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Harlem Jazz Shrines Battle of Big Bands - George Gee vs Harlem Renaissance Orchestra

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Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival Sponsored by Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile Presents Battle of the Big Bands & Swing Dance Competition George Gee Swing Orchestra and The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra

Wednesday, May 11, 7:00 pm
Alhambra Ballroom

Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival Runs May 9-15
7 Days * 35 Events * 8 Venues

The prestige of the past. The pulse of the present.

In the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance, the most famous battles weren't fought with knives and guns, but with trumpets, saxophones, and rhythm sections: Duke Ellington vs. The Savoy Sultans; Count Basie vs. Chick Webb, The San Domingo Serenaders vs. Benny Carter, and on and on...

Those battles continue today in the hamlet of the black, brown and beige, when Jazzmobile produces the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival's Battle of the Big Bands & Swing Dance Competition featuring the George Gee Swing Orchestra and The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra with special guests at the Alhambra Ballroom, Wednesday, May 11, 7:00 pm—exactly 73 years to the day of the famed battle between the orchestras of Chick Webb and Benny Goodman at The Savoy Ballroom.

Opened in 1926, the Alhambra Ballroom featured many legendary performers such as Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton, Frankie Manning and a singing waitress named Billie Holiday. And now the bragging rights for the title of the swinginest big band in the Big Apple is on the line when these two powerhouse groups go to war in the arena of the bandstand.

In this corner—the only Chinese-American bandleader to rock it in the jazz style, New York-born George Gee. He grew up on rock n' roll and R&B, but was bitten by the jazz bug when he attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he fell under the syncopated spell of Count Basie. Gee created his 17-piece first band, which was originally named The Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra, and brought the band home to New York in the nineties. In 2005, he celebrated his silver anniversary in show business. As swing fads come and go, George Gee is always on the one.

And, in this corner—The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, which for the past two decades has reigned supreme as the spiritual and syncopated descendants of the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford and Fletcher Henderson. Today, The HRO, under the leadership of Ron Allen, provides the sepia panorama soundtrack from the Golden Age that produced the Lindy Hop and the Happy Feet at the change of the century. Their mission is “dedicated to keeping the spirit of Big Band Swing Music alive and thriving."

Who will be the winner of this magnificent mash-up? The listeners, dancers and anyone who digs the music!

Swing Dance Competition

Swing dance enthusiasts from throughout New York City are invited to hit the dance floor to show off their moves. Best dancers walk away with a cash prize. Dancers are encouraged to register in advance at jazzmobile.org. Dancers can also register at Alhambra Ballroom starting at 6:00 pm on day of show, May 11.

Ticketing Information:

Tickets: $10; Cash Bar
Advance: jazzmobile.org; also available at the door
Alhambra Ballroom 2116 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. at 126th Street

Three esteemed Harlem cultural organizations—the Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile—have joined forces to present the first Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival May 9㬋, 2011. Celebrating the unique legacy of jazz in the uptown community, the Festival will bring both established and emerging artists to some of the famed venues where jazz flourished in Harlem: Lenox Lounge, Showman's Café, the Apollo Theater, Alhambra Ballroom, and Minton's Playhouse. Other festival events will take place at Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Columbia University and a variety of locations throughout the Harlem area.

Other Harlem Jazz Shrines highlights include:

The Apollo Jazz Show: Wycliffe Gordon's Jazz à la Carte, 8pm at the Apollo. Famed artist and composer, Wycliffe Gordon presents a show featuring the music of the Temple University Big Band, with vocalists Carla Cook and Nikki Yanofsky; tap dancer Savion Glover; saxophonist Grace Kelly; and trombonist Corey Wilcox, Director/Choreographer Ken Roberson among others

Fats Waller Dance Party: Small's Paradise Tribute with Jason Moran & Meshell Ndegeocello—Harlem Stage presents two nights of Waller's music taken to new heights in a social mixing dance party featuring 2010 MacArthur Genius pianist Jason Moran & dynamic singer/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello.

Jam Sessions & Conversations at Minton's Playhouse—Jazzmobile re-creates Minton's legendary “cutting contests" with emerging jazz talents and an all-star house bands curated by T. S. Monk.

Geri Allen Quartet Jam Session—During the 1940's and '50's, the Harlem jazz scene was famous for its after-hours “jam sessions." Jazz pianist and producer Geri Allen “jams" with her quartet and special guests at the Apollo Music Cafe.

Blazing Tongues: The Singers & Writers of Lenox Lounge—Harlem Stage, in partnership with Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies and Institute for Research in African American Studies, curates two evenings of music and literature.

All tickets for Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival events are affordably priced at just $10 or free.

Harlem Jazz Shrines is made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and The New York Community Trust—Elizabeth Meyer Lorentz Fund. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Council Member Inez E. Dickens, and Speaker Christine Quinn.

Wycliffe Gordon's Jazz à la Carte was commissioned with partial support through Meet the Composer's National Commissioner's Network.

The Fats Waller Dance Party has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius.

About the Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater is one of Harlem's, New York City's, and America's most iconic and enduring cultural institutions. Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo Theater has played a major role in cultivating artists and in the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, and hip-hop. Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and countless others began their road to stardom on the Apollo's stage. Based on its cultural significance and architecture, the Apollo Theater received state and city landmark designation in 1983 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This winter, the non-profit Theater will introduce new programming building on its rich legacy and supporting presentations of forward looking, contemporary music, dance, theater and performance art events.

About Harlem Stage

Since 1979, Harlem Stage has been one of the nation's leading arts organizations devoted to the creation and development of new works by performing artists of color. Harlem Stage supports artists and organizations around the corner and across the globe. And it provides children and adults with engaging and interactive education programs. Harlem Stage is a performing arts center that celebrates and perpetuates the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture. It provides opportunity, commissioning and support for diverse artists, makes performances accessible to all audiences, and introduces children to the rich diversity, excitement and inspiration of the performing arts.

About Jazzmobile

Jazzmobile, Inc., America's oldest not-for- profit arts organization created just for jazz, was founded in 1964 by NEA Jazz Master Dr. Billy Taylor and Daphne Arnstein. Its mission is to present, preserve, promote, and propagate Jazz—"America's classical music." This mission is implemented through quality jazz education and performance programs: workshops, master classes, lecture demonstrations, arts enrichment programs, as well as out-of-doors mobile Jazz performances and those in clubs and major concert halls here and abroad. Jazzmobile serves approximately 100,000 people in New York City and its outlying areas each year.


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