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!!!
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