Jazz music lovers in the central piedmont area of North Carolina, commonly called the Triangle, have dreamed about the long, luscious, ear-pleasing list of first-class jazz acts that are scheduled to appear in the area this season, 2011-2012. Congratulations again and a job well done to the directors of Duke Performances (www.dukeperformances.org), Carolina Performing Arts (www.carolinaperformingarts.org) and Center Stage (www.ncsu.edu/centerstage.org). They are all university based organizations and are offering a wide variety of what’s happening in today’s jazz world. The programs include legendary jazz masters, middle-age lions and up-and-coming younger new names. There will also be opportunities for the public to listen to the artists talk about their work and for the audience to ask questions. This sounds just as exciting as the music because one of the things that these programs tend to do is show the public that most artist are basically human beings, not stars, nor celebrities, and most, are quite pleased to be accessible.
The festivities begin with Asheville, North Carolina-based sultry, suave, Georgia-born, distinct vocalist Lizz Wright appearing at Reynolds Industries Theater, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, October 7 at 8 p.m. In 2003, she was the talk of the jazz world, with the Verve release “Salt.” It was well-received and led many to call her the next Ella Fitzgerald. Since then, she has recorded two solo albums, and has been featured on four releases, including two called “We Love Ella.” She is an excellent vocalist who defies category, a treat that is a sparkling, perfect way to start off the Triangle jazz season. Last year, Wright took some time off, attended culinary school and, later, released her latest solo effort, “Fellowship.” She will be singing songs from this album when she appears at Duke University. Her concert is part of a tour that will end in Augusta, Georgia. She will also go on a European tour later this fall.
The soulful, earthy, pianist Randy Weston is scheduled to perform solo at The Nelson Music Room, Duke University (East Campus), Friday, October 21, at 8 p.m. Weston, who will also be an artist in residence, will participate in a class visit at The Dance Ark, East Campus, Duke University, at 7:30 pm, Thursday, October 20, and will take part in a conversation with Duke professor Nate Mackey, at The East Duke Parlor, Duke University, at 12:00 noon, October 21. Both of these events are free and open to the public, and should be very memorable, and should also give Randy a chance to talk about his new autobiography, “African Rhythms” (Duke University Press, 2010). The book, written with jazz journalist Willard Jenkins, is a wonderful, inspiring story of a talented young man who learned from, respected the jazz masters who came before him. Weston, through hard work, dedication and discipline was able to develop his own highly-recognizable sound that has made him a jazz master. He was given the Jazz Masters Award by The National Endowment For the Arts in 2001, and has taken his love of Africa and jazz music through out the world. His appearance in Durham will be his second in two years. He was recently in in the area for an exclusive, successful 2009 concert called “Jazz Fights Malaria” sponsored by Bouna Ndiaye’ s Bonjour Africa Malaria Project. In addition to his book, Weston recently released “The Storyteller,” (Motema Music) a live recording of an exciting engagement at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, in New York City, in 2009, which featured new arrangements of some Randy’s originals, with his band, and guest drummer Lewis Nash.
The next night, October 22, 2011, should be a chance to see and hear a super premium performance by The Regina Carter Quintet, featuring the much-acclaimed violinist, Detroit-born Carter, and her hard-working, busy group. They are presently on tour with a series of one nighters and are scheduled to appear on the campus of North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, at Stewart Theatre, at 8:00 pm. Carter, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award fellow, has been experimenting with African music and jazz lately and her latest recording “Reverse Thread” reflects that. It includes the sound of her adventurous violin, the kora, a West African harp, harmonica and plenty of drums. She plans to bring this group to Raleigh for a night of what is bound to be a concert of hot, highly-rhythmic, music that should have most of the crowd out of their seats.
November, 2011, looks like a good month for Triangle North Carolina area jazz lovers, too, with the appearance on November 11, of vocalist, cellist, Durham, North Carolina-based, New York native, energetic Shana Tucker, at the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre, at 7pm and 9 pm. She has become a strong creative force in the local music scene since she settled here a few years ago, and her latest release “Shine” has received rave reviews. Her concert will be followed on November 16, with an intriguing event at 7:30 pm, at Memorial Auditorium, on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, called “Still Black Still Proud–An African Tribute to James Brown” that will feature saxophonists Pee Wee Ellis and Kinston, North Carolina native, resident and James Brown alumnus Maceo Parker, along with African musicians, Vusi Mahlasela and Cheikh Lo. This affair is being called a night of world music, but, from the looks of the lineup, there is bound to be a few nice jazz licks in the air that night. This one looks like a must-see, once in a lifetime event and a concert that may never come this way for a long time. The Boston Globe called it: “a virtual soundtrack to the breakthrough of Black Consciousness.”
