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Leader Of Jazz At Lincoln Center Steps Down

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Paul Simon and his band invaded Jazz at Lincoln Center Wednesday night to raise money for the nonprofit arts institution. Wynton Marsalis and the in-house orchestra backed Mr. Simon up, putting a jazz sheen on a stirring set from the songwriter’s long career.

Mr. Simon was the main attraction for the nonprofit’s annual gala, which raised more than $3.6 million at the dinner. He will give two more benefit concerts with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra on Thursday and Friday nights.

This year’s gala comes as changes are afoot in the organization. Lisa Schiff, the chairwoman of the board of directors, announced before the show that she would step down in June, after leading the nonprofit through a tumultuous decade of growth. Her decision comes just months after Adrian Ellis, the executive director whom she brought in to oversee the move to Columbus Circle, announced that he was returning to the private sector.

“Ten years is a long time,” she said in an interview after the concert. “I’m tired.”

Mrs. Schiff, who owns After Nine Music, a jazz label, said she would turn over the leadership to Robert J. Appel, a financier and philanthropist who who joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center board in 2008. She said she would remain on the board but could no longer lead it. “It was becoming too much identified with me and with Wynton, as a team,” she said. “It has got to be bigger than the both of us.”

Mrs. Schiff said a new executive director had been chosen to replace Mr. Ellis, who left in January. That appointment will be announced next week, she said.

For his part, Mr. Marsalis, who is the artistic director, said he hoped to reorganize the nonprofit’s management this summer, after the new executive director comes aboard. He declined to provide details. “I want the way we run to be just like the way a band runs,” he said in a short interview at the gala dinner.

Mr. Appel, who was a partner at Neuberger Berman for two decades before founding his own investment firm, said Mrs. Schiff would be a hard act to follow. But he added that he looked forward to turning his considerable business and investment acumen toward promoting jazz, his lifelong interest. “This is my passion,” he said, gesturing at the Allen Room, which was full of people in formal wear who had paid $1,500 a plate to benefit Jazz at Lincoln Center.

During 10 years as the chairwoman, Mrs. Schiff raised more than $315 million in donations and steered the board as it undertook the construction of a new $131 million home at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, which has three top-tier performance spaces. The nonprofit’s payroll grew to 140 people from 40 under her leadership. She is credited with shoring up the institution’s finances, reducing its debt and expanding its influence abroad, most recently with the addition of a satellite jazz club in Doha, Qatar.

In gratitude, the board decided to give her its annual Ed Bradley Award for Leadership in Jazz before the show last night. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented the award on the stage at Frederick P. Rose Hall, calling Mrs. Schiff’s accomplishments “nothing short of remarkable.”

“It’s been an amazing ride,” Mrs. Schiff said.

A few minutes later, Mr. Simon strode onstage with his nine-man band, joining Mr. Marsalis and his 14-piece jazz ensemble. The sheer number of players complicated the musical arrangements. There were two drummers on trap sets, two percussionists playing Afro-Cuban instruments, two bass players, two guitarists and three keyboard players. What’s more, Mr. Simon had a horn player whose parts competed with the jazz ensemble.


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