The way Emerson Corley of Entourage Jazz tells the story, the two were easy enough to combine. Bringing jazz into the service of local community enrichment efforts works when there’s a deeply rooted progressive community at the helm in city filled with substantive ideas designed to make the human experience more meaningful, productive and healthy.
This story starts with the previous summer’s sold-out tribute to American songsters Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. Among the concertgoers: A representative of a local organization devoted to prevention, intervention and recovery services for victims of domestic violence.
Then a call went out, asking how one might engage the uplifting arrangements and sel- empowering vocalizations of a noted local jazz ensemble to bring attention to a public health crisis that continues to haunt our city and state.
Following some preliminary conferencing, Domestic Violence Resource Center Executive Director Vincent Galbiati met with Entourage Jazz founder and band leader Emerson Corley. The two came up with a plan: A benefit concert for DVRC could raise needed funds to help the organization work with a growing number of clients while bringing the narrative of the necessity of such programs to a larger audience.
A concert indeed took shape and Emerson felt that the music of Bobby and Frank would be a perfect way to begin a discussion about domestic violence in Albuquerque.
Fascinated with the purposeful, supportive idea that had been hatched, Weekly Alibi asked Emerson Corley of EJazz and Vincent Galbiati of DVRC to stop by the office for a chat. Here’s a glimpse into that meeting of minds.
Weekly Alibi: Mr. Galbiati, tell our readers about the program you run and how it all got mixed together with jazz music.
Vincent Galbiati: I am the Executive Director for DVRC. Our organization provides resources for victims and survivors—and thrivers—of domestic violence. We have a very specific model [that we use] that I’m very proud of. We engage victims on the crime scene. We’re not the first responders, but we’re the second responders. Once the police presence is calmed down and the victim is left alone, what other resources are available at that moment in time?
So your organization provides access?
Actually it’s our advocates that do the work. There’s three units at DVRC. There’s the victim advocate unit, then there’s case management and intake. And then there’s counseling. It’s considered an end-to-end model, so it’s very contained. We engage the victim at the crime scene, that’s the first opportunity we have to break domestic violence cycles. We take a victim from there, take them through intake and provide case management. These are people that are in the most desperate of situations—they have no food, no clothing, no money. Case managers provide a foundation—shelter, food, security, sleep. Then we bring them into counseling to reinforce their choices to break that cycle of domestic violence. Once we get them into our system, our success rate is about 88 percent.
That’s an impressive number. And as you said it’s all about providing the things people need to establish stability and agency. That must take a constant influx of money to keep the mechanism of help working. That must be where Emerson and Entourage Jazz come in, right?
Emerson Corley: Yes, absolutely right on all counts. We were asked to do a repeat performance of the Jazz Under the Stars show we did last year.
That was an award-winning performance, as I recall.
Yeah, we won this year’s Best of Burque Music Reader’s Poll for Best Performance. It’s a dream come true to bring that concert back, especially for this cause.
How did it all happen?
My cherished friend Denise Wilcox is on the board of the DVRC and she saw the show the summer before last. She got the idea to repeat the show and have all of the ticket proceeds go to DVRC New Mexico.
All of the ticket revenue?
Vincent: It’s amazingly generous.
How many seats does the KiMo have?
Emerson: It seats about 600 people. Denise is sponsoring this show herself, along with Tom Crow Financial—as well as a few very generous EJazz fans who are funding an end-of-concert surprise.
So some of Burque’s hard working musicians are getting good work and the community is set to provide necessary funding for a program that’s absolutely necessary in Albuquerque. Que bueno! Does the organization also receive funding from other sources?
Vincent: Our funding sources are primarily government grants from the city, state and federal governments. What my job is—and I’ve only been here for about four months—is to, well my background is in corporate development.
Wow, how did you end up in Burque?
I took the scenic route here. My mother and father retired here. mM father was involved in the copper industry and he had a project up in Cuba. My father can’t live on his own anymore, so in addition to my work with DVRC, I’m his primary caregiver. He has early onset Alzheimer's.
So it sounds like you had a calling to be out here.
I actually did the star- up phases for the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and I was asked by one of the members to interview for the position at DVRC because of my skill set. My main skill is development under duress. When I came on board, I noticed that the organization hadn’t grown, and I wondered why. We’re putting money together to help DVRC grow. We are not big enough right now and we need to structure upwards.
Emerson: It’s a good fit.
Obviously domestic violence remains a huge problem in these parts.
It’s disturbing. From my perspective, I told the board of directors that my inspiration was to grow the institution. We believe tise concert will be a memorable part of that.
Speaking of memorable, Emerson, you’ve spent about three years now growing one of Burque’s best jazz ensembles.
Emerson: Well, the other thing to remember about this show, though, August is that it’s not just a concert featuring the music of Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. Anyone who has attended the show before knows that. It’s a story interwoven with music. The story line is really about the personal and professional struggles of these two men. They were not always kind to women; they were products of their times.
The patriarchy was much stronger in their age, que no?
Right. I bring that up during the course of the performance. I wrote an entire story about these men, the good, the bad, the ugly, the great. It’s all in there—and also how they handled racial injustice. These two were some of the first American popular musicians to acknowledge the importance of African-American music, too. Frank Sinatra’s harpist, who will be with us for the show, told me that Frank wouldn’t play in places where Nat “King” Cole couldn’t play. There’s a lot of irony there.
Vincent: There’s an interesting cultural parallel because you had Jackie Robinson coming up in the Majors at the same time.
These were all precursors to the coming sea change, the cultural revolution of the ’60s. Hopefully we’ll have another progressive tidal wave like that and domestic violence will finally be swept away.
Vincent: We can only hope.
So, brass tacks, why is this show important, philosophically and musically?
From my perspective, domestic violence is one of the most under reported crimes. The prevalence in tribal communities is incredibly high. The more people that have this knowledge—and this is the odd thing about domestic violence, neither the abuser or the abused want to be recognized publicly—the better the chance we have to begin breaking the cycle. The summation from me is this: I know this topic is uncomfortable, but the less one talks about it, the more it stays hidden. The more that people in the community do—whether it’s talking on a panel, whether its presenting the issue in the theater or the concert hall—the more success we as a community will have. I love the idea about [dialogue during] performance and theater because those forms approach the issue in a very unique fashion. That also exposes the problem to an audience that may never have known the problem exists.
Emerson: I wanna dovetail on that. I think the thing about EJazz—one of my ideas about the ensemble all along—is to have a message with the music. And sometimes, being a clinical social worker myself, I’m always wondering how to get that message in there, through the back door, so people don’t realize it—then they’re scratching their heads afterwards and thinking, “What just happened? I thought I was just going to a concert, but now I feel something different, I’m thinking about something in a new way.” The fact that we’re recreating this event together—as a community—signifies that we have a deep message for you all. We have to think about this, it’s not just about nice music It’s about human struggle.