The splendid fall jazz music season in the Triangle area of North Carolina is just the beginning of what jazz lovers can look forward to coming up in 2012. The Branford Marsalis Quartet, whose leader saxophonist Branford lives in Durham, are scheduled to perform, January 13 and 14, 8 pm, at Reynolds Industries Theater, Duke University. This will be a rare chance to hear the tight, much-in-demand, band two nights in a row. Marsalis has become a highly-visible mentor, teacher and player since he moved here about a decade ago. It’s not unusual for him to pop in a local jazz jam session at the many jazz clubs in the area like Beyu, Whisky, Prime Steakhouse. Also on January 28, North Carolina State’s Center Stage presents another noteworthy jazz concert with the appearance ofThe Turtle Island Quartet who will perform “The Music of John Coltrane.”
The jazz group, Overtone Quartet (bassist Dave Holland, saxophonist, South Carolina native Chris Potter, pianist Jason Moran and drummer Eric Holland), will perform, Febuary 10, at 8 pm, at Memorial Hall, on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Almost two weeks later, on February 22, the very successful, long-running, 35th Annual Carolina Jazz Festival, which features high school and college competitions, workshops and master classes, and is sponsored by the UNC-CH music department and others, will start shortly after the Overtone Quartet concert. This year’s Carolina Jazz Festival headline act is supreme bassist Christian McBride and Inside Straight, his dynamic sizzling band composed of a group of young up and coming fine musicians. McBride and his unit are scheduled to play in Memorial Hall, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, February 24, at 8 pm.
The month of March will also be a time of bliss for Triangle jazz fans with the appearance, on March 15, of The Jazz At The Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis, at Memorial Auditorium, UNC-Chapel Hill, and on March 22, at 7:30 pm, with a rare solo concert featuring legendary pianist jazz master Herbie Hancock. It’s being billed as a “special event” and is part of an extensive tour that will take him from coast to coast. The much-talked-about, hip-hoppish, opinionated, exciting, Houston-born, New York-based pianist Robert Glasper and his trio are scheduled to perform two nights, March 30 and 31, at The Casbah, 1007 West Main Street, Durham, North Carolina, Glasper will also appear in an event called “Conversations” at The John Hope Franklin Center, Room 240, Durham, North Carolina, at 12 noon. The session, free to the public, will be moderated by Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal.
Fittingly, the 2011-2012 tantalizing, top-notch jazz season in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) concludes, April 10, with a duet concert at 7:30 pm at Memorial Hall, UNC-CH, featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau. It will be like putting a cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae, topping off what is bound to be a busy, diverse and thoroughly-satisfying year of jazz music that should make any jazz fan happy to be living in a place that is one of the “jazz capitals” of world, and a location, aspiring musicians call the “spot with the juice.” They may have a point. There are not many areas that can boast of two 24-hour jazz stations (WNCU and WSHA), several college and universities jazz studies departments and student jazz ensembles, several clubs that feature jazz, a Triangle Jazz Society and a strong, very-supportive, smart jazz audience, not to mention well-known residents like vocalist Nnenna Freelon (Durham), saxophonist Branford Marsalis (Durham), saxophonist, retired Duke University professor Paul Jeffrey (Durham), trumpeter Tom Browne (Garner) and the late pianist Mary Lou Williams, who lived in Durham and was the first director of the Jazz Studies Department at Duke University, from 1977 to 1981. But, what should or would you expect from the state that produced Monk, Trane, Max and Nina?
For more tickets and more information about the concerts at Carolina Performing Arts (www.carolinaperformingarts.org) call: (919) 843-3333; Duke Performances (www.dukeperformances.org): (919) 684-4444; North Carolina State University (www.ncsu.edu/center stage.org) call: (919) 513-3030.