Great times presenting on the music of the Civil Rights Movement this week at Mesa Arts Center with maestro Damien Sneed. What a pleasure and honor. Looking forward to next week’s concert with Eli Yamin Blues Band and the Okra Dance Company at TriBeca Performing Arts Center in lower Manhattan, Friday, October 26 at 8pm. Please do join us if you are in town. This event is co-produced by The Jazz Drama Program.
The Jazz Drama Program presents New Orleans Music and Culture Professional Development at National Dance Insitute Center for Learning & the Arts in Harlem, USA
What a pleasure and honor it was giving this professional development workshop at National Dance Institute at their beautiful new center in Harlem. Thanks to music director, Jerome Korman and Artistic Director, Ellen Weinstein for bringing me back to NDI after many years. What a tremendous group of dancers and musicians ready to give their artistry, passion, devotion, talent and time to the young people of New York City schools through NDI’s extensive outreach programs. May your efforts reach all children waiting to breath the fresh air of the arts in their schools!
Eli Yamin Jazz Quartet hits the North Country this weekend with Eli Yamin, piano, Zaid Nasser, alto saxophone, Ari Roland, bass, LaFrae Sci, drums
Click on “gigs” for all the details!
Here’s a teaser from a Montenegro TV show we did a while ago…
Back in New York City this week we performed at Intermediate School 291: Roland Hayes School in Brooklyn with the Eli Yamin Trio and The Magic and Mechanics of Jazz. Drummer Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax and bassist Elias Bailey have been performing this show with me for ten years and this time it was different. We visited an ELA program through a partnership with The Jazz Drama Program and the Center for Arts in Education. About 40 of the students had prepared for the performance by doing workshops with CAE teaching artist Lynn Ligamari. Another 100 students or so just came by for the show. We performed for about an hour–longer than we usually do in schools. Our program included:
- “Swingin’ From the Family Tree” by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson from Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical.
- “Charlie Parker Played Bebop by Chris Raschka” with improvised musical accompaniment.
- “Ornithology” by Charlie Parker
- “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin
- “Freight Train” by Elizabeth Cotten
- “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” by Count Basie
- “I Feel So Glad” by Hop Wilson
- “A Healing Song” by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson from “Message From Saturn, the jazz musical.”
After enthusiastic participation and response to the show, the kids said, “play another one.” So we played “On the Foot of Canal Street” by John Boutte and Paul Sanchez from “Treme” the HBO Series set in New Orleans. And then they asked for another, so we obliged with “Mambo Inn” by Mario Bauza. They still wanted more, but at that point we had to move on with the question and answer period. The 100 guest students reluctantly had to move on, while we stayed and took questions from the 40 students engaged in a unit of study around the work of art. The first question came from a 10 year old new immigrant from Burkino Faso who wanted to know “What was the role of Africans in the creation of jazz?” This gave us a great opportunity to describe the phenomenon of African American culture and how the music created by these heroic people became a tool to survive the horror of American slavery. The resulting artistic treasure contains great healing properties that speak to people of all background and we think this is why so many people enjoy it all over the world. The discussion continued with more thoughtful questions. Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax gave a spirited demonstration of the different sounds and beats of the drums and Elias Bailey introduced everyone to the acoustic bass. Afterwards some students came forward to try the instruments. What a relaxed and beautiful atmosphere. Who knew that summer is an ideal time for substantive, relaxed and meaningful learning in New York City Schools? Believe me, we never get this kind of time with students at a performance during the school year. What a magnificent program this is. Hats off to the Center for Arts Education, Holly Fairbank, Jonathan Greenbe and Jerry James and all their partner schools. We are happy to play our part. Also, special thanks to Lynn Ligamari for running to get her keyboard when we found the schools piano under repair! Hopefully they will get the piano fixed so these kids can continue to play!!!
Dlya menya ehto ne prosto pesnya
Sdelai vdoch ee ti poymesh
Ya ee bleus vso vremya vmeste
Russian translation by Ludmila Borisova
A Healing Song by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson from the jazz musical “Message From Saturn”
We had the good fortune to visit the music school in Abakan, Siberia and get to work with many talented musicians. Big thanks to Alex, the jazz saxophone teacher and Natalie, the vocal instructor. What a pleasure it was to work with you and your students. Check out young drummer, 18-year old Lena. Her shuffle was so good in the workshop, we invited her to play the encore with us on the concert. LaFrae picked up the harp and little sister held it down!
Thanks to Irina, Igor, Elena and all the organizers and volunteers of the Abakan International Festival. We were so honored to take part in such a fine celebration of world culture!
We returned to Moscow to perform at the Independence Day Celebration at Spaso House, where U.S. Ambassador McFaul resides with his family. We enjoyed our conversation with the Ambassador and hearing from him first hand what it’s like to work closely with President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. He was incredibly generous with his time and appreciative of our contribution to the festivities where we performed the blues for over 2000 guests.
Visiting the sites of Moscow was dreamlike. To be in these places that were once totally off limits to us as enemy territory felt like a milestone. May our countries continue to develop trust and mutual cooperation. May our friendships endure and increase.
