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Preview: The Triangle North Carolina 2013-14 Jazz Season By Larry Reni Thomas

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Gregory Porter The busy, expanding, thoroughly-satisfying jazz scene in what is called the “Triangle” area of the Piedmont section of North Carolina just keeps getting better and better. Who needs the New York or the D.C. jazz scene when everybody seems to be coming this way? The area can boast of several venues that present jazz like, Irregardless Café, Brasa’s, Sullivan’s and Bia in Raleigh; The Beyu, The Carolina Theatre, Casbah, Motorco Music Hall, Whiskey’s, ATC/Stack, Blue Note Grill, Durham Jazz Workshop and the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham; and the West End Bar, Piola’s, Weaver Street, The Station and The Franklin Hotel in Chapel Hill. The scene is also enhanced by the music presented by the three main universities in the area: Duke University in Durham (Duke Performances), North Carolina State University (Center Stage) and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) (Carolina Performing Arts).

In addition, other area colleges and universities present live jazz and have outstanding jazz studies program and jazz ensembles. North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham has nationally-acclaimed, award-winning jazz ensembles, under the direction of saxophonist, Dr. Ira Wiggins. They have performed at The White House twice and at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Durham resident saxophonist Branford Marsalis was recently an artist-in-residence at NCCU, and vocalist Nnnena Freelon, who also lives in Durham, has been featured at several of NCCU jazz events.

A good sign that the Triangle jazz scene is growing is the very pleasant emergence of organizations dedicated to jazz: The Art of Cool Project in Raleigh, The North Carolina Jazz Listening Group, Time and Tide Productions and The Triangle Jazz Society, which has been around since 2005. The area is also fortunate enough to have two 24-hour jazz radio stations, NCCU’ s WNCU-FM, Durham, and Shaw University’s WSHA-FM, Raleigh, and WFSS-FM, in nearby Fayetteville, at Fayetteville State University. Other radio stations, such as WCOM-FM, Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s community station, Duke University’s WXDU-FM, and UNC-CH’s WXYC-FM, program jazz music. WXYC-FM recently sponsored a well-attended engagement featuring The Matthew Shipp Trio. WNCU-FM held a jazz series in downtown Durham this summer and WSHA-FM holds frequent live jazz events.

This robust, contagious wonderful jazz activity makes for a jazz scene that is just as hip as any scene in the nation, or the world for that matter. Where else, can you hear radio stations playing the music day and night, experience live jazz in the clubs, colleges and the universities, and have an abundance of jazz studies programs in almost all of the area’s institutions of higher learning, including high schools? Jazz heaven maybe. This Triangle jazz community is enjoying jazz heaven very well. It also knows its jazz music and all will smile and be highly pleased with the upcoming, splendid, variety-packed 2013-14 jazz music season.

The fall jazz season gets started when The John Scofield Uberjam Band, comes to the area, September 19, at The Carolina Theatre, Durham. Next up, are two relatively new jazz festivals, both scheduled the weekend of September 21 and 22, both in rural, suburban towns. The Third Annual Apex Jazz Festival, September 21, will include Katherine Whalen Jazz Group, Peter Lamb, Cool John and Captain Luke. On tap the next day, September 22, is The Fourth Annual Hillsborough Jazz Festival. The lineup includes saxophonist and radio personality Serena Wiley, Robert Griffin, Jo Gore and Yolanda Rubin. Both of these events are outdoors and family-friendly. On September 27, all who like their jazz funky will be on the scene at what will, no doubt, be the event of the fall season, with the appearance of Maceo Parker/George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, at Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus.

On October 3 and 4, 2013, Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is scheduled to perform, at Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill. The special two-night program is called “Abyssinian—A Gospel Celebration.” This group’s appearance in the area is fast becoming an annual almost always sold-out event. On October 4, the exciting very talented pianist Billy Childs and his Jazz Chamber Ensemble with vocalist Dianne Reeves, is scheduled to perform at Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. The visit would be somewhat of a homecoming for Childs, who was born and lives in southern California. Both of his parents are natives of Wilmington, North Carolina, where Billy performed at a jazz club there a few years ago.

