JAZZ HOUSE KiDS, one of the nation’s preeminent jazz education organizations dedicated to transforming young lives through music, held a rousing Spring Gala on Wednesday, April 17, with fans, arts partners and corporate leaders from both sides of the Hudson at Michael Dorf’s City Winery in New York City to celebrate “The 60th Anniversary of the Most Influential Year in Jazz.”
The star-studded concert and dinner was hosted by Lester Holt, anchor of “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and “Dateline NBC,” and curated by six-time GRAMMY winner and bassist Christian McBride.
The evening featured 12-time GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Ledisi, John Coltrane’s son and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, award-winning trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, the GRAMMY award-winning Bill Charlap Trio, Christian McBride’s trailblazing New Jawn and JAZZ HOUSE KiDS award-winning ALUMNi and BiG BAND. This group of musical greats came together for a dynamic showing of musicianship and mentoring in support of JAZZ HOUSE KiDS’ full mission.
McBride fashioned the evening around six seminal recordings from 1959. He noted, “Fifteen years after the coming of bebop, when jazz began its transition from its role as dance and social music to a higher, more artistic calling, 1959 was a pivotal year in music.”
GRAMMY-winning music historian Ashley Kahn put it this way, “There are those rare moments – like 1959 – when the music is suddenly aflame with fresh ideas and sounds, and recorded masterpieces seem to arrive on a weekly basis.
ultimately proved that the year delivered a diverse range of game changers. Sixty years on, the recordings chosen for this evening still seduce and challenge, and still feel as urgent and relevant as ever.”
The music chosen for the evening included:
“The Genius of Ray Charles” and “Ella Sings the Gershwin Songbook,” performed by Ledisi
Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” performed by Ingrid Jensen
John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” performed by Ravi Coltrane
The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Time Out,” performed by the Bill Charlap Trio
Ornette Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” performed by Christian McBride’s New Jawn
The spring gala kicked off with the award-winning JAZZ HOUSE BiG BAND, under the direction of Abraham Burton, performing for 300 guests at the jam-packed club. Fresh off its first-place win at the 2019 Charles Mingus Festival and High School Competition, the band features 17 exceptionally talented musicians from across New Jersey who study at the JAZZ HOUSE. Once Ledisi took to the stage early in the evening for her mesmerizing rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the crowd was already on its feet.
The evening continued in such thrilling fashion, with one performance after another receiving the same enthusiastic response from the delighted audience.
JAZZ HOUSE KiDS, now in its 16th year, is the brainchild of McBride’s wife, jazz vocalist and founder Melissa Walker. “The impact of JAZZ HOUSE KiDS’ mission is evident in the current and former students we hear tonight,” said Walker. “Yes, we train the next generation of jazz musicians, but we’re also fostering the rising stars who will make a positive impact on our world, whatever field they choose – surgeons, judges, writers, game developers, and entrepreneurs. They are all change makers – just like the pioneers that we celebrated tonight,” she said.
When asked by Lester Holt about the ingredients of the “secret sauce” of JAZZ HOUSE KiDS’ impact, Walker noted that when young people come through the doors of the JAZZ HOUSE, they find a second home, a supportive safe haven, inspiring curricula, like-minded peers, and caring teaching artists and mentors who are the best in their field.
In keeping with JAZZ HOUSE KiDS tradition, each small combo paired noted jazz artists with JAZZ HOUSE KiDS’ alumni — some of the most sought after young musicians on the scene today. All of the young professionals started with the organization in their early teens and today are attending top music institutions or are recent graduates.
Guests were introduced to alto saxophonist Zoe Obadia and pianist Isaiah Thompson, now studying at The Juilliard School, drummer and SUNY Purchase student Whisper McRae, and pianist Caelen Cardello who studies at William Paterson University.“The JAZZ HOUSE KiDS mission was on full display tonight,” said Walker.
“100% of our students go on to college and we are so proud of everyone”
The evening included the presentation of four annual awards. John Schreiber, President and CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, received the JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Community Champion Award for his work as a visionary advocate for the arts and driver of economic development in Newark.
90 year old NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb received the JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Jazz Luminary Award. A high point of the evening was when he sat down at the drums – off script – and performed the famed “So What.” Cobb is the last surviving member of Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” quintet, which has come to define the post-bop style of the 1950s and ’60s.
In honor of her late husband, NEA Jazz Master James Moody, Linda Moody established the James Moody Scholarship for New Jersey in partnership with JAZZ HOUSE KiDS. Each year, this scholarship provides a $5,000 award, plus a professional-level instrument, for a graduating senior heading to college to study music.
This year, Linda Moody presented the award to saxophonist Jalin Shiver, a member of the JAZZ HOUSE BiG BAND who will soon graduate from Moody’s alma mater, Arts High in Newark. Shiver will attend New Jersey City University in the fall.
The JAZZ HOUSE KiDS RS Berkeley Musician of Distinction Award is given to an outstanding, emerging musician who demonstrates leadership, musicianship, creativity and dedication to excellence. The winner also receives a brand new, professional-level musical instrument, along with year-long mentoring from a JAZZ HOUSE KiDS teaching artist.
This year’s winner is saxophonist Seraj DeCaires, a freshman at Montclair High School in Montclair, NJ. DeCaires credits his uncle, acclaimed saxophonist Oliver Lake, and his private teacher, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS faculty member Bruce Williams, as his most influential musical role models.
The sold-out Spring Gala raised vital funds that will benefit JAZZ HOUSE KiDS’ year-round music education and performance programs. Each year, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS provides free, in-school programs in under-resourced schools, donates new instruments to kids who are unable to participate in their band programs, and offers tuition assistance for more than 35% of the students who participate in year-long programs at the JAZZ HOUSE and the internationally attended JAZZ HOUSE Summer Workshop.
Major support for the JAZZ HOUSE KiDS Spring Gala was provided by venue host City Winery and its founder Michael Dorf and by dinner chairs J.T. Magen & Company, Inc. and Manhattan Mechanical Contractors, Inc. Additional sponsorship was provided by TD Bank, Prudential Financial, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and many long-time supporters of the organization.
JAZZ HOUSE KiDS and City Winery made a major announcement that they have teamed up to launch the first New York-based JAZZ HOUSE Music Club at the Grand Street Campus in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where 90% of high school students in the band program are now receiving instrumental music for the first time. Dorf noted, “There is a deep-rooted connection between the music maker and the winemaker, who both strive to create something original.”
The evening came to a thrilling conclusion when Holt, an avid musician and bass player, joined in with the musicians on stage to perform Gershwin’s jazz classic, “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” All of the evening proceeds benefit year-round music education programs in the schools, at the JAZZ HOUSE, and in communities.
Photos by: Richard Conde
About JAZZ HOUSE KiDS
JAZZ HOUSE KiDS has been swinging doors open for 16 years, and our emerging musicians are soloing and singing their way to greatness. Our year-round programs help young people from all backgrounds gain an artistic edge through music, mentoring, education and apprenticeship. Through pre-professional musical training along with community engagement and education programs, we use jazz as an effective teaching tool to enhance academic achievement, dedication, and teamwork and cultivate tomorrow’s global citizens. JAZZ HOUSE KiDS produces the acclaimed MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL, now in its 10th year. The festival attracts more than 12,000 people each August and is led by our Artistic Chair, Christian McBride. The MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL has been named Favorite Music Festival by the Discover Jersey Arts People’s Choice Awards for the past two years.