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Jazz Singer Undaunted by House Fire

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By Suzanne Cloud, Executive Director of Jazz Bridge

When Jazz Bridge, a nonprofit public charity that aids Philly area jazz and blues musicians, got the call on January 3rd from Sun Ra trumpeter Michael Ray that a local singer and her two children, Ian and Asia, had totally been burned out of their rented house on New Year's Eve and were living at a Red Cross shelter at 40th and Powelton Avenue, I thought to myself, “If this isn't a musician in crisis, well, nothing is."

I met singer Vivian Lewis (aka Lizzie Brown) the next day at the shelter and she told me she had lost everything except for a portable piano and some family photos. Funny, I wasn't surprised that the first thing she grabbed was her music, especially someone who has played with some Philadelphia journeymen musicians like bassist Nate Murray, saxophonist James Watkins from the Jamaaladeen Tacuma band (who she is working with on a CD due out this summer), bassist Skip Parnell along with many others.

As we talked, Vivian filled me in on what she needed and what she was doing to secure a new place (she is a very proactive and confident lady). Jazz Bridge made sure she had some money immediately to get clothes and then hopped into action using Facebook and our large email blast network.

Within days, the jazz and blues community began stepping up to help. Once Vivian secured new living arrangements through the help of percussionist Doug "Pablow" Edwards (who fortuitously also works for the Philadelphia Housing Authority), jazz fan Martin Brown quickly offered a computer for her son Ian; drummer Steve Difilipo from Marlton, NJ offered a computer desk and bookcase; bassist Jerome Hunter took over some terrific end tables, jazz promoter and Jazz Bridge board member Kim Tucker had a wonderful lamp, and Jazz Bridge bought three complete beds and gave the family $500 to buy additional things they needed (they still need a sofa and a kitchen table folks!)

Lastly, we needed a generous soul with a van to haul all this stuff to Vivian's new place. Voila! Riddlesbrood Touring Theatre company (www.riddlesbrood.com) jumped in and helped—didn't charge us a cent. Clyde Riddlesbrood (the CEO of the troupe) has a motto: “show people got to stick together," which is in the best tradition of George M. Cohan and John Coltrane!

I just want to thank all the people for stepping up to help and who will contribute money and goods in the future. This happy result is made possible by your donations, folks, so give yourself a huge hand. Hey, 90% of the work Jazz Bridge does is confidential, so this gives us a chance to brag a bit...but the aid comes from YOU!

Article republished from the Jazz Bridge “Adventures in Jazz Advocacy" blog at jazzbridge.org.

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