Monthly Archives: May 2014

Highlights from the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival in May 2014

606f21c9b0946a826267bc255179c894The Apollo Theater recently celebrated the fourth annual Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival from May 4 – 10 in 2014 with a series of performances and special events featuring some of the finest talent in contemporary Jazz. The event was organized by the Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage, and Jazzmobile in collaboration with Columbia University and I was fortunate enough to attend on the final two nights on Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th.

For those who may not know, the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival honors the extremely rich legacy of jazz in the uptown New York City community and the neighborhood’s continued role as a place to showcase new jazz talent. Over the past four years, the festival has become a staple of the New York City and Harlem cultural calendar and showcases a range of today’s top artists and emerging musicians with concerts and events at venues across Harlem.

On Friday, at the Apollo Music Cafe, the audience was treated to the sounds of Lakecia Benjaminand Sound Squad. During her powerful set, she was joined by the Motéma All-Stars to pay tribute to the iconic venue “Small’s Paradise” with a night of jazz, funk, and soul. Small’s Paradise, located at 2294½ Seventh Avenue near 135th Street, was one of the most successful and best-known nightclubs in the history of Harlem, and the most prestigious club owned by an African American.

With her deep jazz roots and strong command as a talented saxophonist, Lakecia has become an in demand player, arranger, and section leader she has been involved in and invited to work on projects with high profile names in music such as: Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, The Roots, and Anita Baker.

On Saturday, night, I experienced the Sounds of the New Orleans band Water Seed. The smooth jazz sounds and vocals pumped up the crowd. During the set, they added a few pop favorites along with funk and a bit of gospel.

Both nights were a spectacular experience for the audience as well as myself which is sure to leave them anticipating next year’s Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival event.

The Sublime and Beautiful’s Realistic View of Grief in Film

fc052bc3dcde66441fa29fd3d489b81eIt is something we all have to deal with in life. Whether it has affected us directly, there will come a time in life when each person will have to face death or attend a funeral.

Now there are those times when death can be expected. For example if someone in your family has had a long illness or you have a grandparent who has lived a long life, but what happens when it is not expected. What happens when you have gone about your day and you receive that dreaded call that literally changes your life?

This is what happens to main character in the film entitled The Sublime and Beautiful. David Conrad is a college professor and sometimes philanderer raising three children in a small Kansas suburb with his wife Kelly. When sudden tragedy strikes the family in the days before Christmas, David and Kelly’s marriage is brought to its breaking point and David’s desire for retribution leads him into uncharted moral territory with the question: what or how can we forgive?

The Sublime and Beautiful is wonderfully directed by Blake Robbins. As the story unfolds the audience has the opportunity to ask themselves the hard questions of what they would do if they were faced with such a heartbreaking truth. The film is dark, haunting and a little melancholy, but very well acted and keeps you interested in finding out more about the characters.

For 2014, the Sublime and Beautiful was chosen as one of the 10 films to see at Slamdance Film Festival. In addition, the film has screened at Cleveland Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Charleston Film Festival, Kansas City Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival. The film will also be screening at Milan International Film Festival – May 8th through 18th, Cinetopia International Film Festival – June 4th through 8th,Waterfront Festival – June 12th through 15th and Free State Film Festival – June 25th through 29th

For more information on the film visit their IMDB Page or see when the film can be seen in a city near you. You can also find out more on Twitter and Facebook. This film is sure to open to the door to massive conversations about death and coping afterwards which is a universal theme we all have to deal with no matter what our background.

Jazzmobile, Inc. Celebrates 2014 Harlem Shrines Jazz Festival

2c8b80953e7adb3d3e1ff85dfbf2b853The Apollo Theater, Jazzmobile and Harlem Stage do it again as they prepare for the 2014 Harlem Shrines Jazz Festival. This year they are presenting some of today’s hottest jazz artists at the fourth annual Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival (HJSF), May 4 – 10, with a series of swinging events at the newly-renovated Minton’s, Ginny’s Supper Club, The Riverside Theatre and MIST Harlem.

Jazzmobile‘s HJSF events include a salute to the Savoy Ballroom with a tribute to Lindy Hop dancer extraordinaire Frankie Manning featuring The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra plus lecture/dance demonstrations with the Cecil Bridgewater Big Band; a discussion on Charlie Parker with authors Stanley Crouch and Professor Farah Jasmine Griffin;the Jazzmobile Vocal Competition Kick-Off; and Minton’s Playhouse: New Legends on the Bandstand, honoring the legendary birthplace of bebop with alto saxophonists Antonio Hart and T.K. Blue, pianist Christian Sands, singer Charenee Wade and a live recording session featuring drummer T.S. Monk and his Sextet.

Co-founded by NEA Jazz Master, pianist/educator/broadcaster Dr. Billy Taylor and former arts patron Daphne Arnstein, Jazzmobile has been a HJSF partner/presenter – along with The Apollo Theatre and Harlem Stage, York – since the festival’s inception. Together, this terrific triad – in collaboration with Columbia University in the City of New – fulfills the festival’s mission to pay tribute to the panorama of the Harlem Renaissance-era jazz clubs, speakeasies, supper clubs, cabarets, dance halls and churches that gave birth to modern and Latin jazz, which laid the foundations for R&B, soul, salsa and hip-hop. The seven-night salute includes stellar presentations throughout Harlem’s 21st Century venues, featuring emerging and established artists, panel discussions, dances, films and more.

Jazzmobile’s HJSF shout-out to the golden age of jazz starts with the immortal Minton’s Playhouse, the after-hours joint where musicians relaxed and jammed when they were finished with their “legitimate” gigs. Run by saxophonist and musician’s union rep Teddy Hill, the club was born in the Hotel Cecil on West 118th Street. It’s no wonder that Ralph Ellison wrote that Minton’s Playhouse was where “Dizzy Gillespie found his own trumpeter voice … Kenny Clarke worked out patterns of his drumming style; where Charlie Christian played out the last creative and truly satisfying moments of his brief life … where Charlie Parker built the monument of his art; [and] where Thelonious Monk formulated his contribution to the chordal progressions and the hide-and-seek melodic methods of jazz,” all of which led to the creation of bebop. Minton’s Playhouse, the time-defying temple-of-tempo-and-tone, operated for several decades until it closed in 1974. Former Time Warner, Inc. executive Richard Parsons reopened it as Minton’s Restaurant in 2013.

For more information on the Harlem Shrines Jazz Festival, visit their website at: