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National Jazz Museum in Harlem Feb. 21 - Feb. 27, 2011

Upcoming events at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem for this week include

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Monday, February 21, 2011

* Please note the Museum will be closed in observance of President's Day.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jazz for Curious Listeners
Jazz on Film: Miles Davis
7:00 – 8:30pm
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300

Miles Davis on film playing trumpet with the Gil Evans Orchestra as John Coltrane waits in the wings is one of the iconic moments caught on film in the 20th century. Come view this footage, and other examples of Davis, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, on film, and share once again in the magic of Miles’s sound and musical spirit.

Wednesday, February 23, 2010

Jazz Is: Now!
Jonathan Batiste
7:00pm
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300

Jazz is not a bygone relic of a gloried past, it’s alive and well right now. Jazz does have a storied past, filled with musical giants who walked the earth, yet there are vibrant young musicians such as Jonathan Batiste who are the legends in the making. Come witness the evolution, lend him your ear, and engage him in discussion about the current state of jazz and future prospects for what Dr. Billy Taylor called “America’s classical music.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Harlem Speaks
Otis Brown III, drummer
6:30 – 8:30pm
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)                                 
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300
Tonight the New Jersey native Otis Brown III will bring his joyful style to Harlem Speaks in a discussion about his life and career as a jazz drummer.

Since his birth in Hackensack, NJ, Otis has traveled a path that has led to him being one of the most in demand, and well respected musicians today. Expressing an early interest in music, Otis began his musical studies at age 7; by age 12 he was playing lead alto saxophone in the school bands while playing the drums in the Baptist church.

After moving to Newark, N.J., he continued performing double duty in his school bands playing snare drum in marching band, and alto saxophone in the jazz and concert ensembles, all of which were directed by his father Otis Brown Jr. He decided to pursue his musical education in college at Delaware State University, where he met legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd, an encounter that changed his life. He spent countless hours under the wings of Dr. Byrd, who later suggested that Otis continue his studies in New York, the jazz capital. He was awarded a scholarship to attend the prestigious New School University.

Since his arrival in New York Otis has performed and toured with musicians the caliber of Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, Eric Lewis, Ron Blake, Roy Hargrove, Frank Lacy, Jeremy Pelt, Don Braden, Marc Ribot, Adam Rodgers, Pete Malinverni, Tim Hagans, Conrad Herwig, John Hicks, Oliver Lake, Aaron Goldberg, Bob Mintzer, George Garzone, and many others.

He currently can be seen touring with the Thelonious Monk Institute’s Jazz in America initiative, in various of Joe Lovano’s ensembles, the Laurent Coq trio, the Franck Amsallem trio and quartet, the Steve Wilson quartet, the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Bob Stewart tuba project and several other musical configurations.

Otis Redding's 2-CD 'Live on the Sunset Strip'

In 1966, Otis Redding had emerged not only as the star of Stax Records but as one of nation’s most influential soul singers. With his version of “Satisfaction” climbing the charts in April 1966, Redding arrived in Los Angeles to play both the Hollywood Bowl (as part of a KHJ-AM listener appreciation concert that also featured Donovan, Sonny & Cher and the Mamas & the Papas) and a four-nighter at the legendary Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip. According to Taj Mahal, whose ’60s band the Rising Sons opened the Whisky shows, “At that time, Otis was it.”

Live on the Sunset Strip, slated for May 18, 2010 release on Stax Records through Concord Music Group, captures Redding in the white heat of transition, when his star power was undeniable and it was still possible to catch him backed by his own road band in the tight quarters of a smoky nightclub. The 2-CD set features three full live sets that have never been previously available in their entirety. A definitive live statement from Redding, the songs are sequenced exactly as they went down, complete with an emcee and spoken introductions by Redding. The booklet features rare photographs as well as extensive liner notes by Ashley Kahn, author of music biographies and a contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition.

Live on the Sunset Strip highlights versions of Redding’s best-known songs: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Security,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Satisfaction,” “Respect,” “These Arms of Mine” and “Just One More Day,” to name a few.

As Kahn points out in his notes, “In 1966, Redding was 24 and defined not only the sound but the style and look of a true soul man. Tall and lanky, he was ready to drop to his knees and tear off the thin-lapelled jacket of his sharply pressed suit when it was time to deliver the goods. His ten-piece band was his personal, traveling amen-corner, urging him to testify night after night . . . His out-of-breath stage patter was warm and downhome. ‘Ladies and gentlemens,’ he addressed his fans, ‘holler as loud as you wanna — you ain’t home!’”

The Whisky A Go Go was known for its integrated booking policy and for helping bring awareness of R&B and blues to rock audiences, who attended shows by the Doors, Love, and the Standells at the venue. On April 7-10, the club booked the Otis Redding Revue for the Easter weekend that followed the Hollywood Bowl appearance. Redding’s entourage included an emcee and a full 10-piece band (led by saxophonist Bob Holloway) along with three up-and-coming singers performing one tune apiece before the headliner hit the stage. Engineer Wally Heider, the West Coast’s leading recorder of live performances, was hired to tape the three nights.

The shows did not go unnoticed by the Los Angeles Times, which noted: “Drawn by his growing popularity, a fervid audience shoe-horned into the club . . . Redding was assured of an In Group [sic] following Thursday night when from among his spectators emerged Bob Dylan, trailed by an entourage of camp followers.” (Legend holds that Dylan offered him “Just Like a Woman” as a possible cover that night, though Redding thought the song was a little wordy.)

