2018 NM Jazz Festival offers something for everyone
By Adam Wood
courtesy of the artist
“I always thought that music had no boundaries, no limits to where it could grow and go, no restrictions on its creativity. Good music is good no matter what kind of music it is”—Miles Davis
The greatest musicians tend to speak of music in terms of the language of the living. Music grows and develops; it expresses and it speaks; it moves and it breathes. Usually reserved for those beings considered “graced” with consciousness, these are words of action. They are words that describe vitality and purpose.
Great music is not a tool—a means to an end—but an entity entirely unto itself, transcending individual sounds, ideas and emotions to become a creation. Once unleashed on the world, it is autonomous, free to interact with the world in unexpected, often beautiful ways. We passively listen to music; music actively changes us.
Because of the way we experience it, identify with it, define ourselves by it, music possesses a curious dual capacity to forge connection or cleave division. At its best, music is a source of celebration and communion. At its worst, it superficially separates and estranges us.
Too often this experience is decided not by we-the-people but by the powers-that-be, who impose strict, meaningless labels in an effort to define the possibilities for music and people alike. But good music is good no matter what kind of music it is—and you’re a hell of a lot more likely to find it out there in the real world than obsessively flipping through radio stations.
The next three weeks provide invaluable and abundant opportunity to open your minds, hearts and ears to truly great music—the kind that lives and breathes and shakes you to your core. Thanks to outstanding collaboration between The Lensic and Outpost Performance Space, the 13th Annual New Mexico JazzFestival is boogie-ing into venues throughout Santa Fe, Albuquerque andTaos from July 11 through July 30.
The festival boasts a cornucopia of riches that make it remarkably accessible even to those without a jazzy bone in their body. Ranky Tanky promises warm spiritual revival, while the Charles McPherson Quartet brings liberation through bebop and 2017 NEA Jazz Master (and three-time Grammy winner) Dee Dee Bridgewater challenges all conception of genre.
While the full schedule can be found online here, two notable events conveniently bookend it: the John Lewis Project Youth Jazz Clinic and Concert on July 11, and the performance of Black Wall Street by Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran on July 29 and 30.
Ranky Tanky: “Green Sally”
John Lewis Project Youth Jazz Clinic and Concert
“The main thing a musician would like to do is give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things that he knows of and senses in the universe.”—John Coltrane
Though the name John Lewis might resonate a bit more profoundly here in New Mexico than the rest of the world, he is a bona fide jazz legend, a man whose name deserves to be uttered in the same sacred breath as the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Lewis is one of our city’s proudest protégés, a product of the South Broadway neighborhood in the Roaring Twenties and a graduate of Albuquerque High School and then UNM. Eventually, his piano-playing talents outgrew humbler surroundings and Lewis made his way to New York in search of kindred spirits.
His collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis gave him the connections and clout to establish the Modern Jazz Quartet—a group that would, under Lewis’ vision and tutelage, meld the spontaneous improvisational fun of bebop with complex classical structures to create “Third Stream” jazz and attain eternal glory.
Lewis was also a leader and teacher who believed in the vitality of music and the youth. Throughout his life, he was dedicated to teaching jazz piano to ambitious aspirants—and though his music lives on through itself, this part of his legacy is one we must keep alive.
As part of the 5th Annual John Lewis Celebration, this year’s iteration of the NM Jazz Festival offers 7th to 12th grade students the opportunity to work with notable local jazz musicians in preparation for a performance of Lewis’ own compositions. It is the perfect way to kick off a spectacular series, and a glowing tribute to Lewis’ memory and legacy.
Black Wall Street
Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran: Black Wall Street
courtesy of the artist
“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.”—John Coltrane
Though jazz is famously evocative, capable of stirring passion from even the most detached of listeners, it also has the potential to be immensely educational. The best jazz transcends both of those things, and teaches us through—and sometimes even about—our emotions.
With Black Wall Street, Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran are poised to make a profound, and depressingly relevant, impact. A deeply intimate account of the 1921 Tulsa race riot—a ruthless mob attack which devastated the wealthiest black community in the United States but is perplexingly (and tellingly) absent in national conversation—this theatrical performance is a brave step towards the revitalization of jazz music as a political and social agent.
New Mexico Jazz Festival
July 11 through July 30 A Collaborative Project Between The Outpost Performance Space • 210 Yale Blvd. SE and The Lensic Performing Arts Center • 211 W. San Francisco St., Santa Fe For tickets visit newmexicojazzfestival.org