Jazz, Drama and Young People

 

Eli Yamin Quartet in concert

http://www.jazzartassociation.org/jam/jam-2011/bulletin-2011/

It’s amazing to receive this bulletin from our trip last Spring to Montenegro with the quartet and Nora’s Ark.  What an unbelievable time that was!

And now I’m excited to be returning to Idaho on Monday for my third trip to participate in the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival.  It’s an amazing festival with 8,000 kids from all over the northwest and top jazz acts from all over the world.  Best thing is, I get to create with some of these kids–from the University of Idaho, and from nearby schools in workshops in Free Improvisation, Jazz Culture and Swing Rhythm and Jazz and Drama–The Jazz Drama Program on the road.  We will be doing excerpts from our new musical Holding the Torch For Liberty about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement with original early jazz/ragtime style music. It’s going to be a hoot!!!

http://www.uidaho.edu/jazzfest

 

Jazz Drama students transform at Avatar Studios in Manhattan

Georgina in rehearsal at Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music

 

 

Georgina recording at Avatar Studios in Manhattan

 

The Jazz Drama Program began rehearsals with students at Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music on October 24th and continued weekly for seven weeks leading up to the recording session at Avatar on December 11.

It was amazing to watch the transformation of the students.  They went from talented youngsters to poised pros in such a short span of time.  Teacher Lisa Gwasda writes, “We all had such an amazing experience, and I thank you for choosing my students and for giving us this rare opportunity!  We are all still raving about it!  I look forward to working together in the future!!”

This is the pinnacle of why I co-founded The Jazz Drama Program….creativity, access, excellence.

I wanted jazz with all the spirit it summons, excellence it demands and community it creates available to all children.  These photos represent a great moment of triumph in this effort.

Now you can join our efforts by supporting The Jazz Drama Program, a non-profit, 501 c3 organization.  Click on the link below and thanks for supporting young people and jazz!

http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org/support/donate/

Help us record Holding the Torch for Liberty, the jazz musical about women’s suffrage

Holding the Torch for Liberty Sextet at Avatar Studios L-R, Chris Washburne, trombone, Nicki Parrot, bass, Sara Caswell, violin, Eli Yamin, piano, Evan Christopher, clarinet, Stefan Schatz, percussion

 

 

We have launched a campaign through the website Kickstarter to raise funds to record Holding the Torch for Liberty, our jazz musical about women’s suffrage.  Please help us reach our goal by December 31.  The way Kickstarter works, if we don’t reach our goal, we don’t get any of the money.  Please help us today.  You can donate online or via sending a check.  Watch the video with WBGO Radio personality Rhonda Hamilton and spread the word.  Thanks!

http://kck.st/vz4kCH

Seventh grader Tatiana performed in Holding the Torch for Liberty.  Tatiana writes:

“I learned that in 1920 women had it tough.  If it wasn’t for their boldness, power, optimism and courage, women wouldn’t have the rights they have now. This experience has changed me by allowing me to visualize through dance and music, [sic] it helps you find your inner voice and soul, it keeps you motivated on the weekends and it teaches you to be focused and to concentrate.”

http://kck.st/vz4kCH

I grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey near the famous Crossroads Theatre. One of the few theatres in the U.S. that focuses on African American theatre artists, I reveled in the joy of the music and the depth of the drama. Slow Dance on the Killing Ground to Bubblin’ Brown Sugar had me enthralled.  Around this time, I also fell in love with jazz.  I was mystified and motivated by the swinging sounds of Basie, Duke, Billie, Abbey, Benny and Monk.  Luckily I found my way to make it my profession, first in radio at WBGO Jazz 88, then as a musician and later as an educator.  For over 25 years I’ve been fortunate to be deeply involved in jazz around the clock.  For much of this time I’ve done my best to share my love of this amazing music with people who might never have heard of it.  For some reason, in the U.S., the place that created jazz, many young people never hear these amazing sounds.  That’s why a schoolteacher named Clifford Carlson and I started The Jazz Drama Program (http://www.thejazzdramaprogram.org), a program that combines jazz and theatre to get young people immersed in the beauty, surprise and wonder of jazz.

With nine years in residence at a public school behind us, and a non-profit organization to support us, we got to make a professional recording of Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical just last year.  The music is blues, bebop and swing.  The story is right up the kid’s alley–accepting difference, working together, overcoming obstacles, singing the BLUES.  Kids love it!  And because of the CD, they are performing it in schools from Santa Fe to Tupelo.  We even had one production in Montenegro in central Europe!

