Jazz in the Valley Returns to Poughkeepsie for its 16th Annual Celebration of America’s Music on Sunday, August 21 at Waryas Park.
Jazz leaders and legends including pianist Randy Weston, trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Javon Jackson, trombonist Craig Harris, and drummer Jimmy Cobb will join with emerging stars including vocalist Charenee Wade to headline the annual festival, on Sunday, August 21, noon-6:00pm, at Waryas Park on the banks of the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie (gates open at 11:00am).
Brecker, Jackson, and Cobb will join pianist George Cables and bassist Eddie Gomez in the superb band “Jazz by 5”, which is currently completing a European tour. Honey-voiced Charenee Wade has been described in the New York Times as, “a jazz singer of commanding skill, an heir to the legacies of Betty Carter and Carmen McRae.” Festival-goers can also shake their hips to Chico Àlvarez & the Palomonte Afro-Cuban Big Band.
This year’s lineup of free performances on the Waryas Park pavilion stage includes groups led by guitarist Slam Allen and vocalist Stephanie Hancock, as well as the Dutchess Community College Jazz Ensemble and the Mike Torsone Memorial Band led by trumpeter Matt Jordan. Visual art has a role this year in a pop-up gallery that will feature works by Jordan Baker-Caldwell, Brian Collier, Juliette Hemingway, and Lance Johnson.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
Jazz in the Valley is a beautifully staged daylong celebration presented by the Hudson Valley based multi-arts organization Transart & Cultural Services. The festival takes place on two stages at Waryas Park, a nine-acre green oasis alongside the Hudson River in downtown Poughkeepsie. The main stage under the big tent features the festival’s headline acts, while the pavilion stage hosts an afternoon of free performances by area musicians. A food court and global marketplace add more flavor to the daylong festival.
In past years Jazz in the Valley has presented a galaxy of star musicians, including several Grammy winners and National Endowment for the Arts “Jazz Master” honorees: Ahmad Jamal, Ron Carter, Roy Hargrove, Hugh Masakela, Kevin Mahogany, Bill Charlap, Cedar Walton, Curtis Fuller, Mulgrew Miller, Jimmy and Percy Heath, Eddie Palmieri, Arturo O’Farrill, Steve Turre, Michelle Rosewoman, Roy Ayers, Houston Person, Ray Mantilla, Lou Donaldson, and “Chocolate” Amenteros.
“What better way is there to spend an August Sunday afternoon than at our local park listening to world class music,” said Poughkeepsie City Council chairman Chris Petsas. “The view of the Hudson River is spectacular, but it’s the music that really counts. That, and bringing the diverse Hudson Valley community together” he remarked.
ABOUT THE MUSICIANS
This year’s roster of artists features some of the hardest working musicians in jazz and spans a mixture of styles from straight-ahead jazz, funk, fusion, to avant-garde — with some pop thrown in for fun:
Randy Weston is the living legend of the bunch, a pianist, composer, and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master known for honoring the African roots of jazz. His playing has been described as big, rich and like “velvet emerging from the keys.” At 90 years young he’s seen, heard, lived and could write about the history of jazz in the United States, while he remains acutely aware what is new. He has widely toured on five continents including 19 cities alone in Africa. Weston’s collaborators read like a chronicle of the Harlem Renaissance, from Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker to poet Langston Hughes.
Jazz in the Valley’s Artistic Director, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson, gained early fame as a player in renowned drummer Art Blakey’s band the Jazz Messengers, and has been bandleader on more than a dozen albums. His musical style suggests comparisons to John Coltrane and Joe Henderson, but he is comfortable moving traditions forward. He is also an educator, professor, and the chair of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford.
Drumming legend Jimmy Cobb was a longtime collaborator of Miles Davis, including on such classic recordings as Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain. Now an NEA Jazz Master he leads a variety of New York-based bands including Jimmy’s Cobb’s Mob, and he’s sought out to teach master classes at Stanford University and other schools.
Trombonist and composer Craig Harris hails from the more avant-garde wing of jazz. He originally earned his innovative bona fides playing with Sun Ra and then began constantly touring the world with such groups as Tailgaters Tales and Cold Sweat. While performing in Australia he discovered the Aboriginal wind instrument the didgeridoo that is now part of his repertoire. Recently he entered multimedia and performance art with works like God’s Trombones, based on poems used by preachers for inspiration.
