Thinking creatively, Charleston and her label, Motema Music, agreed in mid- December to donate $1 to the Jazz Drama Program (JDP) for every view of “DNA,” a track from Charleston’s critically acclaimed 2013 release, Signs of Life; the YouTube video captured a live performance from August of last year at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.
“Jana Herzen, the Founder and President of Motema Music, and I could not think of a better way to end an extremely successful 2013 than to share our “DNA” from a wonderful show at Yoshi’s with our friends and fans and at the same time support an important and inspiring organization like the Jazz Drama Program,” says Rondi. “We were thrilled to see the number of views increase significantly every day during these busy two weeks, showing the power of the special community of jazz fans and supporters.”
Eli Yamin, the JDP’s Artist Director and Founding Board President, says that the entire organization was energized about the unique collaboration with Rondi and Motema Music. The generous donation will fund the recording of Message from Saturn, a jazz musical for children about the healing power of the blues, written by Yamin and Clifford Carlson. Jazz Times called Message From Saturn “the hippest move in jazz education, ever!” It was first workshopped at the Louis Armstrong Middle School in Queens, NY in 2001 and has been performed by over 100 students for an audience of over 3000 students, parents and members of the school community.
The planned recording of the soundtrack to Message From Saturn will feature a professional jazz quintet with Todd Williams, saxophone, Tom Dempsey, guitar, Ari Roland, bass, Alvin Atkinson, drums, a string section and professionally trained young singers, ages 10-20 from the New York City metro area. Yamin plans to release the Message from Saturn soundtrack in the fall of 2014 and hopes that it will serve as a model for students around the world who wish to perform the musical in their community.
Signs of Life (Motema Music) was released in March 2013 and was quickly lauded as a jazz classic. The New York Daily News ranked it their #5 pick on its top ten list of new releases, heralding Charleston’s “thick and tawny voice causing many to compare her to Abbey Lincoln.” In hailing Charleston as a “prolific storyteller,” JazzTimes writes “the remarkable Signs of Life fully reveals that Charleston is a songwriter whose poetic, narrative, and compositional skills are comparable to such modern masters as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.” Charleston was named by Entertainment Tonight’s website as an “Artist You Should Know.” Signs of Life dominated the Jazz Week radio chart as the #6 most added album in its first week out, with a 10-week chart run that saw the album soar into to #25.
Charleston will release other videos from her Yoshi’s performance on YouTube over the next few weeks, even as she begins work on the follow up album to Signs of Life, and is expected to be released in 2015.