The Carolina Performing Arts’s “Jazz For The Holidays”—The North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra with guest vocalist Rene Marie, at Memorial Hall, UNC-CH, is scheduled for December 9, 2013. Marie, a Roanoke, Virginia native, who was featured a few years ago in Durham with The North Carolina Central University Big Band Ensemble, is a dynamic vocalist who should add a great deal of spice to your holiday life. Look for an abundance of energy and a most festive show.

The spring season of jazz programing in the Triangle should start the new year of 2014 off with a righteous bang. It begins, January 23, with the vocalist Luciana Souza, at Reynolds Industrial Theater, Duke University. On January 31, Carolina Performing Arts presents The Spring Quartet, an all-star band that includes veteran drummer Jack DeJohnette, seasoned saxophonist Joe Lovano, bass sensation, Esperanza Spalding, and pianist Leo Genovese. The group is called “cross-generational” and should be a treat to the ears. It should be a stellar night for jazz in North Carolina. The concert, at Memorial Hall, on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is part of a tour that travels to Warner Theater, in Washington, D.C., the next night, February 1, and will end in April in London.

February jazz dates in the Triangle includes, the superb dance group, Urban Bush Women, and their two night presentation, February 7 and 8, of “Walking With Trane,”at Duke University’s Reynolds Industrial Theater. This should be a hip way to celebrate African-American History Month and is bound to be very spiritual and special. On February 12, The Pat Metheny Unity Band’s tour is scheduled to appear at The Carolina Theatre in Durham. The band consists of the highly-celebrated, Grammy-winning guitarist Metheny and a group of first-class, noteworthy, professional jazz musicians. It includes: Chris Potter, a Columbia, South Carolina native, on saxophone; Antonio Sanchez, drums; Ben Williams, bass, and multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi. The concert is part of an extensive international tour that has taken them around the world and has received rave reviews. This should be one of the best concerts of the season. On February 21, as a part of The Carolina Jazz Festival, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, is scheduled to perform, at Memorial Hall, on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This much-in-demand, globe-trotting quartet consist of the 80-year-old, jazz master Shorter, saxophone; Danilo Perez, piano; John Patitucci, bass; and Brian Blade, drums. The same group gave a lackluster performance when it was in the Triangle area a few years ago at Duke University. It will be interesting to see and hear them again and to pray that they swing at least once.

There is no doubt that the jazz event in Triangle North Carolina of the year is the highly-anticipated, March 6, concert featuring vocalist extraordainre Gregory Porter and his quartet, which includes Raleigh, North Carolina native, pianist Albert “Chip” Crawford. It is bound to be a great big, joyful homecoming. The other members of the group are: Emanuel Harrold, drums; Yosoke Sato, alto saxophone; and Aaron Moore, bass. Gregory Porter is, without a doubt, the hottest act out here, in the jazz world. He met Chip and his band mates at jam sessions at Harlem’s St. Nick’s Pub, and when his name became more well know, he chose to take this band with him when he got the chance. The group has been working steadily, all over the world, all of the festivals, including Spoleto Festival, Newport Jazz Festival and The Monterrey Jazz Festival. It should be a jazzy, fun-filled, smiles-galore night to remember and savor for long time! On March 28 and 29, the Gerald Clayton Trio, lead by the adventurous, earthy pianist Gerald Clayton, is scheduled to be at The Casbah, in Durham. This exciting, much-heralded trio includes Justin Brown, drums; and Joe Saunders, bass. Also, on March 29, the soulful singer. Catherine Russell, is set to perform in Raleigh at North Carolina State University’s Titmus Theatre. On April 18, the master pianist Chick Corea, is on tap to perform at Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University. This is sure to be a sell-out. Advice: Get your tickets early!

Whew! What a fine, fruitful, uplifting jazz season 2013-14 looks to be in the Triangle area of North Carolina and one that will get better and better as time goes by. We’ve gone full circle. Jazz musicians used to leave the state. Now there coming back to the place where Trane, Monk Max, Nina and Percy were born. The music is alive and well in North Carolina and the proof is in the pudding. Viva the Carolina jazz connection!


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