We arrived in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia early in the morning on July 1, drummer LaFrae Sci’s Birthday. She was the first of the band off the plane and immediately received the warmth and welcome of the local people.
When we got to the hotel, we found the International Music Festival in full swing with musicians from around the world performing across the street in the plaza.
In the evening we joined in the celebration of world culture with our offering of blues from the U.S. and had a ball. What an honor it was for us to participate in this festival. Big thanks to the Minister of Culture of Krasnoyarsk and the wonderful and spirited organizing of Ludmila Borisova. The next day, we gave our concert and immediately connected with the warm-hearted people of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Our concert included our blues interpretation of the Russian Folk song Volga Boatmen, which I learned as a child from listening to Paul Robeson recordings, as well as our original song, A Healing Song, with the chorus sung by everyone in Russian and English, translation by Lumila and her friend Eva. Yes, that IS LaFrae Sci in the background playing harmonica–it’s a new highlight of our show for our “back porch” rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. Also, check out Bob Stewart as he gave an impromtu tuba workshop to the local players who hunted him down. You can also see Inyang in her first tour with the band owning the music.
After a long trip from NY via Amsterdam, we arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia at midnight and pulled up next to Air Force 2 with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aboard. With a few hours of daylight still ahead of us, we took a magical “white night” walk and saw some of the beauty of this historic city. In the afternoon we sound checked by the Neva River and kicked off the tour by kicking off the USDABA Jazz Festival–our first-ever concert in Russia was met with great enthusiasm and participation.
The band is Bob Stewart, tuba, LaFrae Sci, drums, myself at the piano and introducing Inyang Bassey, vocal. The tour is the culmination of the “American Seasons” program sponsored by the United States Embassy in Moscow. The goal is to share the culture of the United States and build trust and understanding between our nations.
In 2003 I co-founded The Jazz Drama Program to support the idea of creating new jazz musicals for kids to perform for their peers. This work brings all the things I love together in one place–jazz, theatre and watching kids grow! The program has had many successes over the years in 64 performances in 4 states and 2 countries including premieres of five original jazz musicals by myself and Clifford Carlson and involving literally thousands of children. We want to keep this going and see it grow but need your help to do so. If you are in the New York area, please consider joining us at our first ever Summer Gala Sunday, June 3 2-5pm at Urban Stages, NYC with special guest Mercedes Ellington, honoree, latin jazz pianist and arts education leader, Dr. William (Willie) Rodriguez, and a presentation of scenes and songs from our new release Holding the Torch for Liberty, about the women’s suffrage movement. We would love to see you. For more information about the CD, stay tuned….
What a magnificent week at the 45th Annual Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. It’s an amazing gathering of fans, musicians, students, volunteers and staff creating a soulful jazz village in the sparsely populated and somewhat remote region of northern Idaho. Joy permeates the atmosphere as Lionel Hampton’s beaming face and burning mallets shine down on us from every lampost in town. Over 6000 students travel to the festival to perform in the Kibbie Dome, attend workshops and concerts. It was my pleasure and honor to join forces with the above crew of musicians and singer/dancers to perform in 3 area schools on Tuesday. We opened with Hamp’s Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop in an arrangement from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s forthcoming We-Bop Family CD. Then we launched into songs and dances from The Jazz Drama Program’s forthcoming release, Holding the Torch For Liberty, about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement with early jazz/ragtime style music by yours truly with lyrics and book by Clifford Carlson. The story of suffrage resonated well in the schools and we picked the show up again on Friday adding 15 middle and high school students to the mix for a more fleshed out presentation culminating on Saturday in downtown Moscow’s classic Nu-Art Theatre. In the middle, I coached 3 middle school bands including my favorite from Sitka, Alaska. A great jazz program there. And also, found a great young bassist from Lewiston, Idaho in Talia Howey. The daughter of the festival’s Education Director, Dwina Howey, the fruit falls close to the tree. These ladies swing swing swing on their respective instruments and we are all the better for it. I also gave 2 workshops on Jazz Culture and Swing Rhythm based on my 2010 article in Chamber Music America (attached) and a workshop on Free Improvisation, heavily influenced by artistic and educational titan and Middle School Jazz Academy Master Master teacher, Warren Smith. This material and a heap more is coming down the pike in a Middle School Jazz Academy Curriculum currently in preparation for dissemination. I loved hanging and jamming with great colleagues at the festival including: Sherry Luchete, Matt Wilson, Josh Nelson, Kevin Kanner, Rosana Eckert and Ben Williams. It was an absolute knockout to hear Paquito D’ Rivera and Anat Cohen perform together with the University of Idaho Big Band as well as Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band–tearing it up in the huge athletic arena. 87-year old Haynes was projecting his soaring life force far and wide thrilling all generations. The festival was closed up by the serious dance grooves of Tower of Power. My feet were in heat! for sure. Artistic Director of the festival is John Clayton and what a sublime vision he brings to this beacon of jazz present and future. I can’t think of a better way to honor the drive of Lionel Hampton himself. This is a festival built by a titan and continued by a vision. May it continue to thrive and inspire. Hats off to Executive Director Steven Remington and the Board of the festival. Keep up the great work and THANK-YOU ALL.