Now we are recording our second musical, Holding the Torch for Liberty.  It’s about the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement with early jazz and New Orleans style music.  Great professional musicians have already laid down the instrumental tracks and now we are rehearsing young singers at Celia Cruz High School for Music in the Bronx.  I’m sure the final mix will be off the hook. We are recording on donated studio time at the top NYC studio, Avatar and Jim Anderson, Grammy award winning engineer is helping us out too.  Here’s where you come in…

We have raised over half the money, and need to raise eight thousand more to fully fund the project.  Will you please join us?  Help kids get to know jazz.  Help communities feel the magic of music and theatre with this new musical about a great American story.  The story of women fighting and winning their right to vote!

Please join us and thank-you,

Eli Yamin

P.S.  Watch the cool short video about the project featuring my longtime hero of the radio, Rhonda Hamilton from WBGO and share the link.  Thanks!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jpd/holding-the-torch-for-liberty-cd-recording-project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JazzSpeare 2011 at Fordham Consortium on the Purpose of Business

JazzSpeare-Eli Yamin Jazz Quartet and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Company at Jazz at Lincoln Center October 2011

It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to continue an idea I first tried out over 20 years ago at Rutgers University.  “JazzSpeare” combines scenes from Shakespeare with a live, improvised and interactive score.  Here’s my quartet with Todd Williams, tenor saxophone, LaFrae Sci, drums, Mary Ann McSweeny, bass and myself on piano collaborating with actors from the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Company with Chris Edwards, Associate Artistic Director lying down,  Jason O’Connell (Knees)  Gabra Zackman (standing). The program was sponsored by The Fordham Consortium, Fordham School of Business’ convening of global leaders to discuss and explore the purpose of business.  This 2-day Fall meeting explored Business and the Arts.  It raised many important issues on collaboration, creativity, interaction, listening, responding, the inherent value of the arts and the practical value of the arts.

Just launched fundraising campaign to record Holding the Torch for Liberty

Yonkers Waterfront Concert

Eli Yamin Blues Band on the Waterfront

What a beautiful evening it was on the Yonkers Waterfront on August 12 in concert with the blues band.  For the first time, we added trombone and were knocked out by the soulful contributions of trombonist Chris Washburne.  This concert also featured vocalist Charenee Wade, her first time appearing with the band since the Guatemala Jazz Festival in February and tubist Channel Crichlow, her first time appearing with the band since the Rhythm Road 2010 Tour of the Balkans.  Blues Band veteran LaFrae Sci was in full effect and for I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free we were joined by a young Yonkers resident with a fierce and rock solid stomp/clap.  THE AUDIENCE WAS A DREAM joining in and breathing with us on every move, every tune. The weather was perfect and it felt as if we could play on and on…WE LOVE YOU YONKERS!

Thank-you to the Yonkers BID for sponsoring the concert and  Steve Sansone, Executive Director and his assistant, Noe.

Photos by Kerry Kehoe

 

Arts are Basic Workshop in Crete, Nebraska

Teachers and Teaching Artists at Arts are Basic Workshop, Crete, Nebraska

I had a tremendous time in Crete, Nebraska leading a workshop as part of Arts are Basic.   This program sends teaching artists into schools throughout the state to partner with classroom teachers to create an experiential unit of study for students around a work of art.  The photo above was taken by participants taking part in the visual component of the workshop led by my colleague, artist and teaching artist extraordinaire Barbara Ellman.

I’m so grateful to Barbara for recommending me to Rhea Gill, director of Arts are Basic and this tremendous community of artists and educators in Nebraska.  The two days we spent together were truly magical.

Sunset in Lincoln, Nebraska

 

Our focus of study was a music/drama/poetry performance piece inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and performed by members of Soul Lyrical, a Kansas City based group, represented by vocalist Angela Hagenbach and pianist/composer/vocalist Pamela Baskin-Watson.  They brought a treasure trove of music, spoken word and narrative.   It was my task to lead teachers, and teaching artists teaching towards this work ideas about how to structure a unit of study that students can sink their teeth into.  On the first day, we focused on Bessie Smith, Langston Hughes and Fats Waller.  We explored how to follow the contours of Bessie Smith’s blues line, to more fully appreciate the range and subtleties of her emotional expression.

