosvanny Terry. In fact, name a Cuban jazz artist who has arrived in North America over the last 20 years and you’d be hard-pressed to come up with any who have not in some positive way encountered or been directly assisted by Jane and Larry. And they’ve done so not as cultural tourists blessed with Canada’s more realistic and sensible travel opportunities to Cuba, they’ve done so as thoroughly immersed music humanitarians, always seeking the best and freshest Cuban improvisers, voices and folklorists to collaborate with. Theirs is never a quest for fusion, theirs is always a quest for uplifting Cuban artists and culture onto the world stage.

Jane and Larry’s latest project is a recording and planned tour with the exciting sextet of Cuban women known as Maqueque (Ma-keh-keh). You can learn more about Maqueque by clicking on the following link: Jane is an old friend so clearly some questions were in order on the nature of this latest Cuban music immersion.
Jane Bunnett

Is this new project related to your 2009 Embracing Voices project, or a further development of those ideas?
This is a totally new touring group that comes out of mentoring some young women in Cuba.”Embracing Voices” was a Huge project..18 musicians. We were very limited in our touring.. We did do a cross Canada tour,but it was very costly. This is my first new touring group in many years.I intend to pursue this for the next few years and add female guest artists into the mix in different regions.

What’s the instrumentation for this Maqueque project?
The instrumentation is; myself/flutes and sop sax;piano/bass and tres guitar/drum set/batas and congas/ lead vocals.The tres player is a strong vocalist,along with the conga player and pianist who both have distinct voices. There being often 4 voices in the mix!So we are a 6 piece group.
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
Right: Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Given your largely instrumental history, talk about your engagement with Cuban voices.
I have always loved the human voice (and I love to sing…when I am alone and no one can hear me!)

You’ve mentioned the difficulties you’ve had securing this opportunity for these Cuban artists, but some may look at you as a Canadian artist with loads of experiences in Cuba and with bringing Cuban artists to Canada and figure the fact that Canada does not have a near-50 year “embargo” on Cuba the way the U.S. does and think this is not such a big problem for you. Please detail what it has taken you to make this happen.
It’s not easy. Going back to 1988 in Havana Cuba we began to discuss with our dear friends Merceditas Valdez(the great vocalist)and her husband Guillermo Barre to(legendary drummer) the idea for making a recording there together. That took a good 2 years to make happen; not only to get the money but to cut through all the red tape in Cuba as foreigners were not permitted in the recording studios..I think we might have been the first after the revolution. Also Yoruba Andabo were registered as dock workers,not as musicians, so they were prohibited also. That took a long time to work out. We received a Juno award for the disc and that summer 1991 decided to bring the project to perform the music at Toronto’s harbourfront.That was done with their
assistance as they had the infrastructure to do all that!; 18 musicians and I don’t, think we knew all the work involved in that. It was amazing the number of cars that had US license plates in the many people came from south of the border to hear Cuban music. The project was called “Spirits of Havana” and we kept that name and established our working group. We continued to work and add many new (young and elders) into the mix of Spirits of Havana and then we received an invitation from Bill Martinez to perform at a conference in Berkeley along with Nancy Morejon and Alice Walker..this was our first night playing this stuff as Hilario Duran and [conguero] Pancho Quinto were denied their visas.

When working on this visa stuff, there are 3 layers of departments in Cuba you have to work with 1. Their artist agency 2. The institute of music 3. The minister of culture. At the same time you must be working the application for the Canadian Embassy and the US interest section…it is a really fine balance of all these things and if a passport gets locked up, things stall..yikes! All of this has to be done months in advance.The costs can really add up. Back in the hellish days of Helms Burton we had our record deal cacncelled with Sony and 4 major dates in the US canceled because of the witch hunt that Washington proposed to various Arts funding organizations if they had Cuban nationals..that bill had nothing to do with arts and sports!Anyway we gave our word to the musicians and re-routed our tour in Canada with all 13 musicians staying in our home. The US is still a better market in terms of the costs to tour there because Canada is soooo big and you really only have 1 major city in each you have to fly. We called that tour “Come Helms or Highwater” A real drag is once we get the visas…being in Canada we are only allowed to go to the US 2 times so we cannot just go there for one date..a bit of a catch 22.

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