Grammy-Award winning Randy Brecker brings pop influences to jazz, with his trumpet and flugelhorn playing featured on recordings ranging from Charles Mingus to Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Parliament Funkadelic, and Frank Zappa. His high-octane music has been called “electrojazzfunk” and the longtime collaboration with his brother (the late Michael Brecker) inspired one music critic to exclaim, “This is about as funky as white boys can get.”
Grammy-winning bassist Eddie Gomez has played for more than four decades with a host of jazz greats including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan and Benny Goodman. At age 21 he was hired on the spot by renowned pianist Bill Evans for his trio, and his wide influences have grown to come from Latin jazz, classical music and even fusion as a founding member of the band Steps Ahead. On the side, Gomez is a classical and pop musician recording with artists such as Carly Simon and Paul Simon.
George Cables is a pianist and composer with a long list of credits as a bandleader and sideman, who got off to a quick start in the jazz world. As an 18-year-old Cables joined The Jazz Samaritans and soon after gained the attention of drummer Art Blakey, who recruited Cables into his renowned band the Jazz Messengers. Cables admits to being a musical chameleon of sorts, able to put on a different hat with each of his collaborators who have included Art Pepper, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Sarah Vaughan.
Bandleader and vocalist “Chico” Àlvarez Peraza is a U.S. born Cuban-America who was raised in Cuba, whose music has a classic Cuban/Latin flavor that’s hard to resist. Àlvarez also well known for his New York radio show covering Latin music called New World Gallery.
Percussionist Neil Clarke expresses strong African in his artful playing, but he is equally at home in gospel, jazz, pop or R&B. The multi-faceted performer has had a long collaboration with Randy Weston as a member of African Rhythms, and toured the world with Harry Belafonte. Back in New York, he performed in the Broadway production of Timbuktu and with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Alex Blake plays acoustic bass very distinctively. Sometimes he strums, often he slaps the instrument, but whatever he does, he succeeds in making the instrument release the most wonderful strange sounds that only he can create. Proof can he heard in his solo on the Beatles classic With a Little Help from My Friends.
Singer Charenee Wade re-created songs by the late Gil Scott-Heron in her recent recording “Offering,” which was warmly received for its edgy and alive interpretations. Wade performs internationally and is regularly heard in New York at Jazz at Lincoln Center and such top clubs as the Jazz Gallery, Smalls, and the Zinc Bar. An award-winning composer, arranger, and jazz educator, she is also a professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music, part of Queens College in New York.
General admission is $50, and $60 at the gate. Students with valid ID gain entrance for $20. Tickets can be purchased online through the festival’s website: jazzinthevalleyny.org or in person at two Hudson Valley locations: The Mid-Hudson Civic Center box office (14 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie, 845 – 454-5800), Blue-Byrds Haberdashery & Music (320 Wall Street, Kingston, 845 – 339-3174). For group ticket sales, directions and more information about Jazz in the Valley, contact TRANSART at firstname.lastname@example.org, (845) 384‑6350 or log on to www.jazzinthevalleyny.org. For a combination ticket and round trip bus travel from New York City call (917) 345‑1357 or (646) 643‑3035.
ABOUT TRANSART & CULTURAL SERVICES
Transart & Cultural Services, Inc. is a West Park, NY non-profit arts organization dedicated to promoting awareness of the art, history and popular culture of people of African descent. Transart has a long history of reaching out to students in public education to communicate with kids about how cool the arts can be, whether it’s fine art, visual art, performance art or music of all kinds. “We go into the schools all over the Hudson Valley to educate under-served kids through a series of programs and classes including Behind the Beat: Intro to Jazz,” says founder and president Greer Smith. During Behind the Beat sessions, professional musicians interact with local band students. Other opportunities for students include weekly drumming workshops, musical assemblies and master classes.
Every August, Transart becomes a concert promoter with Jazz in the Valley to show the public, in many cases local students, what professional musicians are like in action. “With Jazz in the Valley, the audience gets to experience the thrill of live music with masters of the genre,” says Smith. Transart hopes to create a new generation of jazz lovers and listeners through educating students about the history of jazz and its cultural relevance in minority communities. Kids need to see they are part of something bigger, part of a history, an artistic movement that’s alive,” says Smith.
Promotional partner for Jazz in the Valley is Metro North. Transart’s funding also comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Dutchess Tourism, Hudson River Valley Tours, the City of Poughkeepsie and others.