YouTube Preview Image

We set Langston Hughes poem “Negro Speaks of Rivers” to music and we experienced swing as a rhythm, a time period and as an incredibly challenging thing people do by staying in sync with another.  For this we jumped some rope in trios and compared the experience to Fats Waller and his Rhythm performing “The Joint is Jumpin'”.

I've Known Rivers by Langston Hughes

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
     went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy 
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Jumping Rope to understand how “The Joint is Jumpin'”

 

On the morning of the second day, I asked if anyone had any dreams or reflections.

Storyteller, Rita Paskowitz, offered the following poem she had written overnight.  It knocks me out!

 

I met

Fats Waller

in my living room

in the fall of 1977.

 

I put my key into the lock

opened my front door

and heard his magic fingers

teasing

those eighty-eights

all

jaunty and sly

inviting me in

like he was going to share

my dirtiest secret

with the world

if I lingered

too long

in that hallway

 

So in I came

like a jitterbuggin’ fool

nodding

my blue-eyed

kinky head

in full agreement with the beat

and

anything else

he had in mind.

 

I had no idea

what

I was getting myself

into

lo

those forty-odd years ago

but when I heard his name

mentioned

just yesterday morning

it wasn’t just the joint

that was jumpin’…

 

It was also my heart.

 

Building on the work from the day before, participants created and scored stories of their own personal heroes, people in their life who, like artists of the Harlem Renaissance, had overcome major obstacles to achieve excellence.  Final performances cut to the core of the of why we make art.  Inspired by the artists of the period and performers from Soul Lyrical, creativity flowed with phenomenal focus and strong intention.  Personal stake in the art was unshakable.

 

Huge thank-you’s to everyone involved in Arts are Basic including Doane College in Crete where the workshop took place.  Thanks to Rhea’s terrific assistant Petrina Arneson and Rhea who, between her own dance studio, teaching at the college and directing Arts are Basic, is truly a pillar of the arts community.  It’s always a treat to meet like minded folks throughout the globe.  We are everywhere and especially in Nebraska!

Arts are Basic 2011, Doane College, Crete, Nebraska

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House in Lincoln, Nebraska

Litchfield Jazz Camp

Wonderful Young People, the future and present of jazz!

For the third year in a row I spent a week performing and teaching at Litchfield Jazz Camp in Kent, Connecticut.  It was a wonderful week immersed in jazz.  It’s always a treat to be surrounded by so many young people so eager to learn and experiment with the language of jazz.  I love seeing how each student makes this language their own.  It shows me how enduring our art form is.  In addition to working with students, I performed two concerts with the tremendous faculty of the camp including director Don Braden, Claire Daly, Claudio Roditi, Joris Teepe, George Schuller, Mike DiRubbo, Chris Allen, Pete McEachern, Russ Johnson, Nilson Matta, Roni Ben-Hur, Steve Johns and Champian Fulton.  What fantastic week it was full of art!

Thanks for an amazing year!

Eli Yamin offers a note of thanks....

It has been an amazing year and I thank you for listening.  What a joy it is to meet in communities around the globe in celebration of our music.  It’s a true gift and I’m grateful to all the musicians, audience members and support staff who make it all happen.  Thank-you thank-you thank-you.  Can’t wait to do it again.  Keep swinging everyone and let’s be in close contact to expand our reach and build our community far and wide!

Eli Yamin Blues Band CD Release Concert Monday, June 20 at 8pm at Lincoln Center. Information and tickets.

The Eli Yamin Blues Band returns to the Clark Studio Theater at Lincoln Center Institute to perform a homecoming concert in celebration of their new release, I Feel So Glad.

This is no ordinary blues band,” former Living Blues magazine editor Scott Barretta declares in his liner notes to I Feel So Glad, the debut recording by the Eli Yamin Blues Band.  “There’s no denying that this is a unique ensemble,” he rightly says of the group led by pianist/vocalist-composer/arranger Eli Yamin, which features Grammy© nominated lead singer Kate McGarry, the master tuba player Bob Stewart and multitalented drummer LaFrae Sci, drums, voice.

The band will play tunes from the new album including their unique arrangements of Hound Dog, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, Trouble of the World, John Henry and Fishin’ Blues as well as new arrangements of the band’s original hit songs like Rwandan Child and A Healing Song.

MORE INFORMATION

PURCHASE TICKETS