MFM’s 1st Official Public Event…An Evening of Jazz and Solidarity
Event review by Dawoud Kringle
On Wednesday, Sept 5th, 2018, Musicians for Musicians (MFM) and Eclectix (a composers and musicians organization) united forces to present an Evening of Jazz in Support of Professional Musicians at Zinc Bar (NY). The night’s music was offered by tenor sax master and MFM board member Billy Harper and his Quintet, and the E.C.O. Ensemble, a quintet of jazz composers / musicians led by guitarist and MFM supporter Roger Blanc. Kim Schmidt hosted and opened the event.
Billy Harper’s ensemble (featuring Freddie Hendricks on trumpet, Francesca Tanksley on piano, Hwansu Kang on bass, and Aaron Scott on drums) opened with “Illuminations,” a piece that started with hits and silences. Hendricks and Harper joined the drums, bass, and piano. This led into a melodically vivacious head.
Text by By Dawoud Kringle
On the morning of September 1st, 2018, pianist and composer Randy Weston was called home.
Randy Weston was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. to Vivian (née Moore; a native of Virginia) and Frank Weston (of Jamaican-Panamanian descent, who owned a restaurant in Brooklyn where Weston was raised). His father was a staunch Garveyite, who passed on the Pan-Africanist leader’s Afrocentric, self-reliant values to his son. He became interested in music at a young age. Among his early influences and inspirations were jazz giants such as Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and Duke Ellington. He would often cite Thelonious Monk as having the greatest impact on him.
After serving in the US armed forces in WW2, taking time to study European classical piano, and later running a restaurant (which was frequented by many jazz musicians), Weston began performing in the late 1940s with Bullmoose Jackson, Frank Culley and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. He worked with Kenny Dorham in 1953 and in 1954 with Cecil Payne. He formed his own trio and quartet and released his debut recording as a leader in 1954, “Cole Porter in a Modern Mood.” In 1955, Down Beat magazine’s International Critics’ Poll voted him New Star Pianist.
Text by Dawoud Kringle and Photos by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi
On Monday, November 20th MFM hosted an experimental gathering. MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi, and jazz legend Billy Harper organized a jazz musician meeting at Yeoryia Studios in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Billy Harper was, of course, the keynote speaker.
The meeting was not well attended. Many of the over two dozen musicians who were personally invited by Saadat had the good manners to personally inform him that they could not attend (among them were Joe Lovano, Ron Carter, Randy Brecker, and Ray Blue). It is a regrettable thing, because some relevant and fascinating issues were brought up for discussion.
One of these was the question many musicians ask: is jazz dead? The answer is a decisive and intractable “No.” but there are difficulties that jazz must overcome. The struggles of jazz musicians – and all music professionals – have been beset by an ever changing set of circumstances and factors on the business and technological realities of the music business- all of which affects the public zeitgeist regarding jazz. Harper pointed out that every 10 years somebody propagates that jazz is dead as a way to get some attention for jazz music. There is truth to this; and perhaps serves to kick jazz musicians and audiences out of their complacency. Some people, musicians included, have a tendency to treat jazz as a “museum music:” i.e. they freeze it into a classical form, and resist its natural and organic nature to evolve. There is also they tendency of the corporatocracy to deliberately resist the prosperity and vibrancy of jazz. The reason for this is simple; the “dumbing down” of the audiences generates greater profits over a shorter period of time. The recent developments in computer based music technology facilitate these phenomenons – and also facilitate the opposition to the degeneration of musical and artistic sublimity and meaning.