Redding achieved even greater heights in the months after the Whisky performances, chalking up two new hits (“Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa [Sad Song]” and “Try a Little Tenderness”). He played San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, took part in the Stax/Volt Revue through Europe in March ’67 and stole the show at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in June of that year. The ultimate tragedy happened on December 10, 1967, when, as eloquently stated by Kahn, “his death in an airplane crash . . . dramatically froze his star forever in its perfect, meteoric apogee.”

In 1968, Stax posthumously issued the LP In Person at the Whisky A Go Go, with liner notes by Los Angeles Times critic Pete Johnson, who’d also reviewed the live show. In 1993, the CD Good to Me: Recorded Live at the Whisky, Vol. 2 expanded on a largely forgotten 1982 LP, Recorded Live. While those releases juggled selections from different shows, Live on the Sunset Strip stands out as a historically true document, offering the last three consecutive sets capturing Redding and his band in top form.

“I’m still real clear about those shows,” recalls Taj Mahal, whose Rising Sons opened them. “It was raw and unscripted. It was just the joy of music, you know. The joy of rhythm, the joy of energy. . .”

Otis Taylor Examines the Darker Dimensions of Love

No one ever accused blues singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Otis Taylor of overindulging in the happier aspects of the human condition. His songs are often peopled with characters whose emotional landscape — no matter how raw or dark — is laid bare for all to experience, and the story is often less than pretty.

otis taylorBut if love — in any or all of its joyous and painful variations — is somewhere amid that confusing emotional swirl, he’ll go there too. The result will by no means be syrupy ballads obsessing over romantic love. Instead, Taylor’s love songs take a hard, realistic look at the relative benefits and costs of what is perhaps the most unnerving of forces within the human heart.

Taylor’s new recording, Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs, throws a light on the complexities of love in all of its forms. The album is set for June 23, 2009, release on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group. In addition to Taylor’s trademark haunting vocals and simple but stirring guitar riffs — a combination often referred to as trance blues — the album also features guest appearances by Irish blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore (previously heard on Taylor’s Definition of a Circle in 2007) and jazz/hip-hop pianist Jason Moran.

Within these songs of love are tales of tragedy and loss, misunderstanding and deception — but there’s often a glimmer of hope as well. “That’s just my nature,” says Taylor. “I may write love songs, but they aren’t always going to be happy and pretty. Look at songs like ‘Teen Angel’ or ‘Ode To Billy Joe.’ Those are love songs, but they aren’t exactly happy. So why shouldn’t my songs be considered love songs?”

The set opens with the pensive “Looking for Some Heat,” the story of a man looking for some love and sunshine. Moran and cornetist Ron Miles provide enough subtle riffs to serve as counterpoint to Taylor’s more edgy vocals. “I met Jason in Germany once, but I didn’t really pay that much attention to him at first,” says Taylor. “Then I saw him in concert in West Virginia, and I was really amazed. I wanted to get him on one of my records.”

The melancholy “Sunday Morning” features lead vocals by Cassie Taylor (Otis’ 21-year-old daughter), backed by Gary Moore’s understated but potent flamenco guitar lines. The power of the song lies in the simplicity of the lyrics, as they draw attention to the images and rituals of what is often the most introspective day of the week.

“Lost My Guitar” was inspired by the tragic true story of Emma K. Walsh, whose preschool-age daughter was killed in a car accident in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974. The singer in the song laments the loss of his guitar, but “the guitar is a metaphor for the child,” says Taylor.

“I’m Not Mysterious,” a tale of puppy love between two eight-year-olds, seems innocent enough, but the difference in race between the two children makes for an undercurrent of tensions. “That’s something I’ve lived, so I decided to write about it,” says Taylor, who grew up in Denver in the ‘50s and ‘60s. “When I was a little kid, this little girl sent me a note telling me she loved me. So I followed her home to see where she lived. Then one time I visited her at her house. That was when I had to stop seeing her.”

otisThe hypnotic “Mama’s Best Friend,” sung by Cassie and fueled by the odjembe drumming of percussionist Fara Tolno, is a glimpse into the life of Taylor’s mother — a sort of follow-up chapter to “Mama’s Selling Heroin,” a track from his 2004 recording, Double V. “My mother was gay, and she eventually hooked up with one of her girlfriends,” he explains. “My father left and went to California. I put these stories out there for my children.”

The closer, “If You Hope,” is a story about a ghost who wants his lover to join him in the afterlife. “If you listen to the very end, you hear it build up beautifully,” says Taylor, “sort of like a grand finale to the entire album. It brings the various elements of my music together — the jazz, the blues-rock, all of it.”

Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs follows Taylor’s 2008 opus Recapturing the Banjo, an album that celebrated the African roots of an instrument whose origins have been largely obscured by its subsequent associations with Appalachian folk music.

“This is a different kind of endeavor for me,” he says of the new recording. “I found myself saying, ‘What can I do after making a banjo album? What will people want to listen to?’ My answer was love songs. I’m doing things here that I didn’t have the opportunity to do on previous albums, things that people wouldn’t normally expect from me, compared to what I’ve done so far. I think it’s one of my best works because it has such unusual elements.”